The culture of blaming a group of people demanding what’s right is indecent; it’s a pathway to a voiceless society.
Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are a hub of industrial actions. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on strikes for a cumulative period of three years since 1999. Add this number to the period non-academic unions have gone on strike. That’s why a student’s duration at school is 4 plus X, 5 plus X, or 6 plus X depending on the course. X is unknown.
To put it simply, years of neglect, thoughtless leadership, and plain irresponsibility on the government’s path are why academic, and non-academic unions down tools. ASUU doesn’t go on strike because it likes to strike. The union embarks on strike because the government has failed in its responsibilities.
The focal point of ASUU’s struggle has always been adequate funding of universities and better welfare for her members. Our universities are plagued with human resource and infrastructural deficits. It’s an obvious fact that can’t be denied. This not only makes ASUU’s demands valid but urgent.
Regrettably, ASUU is seen as a clog in the wheel of educational prosperity, especially by students, and parents. The union has been accused of making selfish and unpatriotic demands. Understandably, delay due to incessant strikes is frustrating and somewhat depressing. Resentment of an average Nigerian student is understandable. But the unfortunate thing is that this displeasure is misdirected.
To help your judgment, let me remind you what ASUU’s demands are: Revitalization of universities; renegotiation of 2009 agreement; visitation panels to universities; the proliferation of universities, earned academic allowances, and rejection of IPPIS.
None of the above-mentioned demands is misplaced or inordinate. The frequency of strikes, and the plight of victims who are at the mercy of the protesting unions make those demands seem luxurious . Striking workers aren’t the problem; those who have failed to rise to their responsibilities are the enemies of our educational sector.
The argument about ASUU being a selfish union falls flat when you come to terms with the fact that ASUU is a pressure group/trade union, and by reason for its establishment, has moral and legal grounds to pursue better welfare for its members through every legitimate means. To every group, it’s due.
The promoters of this sentiment fail to realize that ASUU’s struggles have yielded positives for both students and lecturers. The TETFUND and NEEDS assessment funds projects are products of ASUU’s struggles. Unarguably, better infrastructure and facilities will foster teaching and research. Better teaching and research will produce better graduates. And the better the welfare of workers, the better their input. The better the input, the better the output.
The strike option is unfortunate and regrettable, and I do not endorse it. The demand for a better education should be a collective responsibility. This involves a rethinking of strategy. A new strategy must involve the participation of every stakeholder. The backlash ASUU suffers from students is due partly to the ignorance of many students about the union’s demands. In making strike the last option, I propose an all-inclusive strategy that affords the opportunity of many options.
It’s sad that while many universities around the world are looking to advance their countries through teaching, research, and innovation, I’m proposing strategies that will make a failed government accede to basic demands. I hope we won’t have to rethink these strategies, but as an eternal realist, my hope is bleak. So a rethinking of strategy might be all we need.