By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Niger Delta University chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and students yesterday staged a peaceful rally in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, with an appeal to well meaning Nigerians to pressurize the Federal Government to sign and implement the re-negotiated agreement with the union to save the nationâ€™s university system from total collapse.
ASUUâ€™s strike, now in its third month, was declared following what the union described asÂ violation of the principle of collective bargaining by the government, in spite of its two weeks warning strike which was treated with levity.
Though the union said it was willing to return to the negotiation table, it blamed the lingering crisis on the government which withdrew from the process.
Armed with placards, some of which read, â€œHelp Save Nigerian University System,â€ â€œYarâ€™Adua, listen to ASUUâ€,Â among others, the university lecturers and students marched peacefully through the streets of the capital city.
Lamenting the deplorable state of the nationâ€™s education system, Chairman of the Niger Delta University (NDU) chapter of ASUU, Dr. Initimiebi Ogidi, said â€œit is no news that the public education system has collapsed in Nigeria.
â€œThe secondary school system is also dead in Nigeria. The simple fact is that teachers were discouraged by poor salaries and lack of adequate teaching and learning environment. Higher education in Nigeria is in a state of comatose.â€
The don, who wondered how Nigeria could develop without rescuing the education sector, said â€œall stakeholders in Nigeria can either choose the path of national under-development by allowing the present state of the sector to continue unabated or join hands with all progressive forces to pressurize government to give the highest priority to education due to the existing complexity between education and national development.â€
This, he noted, informed the reason ASUU was leading the struggle to revamp the educational sector in the country.
Dr. Ogidi, who recalled the real issues in the re-negotiation of the 2001 agreement between government and the union, the government ASUU negotiated agreement of 2008 and the lingering crisis, saidÂ â€œASUU is willing to go back to the negotiating table but government has withdrawn totally.â€
According to him, â€œin whose interest is government unnecessarily prolonging this strike now? Who is punishing the students (our children/wards and yours)? Government officials send their children to private schools or abroad so they are not bothered. ASUU members are facing double tragedy in this conflict.â€
Thanking the hundreds of students who turned out to protest the alleged government insensitivity to the nationâ€™s educational system, Ogidi said the union would remain resolute in its struggle until the desired change was achieved.
He pleaded with all stakeholders to pressurize the government to sign and implement the re-negotiated agreement, so students could benefit maximally from a revamped university system.