ASUU STRIKE WILL END PERMANENTLY ONLY WHEN ASUU BECOME PATRIOTIC, SELFLESS AND CREATIVE!
By Engr. Umeh Chinedu Joseph (Heros)
10 July 2022
Nigeria Tertiary institution’s educational system have been so much bastardized with the reoccurrent industrial actions of its very many work force notably the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and not excluding the Non-Academic Staff Union Of Education And Associated Institutions (NASU). ASUU has a history of strike actions. Its strikes has paralysed academic activities and university calendars in the country which filters away hopes of obtaining a decent trusted higher education in Nigerian universities. As far as I am concerned, ASUU strike is purely based on its selfish demands than to the collective well being of the entire university system.
Take a look at its history as an organization and as an industrial body, the Academic Staff Union of Universities emerged in the late 70s. It replaced the Nigerian Association of University Teachers. It is a union that has branches in every Federal and State University in Nigeria. ASUU waged war against the military government in the early 1980s. The very first ASUU strike started in 1988 for equitable salary and the autonomy of the Nigerian universities. This led to the ban on ASUU-related activities in 1988. The strike was called off in 1990, and students were allowed to return to campus.
A second ASUU strike began in August 1992, leading to a second ban on ASUU, but the strike ended in September 1992.
1999 marked the year when Nigeria embraced democracy after years of military rule, but this didn’t stop the barrage of the ASUU strike. There was an ASUU strike shortly after the inauguration of the Obasanjo’s government which went on for five months.
ASUU continued to strike numerous times between 1995 to 2022.
Agree less or more, these various strike actions by ASUU has really become a threat to a peaceful society; a factory for inefficient production of substandard products and a panacea for lubricating personal gains, greed and selfishness. It’s not new that ASUU itself is the cause of all its industrial actions and its affiliates.
Taking a good look at our educational funding, management and regulatory system, one will note a system which might never be able to support or stabilize itself. ASUU discovering this, has continually backed on this very weakness to wreak havoc and constitute heavy obstacle to being its biggest enemy, for self-re-discovery and awakening.
What is ASUU agitating for ?
(1) Funding: How can ASUU hope that the federal government can ever meet up with the monetary funding requirements of modern Tertiary Educational system? Where will the government get that kind of financial back-up. Tertiary Education to me are never the prerogative of the federal government, though according to United Nation’s budgetary requirements, every government is expected to spend a minimum of 4 percent to 6 percent of the GDP or 15 percent to 20 percent of their government’s budget should be allocated to education, but as far as I am concerned, this are never for tertiary institutions, they are for the basic levels of Creche, nursery, primary, secondary and the vocational institutions. The tertiary institutions should be able to self-fund them selves, period.
How can you be teaching managements when you can’t manage yourself?
How can you be teaching Engineering when you failed to engineer your self? Or
How can one be an educationist when he/she had failed to educate him/herself?
The selfish style of waiting for the federal government to doll out hard currencies to vice chancellors is not only a foolish idea but also wickedness to humanity.
My suggestive solution to funding Issue include:
The Federal government should as a matter of urgency, privatize the university system in Nigeria. When the university system is privatized, its efficiency will improve.
By privatizing the system, its management will begin to look inwards on ways to generate funds within its boundaries. There are many ways the university system can develop its internal revenue base.
• They can partner with some multinationals who will fund certain facilities for them in return for some research-based benefits from them. A clear example of this was seen during the reign of Prof. Ilochi Okafor (SAN) as the Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka where he partnered with many private and public sectors in a bid to replace the removal of Federal Government Funding Facility to the university then. I was a student of the university as at that time, our academic works were wonderful, for my five(5) years academic experience in the university, I did not for once experience any interruptions. Upon your admission into the citadel, you will be armed with your prospectus detailing your academic requirements’, durations and exigencies which never for once was derailed. He partnered with various bodies like the God is Good Motors Nigeria Ltd that built the management science, Emzor Pharmacy that built the vocational Study faculty, Afrihub that provided the free ICT facility and holistic ICT mandatory trainings for all students, Intercontinental bank ltd that Built our Post Graduate administrative block, to mention but a few.
In all, these institutions were granted one favour or the other in the university community. It gave rise to rave competition among them that within a year, Nnamdi Azikiwe got Eleven national banking providers within its facility fully represented both in service and in physical structure.
Why can’t ASUU tow this line of posterity?
Or does it mean they want free money ?
Nothing is free even in free town. Various Departments in Universities can establish some commercial outlet for light service provision so as to earn some cash for example;
The Theatre art department can open a theatre show room/cinema,
The Architectural department can as well open modern simulation studios,
The Mass communication in conjunction with telecommunication engineering can open a radio/Television station,
The Biochemistry/Chemical engineering can open up Bottling company or even waste recycling plants etc.
A clear example of a prototype of this facility is the university teaching hospital operation in Nigeria, where the medical students study and as well contribute to the medical polled resources via funds, research and studies.
• Students school fees can be cushioned by introduction of student loan facilities within the university system. There is no where in the world that you can get cheap education!
When you make education cheap, you will mess up the real essence of education. Quality education are never cheap, in the USA you will spend about 69,000.00 USD equivalent to about 42 million naira to graduate from its university. In the UK you will spend in the neighbourhood of 53 USD about 32 million naira likewise elsewhere. How do students cope with this exorbitant fees: through partnership/loans. ASUU should have advised the federal government to establish loans for students access, so that they (the Students) can be able to pay well for their Tuition fees, but ASUU wont do such! Their greed is for their personal pockets, they want the money for themselves and never for the good of the system.
Student loans can be co -managed by the federal government and the university. It can also be co-managed between the awarding Financial partners and the institutions. It can also be co managed between the awarding companies and the institutions. When we start to operate student loans in the country, the brain drain in our country will reduce drastically because no one that ever owns the state, his/her university or the bank will be allowed to leave the shores of this nation until he/she pays the last drop of it. The Loan will be a soft one spanning into a life of about thirty years making it possible for students to actually pay for these loans without much finical difficulties in future. Why haven’t ASUU introduced this clause in their negotiation? They want the raw cash to be handed over to them so that the real Nigerian syndrome will affects its effective usage as usual. I can go on and on to cite clear examples on how the funding pretense can be annulled totally to expose ASUU as a threat to our Tertiary educational system.
• TERTIARY EDUCATION TRUST FUND – TETFund can be deplored in the areas of research with partnership of interested public/Private institutions. Except during the Nigeria civil war, Nigerian university’s research ends in dustbins and akara women seller’s spot. No one takes them serious, so also their degrees and PhDs, I call them “Nigeria University chieftaincy title”. Why cant we be truthful for once! ASUU is our real enemy and not the federal government or the politicians. Funding is never an issue that ASUU can use to go on strike because Nigeria is too rich to access alternative funding points for our higher institutions.
(2) MANAGEMENT/LOGISTICS: ASUU wants to run their own payroll database because the lecturers has more than two places where they lecture which if ran on clean sheet, will delete double salary gain of such lecturers. Isn’t this greediness? Why other civil servants agreed to join the unified payment platform, ASUU refused citing reasons bothering on independence of the university. You want independent tertiary system yet you don’t want its independence in fund creation, isn’t this a scam?
• Once the university system is autonomous in its fund generation, its management will equally be autonomous and accountable. What the federal government needs to do at that time is only to set up a regulatory board to check its activities like in telecommunication, banking, cooperate affairs etc
I am of the opinion that the ASUU strike is a clear calculated attempts from the ASUU – body to continuously weaken our educational system. ASUU has no genuine reason to be on strike, its just the federal government that is romancing their ego by not taking a serious policy twist to end this moronic madness.
For more than three decades of their research as a research base of the nation, ASUU has not really researched out a permanent solution to this endemic crises, isn’t this an irony of fallacy on itself?
Indeed we are finished in this country.
The Author, Engr CHINEDU JOSEPH UMEH is the Technical Assistant to the Nigeria Ambassador to the Republic and writes from Bujumbura (The Business capital of Burundi)