By Emmanuel Edukugho
THEREÂ is likely to be some light at the end of the tunnel as both feuding university unions and government may be returning to negotiations more than three months into the strike that grounded universities, with pupils and students in public primary and secondary schools in 19 states not able to resume schooling.
The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) declared an indefinite strike over non-implementation of approved 27.5 per cent Teachers Salary Scale (TSS).
The 104 Unity Schoolsâ€™ teachers are on strike over scrapping of JSS1 segments by Federal Government. They wonâ€™t resume unless JSS classes were restored in the new session and agreement reached with their union signed.
There seemed to be a way out of the logjam between the government and education unions jilted by the alleged attempts to kidnap the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu and his counterpart in the Labour Ministry, Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode (SAN).
The State Security Service (SSS) had claimed that Egwu was â€˜â€™to be forced to sign an alleged agreement with ASUUâ€™â€˜.
According to SSS, â€œhowever, part of the plot was to eventually kill Egwu, the Minister of Education and release Kayode after the ransom would have been paid.â€ ASUU leadership has distanced itself from the plot blaming those with criminal intension and financial greed for it.
Egwu has not reacted to the alleged plot to kill him as at this moment. But he was absent at the Centenary Banquet to mark the 100th Anniversary of the founding of Kingâ€™s College, Lagos organised by the Kingâ€™s College Old Boys Association (KCOBA) in which the Minister of Education was chief host.
Egwu was represented by Professor Afolabi, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, who regretted the absence of the minister due to unavoidable circumstances, but that he is â€˜â€™present in spiritâ€™â€˜.
People and organisations from across sections of the country are appealing to government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to immediately return to the negotiating table for the sake of the affected students.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua has asked Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole to intervene between the Federal Government and ASUU.
Many stakeholders have expressed disappointment with governmentâ€™s handing of the crisis and called for the removal of Education Minister as he was said to lack the requisite leadership skill for crisis management.
Leader of the Ijaw Monitoring Group and human rights activist, Comrade Joseph Evah, has put the blame on government saying that the lecturers are fighting to raise the standard of our universities to enable them compete favourably with others in the world.
â€œASUU is not talking of salary but how to raise standard and quality of our universities. The Federal Government should have a bail out package for universities,â€ Evah added.
â€˜â€™Government can meet with militants and cannot meet with lecturers. The President can not meet with lecturers like himself. We should be ashamed of ourselves. If government can bail out five banks, why canâ€™t it bail out our university system?â€™â€˜ he asked at a Silverbird Television interview.
The perennial closures of public universities for long periods have continued to raise the issue of leaders whose children do not attend tertiary institutions in the country and therefore not affected.
Executive Secretary, Lagos State Baptist Conference (LSBC), Odunayo Oke, who briefed the media recently on the resolutions of the 50th Conference-in-session of the group, asked:
â€œCould government insensitivity be due to the fact that a haven of educational security is always provided for their (government) children abroad?â€, adding, â€œlet it be a matter of policy henceforth that the children of our leaders are made to attend Nigerian public schools, as this would make them more sensitive to the issue of education and would offer a model of leadership by example.â€
ASUU National President, Professor Ukachukwu Awuizie is yet to release names of public office holders whose children are attending tertiary institutions abroad which he promised to do after a research study should have been carried out.
Linked to this is the silence of influential and powerful persons in the country over the ASUU/FGN stalemate.
Traditional rulers, members of the Council of States consisting of former heads of state and presidents, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA), the Organised Private Sector (OPS), the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and other such bodies in commerce and industry which should be concerned are not showing sufficient commitment determination and patriotism to resolve the dispute.
â€˜â€™These are respected and critical voices which can sway the disputants to resolving the education crisis. But unfortunately they are not speaking out forcefully enough.
They are just watching silently as the government seemed to truncate the future of our youthsâ€™â€˜, said an engineer, Stephen Temisan.
Vanguard Education Weekly investigation showed that several of the universities closed due to the strike will lose full academic sessions, especially those in the first semester of the 2008/2009 session. However, some of them were in the second semester when ASUU declared an indefinite, nationwide strike.
For example, the Vice Chancellor, University of Jos, Prof Sonni Tyoden, was reported saying that unless the strike is brought to an end by October, the university might be forced to cancel another academic session. Several other universities are facing the same predicament. Session elongation cannot be avoided as the strike enters the fourth month.
Some universities that attempted to conduct semester/sessional examinations were barred by ASUU members as it violates the directive of the union not to conduct, examinations nor superviseÂ projects of students so long as the strike has not been suspended or called off.
The universities closed down at a glance due to ASUU strike\
1.Â Â Â Akwa Ibom State University of Science and Technology
2Â Â Â Abia State University, Uturu
3Â Â Â Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi
4Â Â Â Adamawa State University
5Â Â Â Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
6Â Â Â Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma
7Â Â Â Anambra State University
8Â Â Â Bayero University, Kano
9Â Â Â Benue State University, Makurdi
10Â Â Â Bukar Abba Ibrahim University, Damaturu, Yobe State
11Â Â Â Cross River State University of Technology, Ekpo-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Abasi, Calabar
12Â Â Â Delta State University, Abraka
13Â Â Â Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki
14Â Â Â Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Â Â Â Â Â Â Enugu
15Â Â Â Federal University of Technology, Akure
16Â Â Â Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun
17Â Â Â Federal University of Technology, Owerri
18Â Â Â Federal University of Technology, Minna
19Â Â Â Federal University of Technology, Yola
20Â Â Â Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta
21Â Â Â Ibrahim Babangida University, Lapai
22Â Â Â Gombe State University, Gombe
23Â Â Â Imo State University, Owerri
24Â Â Â Kano State University of Technology, Wudil
25Â Â Â Kogi State University, Ayigba, Kogi State
26Â Â Â Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso
27Â Â Â Michael Okpra Federal University of Agriculture, Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Umudike
28Â Â Â Nasarawa State University, Keffi
29Â Â Â Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â State
30Â Â Â Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka
31Â Â Â Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife
32Â Â Â Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State
33Â Â Â Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Okitipupa
34Â Â Â Adedunle Ajasin University
35Â Â Â Osun State University, Osogbo
36Â Â Â Kebbi State University of Technology, Aliero
37Â Â Â Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Â Â Â Â Â Â Port Harcourt
38Â Â Â Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu-Ode
39Â Â Â University of Abuja, Gwagwalada
40Â Â Â University of Agriculture, Makurdi
41Â Â Â University of Ado-Ekiti, Ado-Ekiti
42Â Â Â University of Benin, Benin City
43Â Â Â University of Calabar, Calabar
44Â Â Â University of Ibadan, Ibadan
45Â Â Â University of Ilorin, Ilorin
46Â Â Â University of Jos, Jos
47Â Â Â University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos
48Â Â Â University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri
49Â Â Â University of Nigeria, Nsukka
50Â Â Â University of Port Harcourt, Choba, Port Harcourt
51Â Â Â University of Uyo, Uyo
52Â Â Â Usman Dan fodio University, Sokoto
53Â Â Â Kaduna State University, Kaduna