FG, ASUU And Varsity Education

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) last week stunned Nigerians when its national leadership suddenly announced the commencement of a total and indefinite nationwide industrial action to once again press home the demand for adequate funding of the nation’s university education.
Declaring the strike at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Akure, ASUU’s national president, Biodun Ogunyemi explained that the strike was to protest the poor funding of Nigerian universities and alleged plan by the Federal Government to increase students’ fees and introduce an education bank.
ASUU also hinged its action on non-implementation of an agreement it entered into with the Federal Government in 2009 and non-implementation of a memorandum of action in 2017.
As was to be expected, the declaration of the indefinite and total strike action has thrown the nation’s education system, in particular, the long-suffering and economically traumatised students and their parents into another round of anguish. And more worrisome is the hopeless picture regarding the immediate resolution of the current strike.
Already agitated by the ASUU strike, the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS) last Thursday, through its National Public Relations Officer, Azeez Adeyemi issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement the agreement reached with ASUU, failure of which it would embark on nationwide protest.
The Tide frowns at the seeming nonchalant manner the Federal Government is handling the agreement reached with the university teachers. We consider it unconscionable for the government to always renege on its agreements and wait for ASUU to declare a strike before taking steps to honour the terms of the agreement it freely reached with the union.
While we do not subscribe to the use of incessant strike to resolve industrial disputes, we hold that government owe it a responsibility to provide adequate funding for university education and invest in the sector to accelerate national development. Government must change the habit of paying lip service to the education sector in the interest of national growth and development.
We are worried that most graduates from Nigerian universities are usually degraded to lower classes or at times denied higher education abroad due to the poor standard of our universities. It is equally unfortunate that no Nigerian university is ranked amongst the 500 best universities in the world, a situation which should ordinarily worry the authorities.
We think the deplorable situation of Nigerian universities calls for a holistic review of the entire system in order to develop a comprehensive blueprint that would address the critical challenges associated with the university system.
Equally, we do not ascribe to the alleged plan by the federal authorities to introduce a new tuition fee regime in our universities. We believe that the available budgetary fund, if properly managed could provide the needed infrastructure that would raise the academic standard of our universities.
On the part of ASUU, we caution that incessant strike is distorting the academic calendar and gradually killing university education in Nigeria. But even more fundamentally, we think that the present state of the nation’s economy cannot back ASUU’s demands. Therefore, meeting ASUU’s immediate demands may not be a realistic solution in the long run.
It is on this premise that The Tide calls on the government, ASUU and other critical stakeholders in the education sector to join hands in the effort to finding a lasting solution to what has become a disturbing national challenge.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the consequences of the running battles between the Federal Government and ASUU which had often resulted in prolonged strike by the lecturers over the years, had dealt debilitating blow on our educational development, and have continued to pull our public universities down the ladder of academic ranking in the world.
It is on this note that we envisage a quick and amicable resolution of all issues at stake for the collective wellbeing of the nation’s education sector.