Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have directed the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to find a solution to the on-going strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Media houses, both print and electronic, made a meal of the directive as many discerning Nigerians were of the opinion that the verbal pronouncement could be a signpost that the nation’s number one citizen was beginning to wake up from his perceived slumber, now that his administration is in its twilight. But in a shocking twist, the same administration denied that President Buhari ever issued such a directive.
The administration even went on to also deny that Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige was not directed to keep a respectable distance from further negotiations with ASUU. Should the number one citizen have even waited for five months before reportedly issuing a directive to the Minister of Education?
And why should the Education Minister reportedly resort to a five-month wait to be woken into ministerial activity that has been compromised by politicking and warped appreciation of the role of education especially that of the university in all facets of development.
We are aware how members of the political class strive hard to secure and preserve their almost limitless privileges. It is a norm among some political office holders to send their offspring to foreign countries for further studies. Such overseas universities rarely have disruption of academic activities.
Matters including agitations with regard to lecturers’ welfare and infrastructural upgrade are treated with dispatch to prevent truncation of academic activities and help ensure that the undergraduates and postgraduate students graduate in record time.
Apart from a six month unproductivity suffered by the undergraduates and postgraduate students, there are other irredeemable drawbacks inflicted on Nigeria by the strike. Some students are likely to have lost interest in academic pursuit, given the uncertainty regarding their conclusion of their studies in record time.
Some students may have drifted into substance abuse and other acts of criminality. For some female students, they may have been railroaded into marriage. Even when a solution is eventually found to the on-going industrial crisis, the alreadypolluted stream is unlikely to be wholly clean again.
The academic calendars would be subjected to a review with the returning students being bombarded with lectures to cover the lost ground. But the aspiration to cover the lost ground is only a mere wishful thinking contrived and harboured by the eternal optimists. In most instances, the lost ground remains unabridged forever.
Knowledge acquisition is incremental with knowledge impartation structured to be extended to one or more individuals consistently over a long period. In the end, Nigeria is left with an army of unbaked or halfbaked products from the public universities, largely unfit to steer the country along developmental paths in the different sectors of the economy.
New Telegraph enjoins President Buhari to end the Federal Government’s perceived lack of political will with regard to ending the ASUU strike. The demand by ASUU for the adoption of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of the Integrated Payroll and personnel information system (IPPS) is one of the low-hanging fruits, given the fact it is a policy issue.
The Federal Government (FG) should ask for the test-running of the UTAS, which is said to deliver the promise of transparency and accountability, in line with the FG’s wish, while capturing the peculiarities of the work of university scholars. The other demands by ASUU are not such that could be attended to in one instalment.
One of them is the payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).The scholarly activities of lecturers make them entitled to EAA. Given the deplorable state of public universities, the Federal Universities Revitalisation Fund is required to effect an infrastructural upgrade in them. State universities are in a similar circumstance.
Worse still, some of the revenue-earning sources of communities, local government areas and states have been usurped by the FG thereby making ASSU to push for justice with the former being made to support the funding of the state universities.
The EAA, Federal Universities Revitalisation Find and the contributions to the funding of state universities are demands that should not be wished away. Instead, they should be staggered over a fairly period of time. But it is imperative to ensure that clearly – defined timelines are attached to all the demands. These timelines should be religiously complied with.
New Telegraph urges the Executive Branch of Government to refrain from talking tough in the face of a nationwide protest by ASUU, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and other stakeholders in solidarity with the striking university lecturers. Governance is all about the shouldering and discharge of responsibilities.
The on-going industrial crisis by ASUU makes the FG look less committed to development. Instead, the Executive Branch of Government should be remorseful and be seen to be striving hard to find a solution to the strike by ASUU, which has gone on for way too long.
For millions of Nigerian parents and guardians all they are anxiously waiting to hear is that there has been a resolution to the strike so that academic activities can finally resume