How ASUU Strike Is Promoting Prostitution, Unemployment, Poverty – Stakeholders

The continued strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), which seems to have become a ‘new normal’ in the last 19 years, to many stakeholders, is seen as contributing to the growing decadence in the society typified by production of half-baked graduates, who are not employable, mass exodus of Nigerians abroad with the attendant depleting foreign reserves, as well as widening the gap between the rich and the poor manifesting in prostitution by the idle students.

They
argue that these years should be seen as deliberate setback to varsity
education as successive governments have failed to accord priority to
the sector in their budgetary allocations. Besides, they further argue
that most of the successive administrators or political appointees into
the sector have been self-serving or lack the requisite knowledge to
handle the issues bedeviling it.

The implication, they say, is
the rising societal vices as the idle students could easily be
manipulated by politicians for their selfish interests.

Specifically,
in the last 70 days, the ASUU has kept the gates and classrooms of the
nation’s public university system comprising 43 Federal and 47 state
universities locked.

The same can also be said of the
polytechnics, with 28 federal Polytechnics and about 30 states owned
polytechnics closed and several thousands of students locked out of the
learning environment.

This is because series of meetings
between the federal government and the unions have failed to achieve the
desired aim, even as ASUU is threatening to renege on its earlier
promise of allowing their members to participate in the February
elections.

ASUU’s grouse with the Federal Government in the last 19 years centres on the lackluster attitude to education in the country.

It
is on record that between 1999 and 2018 (19-year period), poor funding
and attention by the government had led to the series of strikes in the
academic calendar at all levels of education in the country, which is
gradually becoming the new normal.

Out of the 19-year-period
since the infamous FG/ASUU Agreement in 1999, only five years; 2000,
2004, 20014 2015 and 2016 were spared of the Incessant strikes that had
led to the downturn in academic activities and students performances.

Demands
by ASUU declared as valid by President Muhammadu Buhari, include
funding for revitalization of public universities and the issue of
Earned Academic Allowances (EAA); University Staff Schools;
implementation of the judgment of the National Industrial Court,
National Universities Pension Management Company and guidelines for
pension matters for professors.

Others are the exemption offered
by the government regarding the issue of TSA, which included the issue
of grants, endowment funds as well as salary shortfall, which is already
being implemented by the government and the union’s proposal to submit a
position paper to the Federal Government on their observation with a
view for government to advise state governments.

However, as
the nation is being held in the jugular by ASUU and ASUP, parents,
student bodies and other stakeholders have been counting the losses
suffered by students and others as the strike has become an annual event
in the academic calendar of the country’s tertiary education sector.

Besides,
the trend seems to have done incalculable damage to the society by way
of rising societal vices through idle students’ involvement in criminal
and other undesirable activities, unemployment occasioned by half-baked
nature of the university products, among others.

Worried that
strikes have done no good to the country, the National Association of
Nigerian Students (NANS) last weekend appealed to the leadership of the
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the negotiation
table with the Federal Government.

“There is a need for ASUU to
continue its negotiations with the Federal Government to find a common
ground to resolve issues that led to the union’s ongoing strike,’’ NANS
National Public Relations Officer, Mr. Bestman Okereafor said.

Okereafor,
in a statement on alleged threat by ASUU not to suspend its action,
added: “We consider this decision as devilish and not in the best
interest of Nigerian students.

“We wonder how the lingering
disputes will be resolved if meetings are boycotted. We are calling on
the leadership of ASUU to reverse its decision and consider returning to
the negotiation table.’’

The students’ umbrella body also urged
the lecturers to work towards resolving the dispute and suspend the
strike in the interest of Nigerian students.

Already the Obafemi
Awolowo University, (OAC) last week defied ASUU by resuming activities
through conduct of exams for their students.

It Is A Destruction To Structured Learning

Professor
Chidi Ebere Onyia, former Faculty of the California State University,
Dominguez Hills, California, United States of America (USA) said the
decision by policy makers to fund tertiary education has always been
disingenuous regardless of the political party in power.

Reflecting
on the past 19 years, Prof. Onyia said it “clearly shows that
politicians who assume office come with a plan to kick the can down the
road till its time to handover to another government”.

“The
problem with this mindset is that we graduate at best young people who
are not ready to engage the work environment productively. The original
designers of the semester system had a clear understanding of the
implication of structured learning within a timeline for student mastery
of content,” he said.

According to him, this should be
understood based on empirical evidence the implication of disruptions in
the academic calendar on staff motivation/morale and engagement in the
learning, research and administrative process.

He tasked the
government to understand that this new model of disruption presents an
anomaly in the learning design, saying that the FG should be honest
enough to accept that the education quality issues is to a large extent a
product of their dysfunctional leadership thinking, kneejerk policies,
budgetary gaps and low-quality infrastructure.

He added:
“Expecting an internationally respected higher education system in
Nigeria is not possible and the policymakers are aware of it because
education advocates locally and globally have been singing the same
songs for years with empirical evidence. Ignoring the need to
restructure the current funding model and accountability process will
only lead to another strike by the many unions in our academic system.

“ASUU’s
demand for improved service for lecturers is reasonable and should be
taken seriously if we intend to improve our comparative advantage as a
nation.

Disruption In Academic Calendar Not Productive

Prof
Onyia in his submission inferred that the disruption of the academic
calendar is unproductive and ignoring, saying “Its effect in the overall
nation-building process is a clear sign that we have the wrong leaders
whose understanding of good governance or quality education is not
aligned to the realities of today.”

In the same vein, a rights
advocacy group, Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Lagos frowned at the
unconcerned attitude demonstrated by the Federal Government over the
years as it relates to the revitalization of the country’s public
education institutions.

As successive governments continue to
turn deaf ears to the issue of revitalization of public university
education 19 years after the union and government conducted a NEEDS
Assessment that confirmed the poor learning situations in many
universities across the country, ERC submitted that it was evident that
the negotiation team led by Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) confirms that the
Federal Government is not interested in resolving the crisis of proper
funding of university education in the country.

Threatening a
mass action in line with NANS position to end the trauma and
unproductive holidays students are subjected to, the group said: “It is
to this end that ERC calls on the ASUU leadership not to make the strike
a sit home strike or limit the activities of the strike within the
confine of their members. The ASUU leadership must map out public
activities, mass meetings, rally and or protest that are capable of
attracting Nigerian students, civil societies and parents to the
struggle on the need to save public university education from collapse.

“We
opined that it is this kind of united action of all oppressed layers of
the country that will save public university education system from
collapse. It is required at this period by all to guarantee the delivery
of qualitative and public-funded education; this is inevitable if
Nigeria ever wishes to banish poverty, ignorance, squalor, insecurity,
disease and corruption”.

19 Years Of Deliberate Setback to Varsity Education

A
concerned parent and retired teacher in the Oyo State Teaching Service
Commission, Chief Akin Ogunmefun frowned at the unconcerned attitude of
successive Ministers of Education in the country for being cold-hearted
in the matter that involves education of the masses in the country and
described the incumbent minister a lame duck.

Speaking on its
negative effect on the lives of students, Ogunmefun attributed the poor
showing of graduates from institutions to the 19 years of neglect of the
sector by the FG.

He said, “The danger inherent in this forced
leave on students is that they stand the risk of being recruited as
mercenaries by politicians desperate to clinch and return to office in
the general election.

“I pity this nation, go to street corners
at night what you find are young girls that are products of possibly
polytechnic and universities lurking around dark spots for men. This is
awful and connotes serious threats to the crop of young people we are
breeding.

“In Benin Republic, young Nigeria boys and girls make
up the population the entire population of mushroom universities
operating in small houses and without laboratories.

“The
situation might become completely hopeless if nothing urgent is done to
stem the tide of declining fortune of Nigerian universities,
polytechnics and colleges of education.”

Government Has Defied, Breached Equal Rights To Education

Worried
by the situation in public universities, the Socio-Economic Rights and
Accountability Project has (SERAP) also lent a voice seeking the
intervention of UN special rapporteurs to “prevail upon the government
of President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of Academic Staff Union
of Universities (ASUU) to reach an agreement to end the ongoing strike
action by ASUU.

According to SERAP, the incessant strike has had
‘real and dire consequences on the right to higher education,
specifically university education, as guaranteed by the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a
state party.”

In the appeal, SERAP’s Senior Legal Adviser,
Bamisope Adeyanju, said: “By failing to prevent and end to the ongoing
strike action by ASUU, the Nigerian government has defied and breached
the explicit requirements of the right to equal access to higher
education by Nigerian children and young people, under article 13(2)(c)
of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

The
urgent appeal sent to Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the
right to education and Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on
extreme poverty and human rights argues that: “The failure by the
Nigerian government to reach an agreement with ASUU has also implicitly
made access to higher education a privilege of the rich and well-to-do
rather than a right of every Nigerian child and young person, as
students in private schools continue to attend classes while those in
public universities stay at home.

According to SERAP, “The
failure to end the ongoing strike action by ASUU is also a fundamental
breach of the right to higher education without discrimination or
exclusion, as strike actions continue to penalise economically
disadvantaged parents who have no means or lack the capacity to pay to
send their children to private schools.

The urgent appeal read in
part: “The obligations of the Nigerian government to create the
conditions necessary for the enjoyment of the right to education include
taking preventive measures to address the root causes of strike action
by ASUU and to take steps to end any strike action in a timely manner
when it occurs.”

SERAP argued that the government has the
responsibility to preserve and strengthen education as a public good and
a matter of public interest, saying that short of deliberate
intervention of the Special Rapporteurs, the ongoing strike action by
ASUU would continue and this would continue to impede access to
university education for the poor and marginalized.

Atmosphere Of Peace Will Soar Varsity Profile

Prof
Peter Okebukola, former Executive Secretary, National Universities
Commission in an interview with Sunday INDEPENDENT on the failure of
Nigerian Universities on the League Table of World University Rankings
(CWUR) suggested that there should be significant improvement in the
resourcing of universities for better quality research.

Secondly,
we should tighten the rigour of promotion and dim the practice of
promoting based on a mere number of publications rather than on quality,
measured by the appearance in high-impact journals. Thirdly, we should
better incentivise our researchers so they can be motivated to carry out
groundbreaking research.

“We should encourage our scholars to
compete for international prizes since many are unaware of the existence
of such awards or are too timid to apply; we should work hard towards
better training for our graduates so they can excel internationally and
be eligible for appointment as CEOs of global companies.

“we
should strive to maintain a stable academic calendar by ensuring that
events that will trigger local and national strikes are avoided. It is
in an atmosphere of peace that Nigerian universities can rise stoutly to
be the best they can be,” he advised.