ASUU and the Fate of the Nigerian Student

Adedoyin Shittu
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21 days and still counting; ASUU embarked on a “total and indefinite strike” to press home their demands from the Federal government and the Nigerian students are left to bear the brunt hoping that the government make a move to end the never-ending strikes.

They say “when two elephants fight, the grass suffers“; that is the case of ASUU (Academic Staffs Union of Universities), the Federal government and the Nigerian students.

Within this short period, many bright lives have lost their lives due to the strike action and many will lives will also change for the worse.

Strike has become synonymous to the Nigerian university system. In 19 years, Nigerian universities have gone on strike for 14 times to press the same demand and it is unfortunate that the ruling elites have refused to yield to those demands. Instead they send their children abroad for better education while they destroy the education system at home due to their nonchalant attitude.

This strike action was always as a result of lack of funding and non payment of staffs’ salaries.

Due to our ever increasing population, Nigerian has one of the largest youth population if not the largest, however the budget for education is one of the least in Africa not to talk of the world at large.

According to UNESCO, the acceptable percentage a government should allocate for education in its country is 26% of the nation’s budget. For 2018; education allowance in Nigeria was only 7% of the federal budget (a meagre sum of N 605 billion). This is to cater for the primary, secondary and tertiary education including the payment of salaries and for capital expenditure.

This pales to contract to Ghana budget, with a population of 28 million (about 1/5 of Nigeria total population), a budget of 13.76% (a sum of N 740 billion naira) was made for education out of its national budget.

Education is the fuel that drives any economy. This is the reason why many countries commit substantial part of their resources to education

Over the years ASUU have chosen strike to press home their demands and with every strike embarked on by the union (sometimes the strike last for a period of 6 months) the government have chosen not to listen and act towards their demand. Instead it is the students that suffer.

The ruling elites have come up with the same narrative; “Nigeria does not have the resources to cater for such amount”, yet there is more than enough to cater for their ostentatious lifestyle and send their wards to the best schools overseas. This is the reason why they do not give a hoot about the dying state of tertiary education in Nigeria because it does not affect them.

It is a pity that the battle fought by ASUU seems hopeless and will only affect the Nigerian students because government after government have come and gone and done nothing to end the ceaseless strike. Over the years, sitting government have made agreement with ASUU and never respected the agreement. They do not see education funding as a priority.

Obasanjo and Atiku, who are major actors in the recurrent strikes, did nothing during strike action. Instead shortly after leaving government they both started their own private universities. A university to cater for the elite class while the common man child continues to be a victim of the deteriorating education sector. Now the same Atiku is running for the number one position in the country.

In order to revive the tertiary education sector, there is the need to make a law that bar political office holder from sending his/her ward to any foreign university but instead they should be made to attend Federal Universities.

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The poor state of Nigeria education

It is sad that that despite the large number of intellectuals Nigeria has produced worldwide, none of the country university is ranked in the first 600 in the world. Nigeria parades itself as “Giant of Africa” and not one university in Nigeria is qualified to rank in the first five position in the continent and only three university featured in the first 50 position in Africa; namely Covenant University, University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Universities worldwide are pressured to produce knowledgeable representatives from their school to meet demands, maintain and improve standard of living and compete in society dynamics. However the Nigerian university is only concern with churning out graduates every year. University education is seen as a business venture.

University education is supposed to create critical thinkers who can work independently. Another aim of the university education is to promote change in values and attribute of students. It is sad that this is not the case for Nigerian students. The system has produced half baked graduates who cannot think for themselves in work places and whose value system is self-centred.

With the type of graduates Nigeria is producing, we do not need an external force to destroy the country, because these graduates are more than capable. Just think of what these half-baked engineers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, micro-biologists among others are capable of doing.

Part of the problem to Nigerian failing public universities include poor funding, lack of infrastructure, lack of frequent curriculum review, lack of infrastructure, inadequate staff training and welfare, over population, and frequent strikes action.

Demands made by ASUU in the nutshell

ASUU is insisting the government honours the 2009 agreement which is to make N1.3 trillion available to fund the revitalization of the university system. Also ASUU is accusing the government of disregarding the agreement reached with the union to pay the arrears of the shortfall in salaries even after the verification exercise carried out.

It accused the government of failing to release the operational licence of the Nigeria University Pension Management Company to serve as a pension fund administrator for universities’ staff.

ASUU is also asking the government to address some issues in the University of Ilorin, Lagos State University, Kwara State University, among others.

ASUU is also kicking against the suspected plan by the government to price education beyond the reach of the poor and establish an education bank.

Unfortunately the strike was met with a wrong attitude from the government saying; “it is just recovering from a recession”.

Though ASUU is within its right to engage in strike action against the government to make their demand known, ASUU remain part of the problem in the education rot.

I believe ASUU is made up of intellectuals. They do not need a soothsayer to tell them that leaving Nigerian students at the mercy of our greedy leaders will fail as it as always does. They cannot obtain different result by applying the same method.

It is time for them to re-strategize and engage the government in a more meaningful way instead of the “no work” method. This is because the government is always ready to implement the “no work, no pay” payback card. When ASUU members becomes hungry again, they go back to the class and all their effort becomes futile while Nigerian students bear the brunt of the time lost.

The federal government should however know that if they will not release enough money to fund education they will release the said money to fund the buying of arms, so they better act wisely.

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