By Douglas Anele
ASUU should find a way to encourage experienced senior academics to teach less experienced colleagues â€œbest practicesâ€ in the profession.
The union can discourage what I call academic slavery, that is, the practice in which some senior academics either clone and publish papers written by junior colleagues or request the latter to write papers on their behalf, without proper acknowledgement of the authors. In addition, during negotiations with government,
ASUU should focus more on emolument at the entry point into the profession, rather than concentrating too much attention on professorial salaries. In as much as there are good reasons for drawing attention to the inadequate wages of the highest academic rank in the system, I believe it is even more crucial to call attention to the paltry salaries paid to graduate assistants and assistant lecturers at the starting point of the academic career.
Those of us in the system know that the GAs and ALs do a lot of work in their departments.Â ASUU, I believe, is keen on the quality of lecturers attracted into the system. Therefore, the union must stress the urgent need for substantial improvement in the salaries of GAs and ALs.
After all, the basic salary structure for lecturers is dependent, to some extent, on what obtains at the lowest level. It is extremely important to attract the very best to the academia, because, ideally, it is in the universities that the best human achievements in The Good, The True, and The Beautiful are taken to the highest possible heights by human ingenuity. All said and done, my colleagues must always bear in mind that we are the only group entrusted by the society to generate knowledge for the all-round development of humanity and civilization.
Thus, although lecturers belong to a trade union, ASUU, and irrespective of the anti-intellectual attitude of government, we must never reduce ourselves to the status of mere members of typical trade unions.
In its dealings with government, ASUU should always endeavour to demonstrate the superiority of reason over obduracy. In this connection, I cannot end this discussion without saying something about governmentâ€™s habitual insincerity and uncharitable attitude to ASUU.
Nigerians must appreciate the fact that the unwillingness of top government officials to seriously address the legitimate concerns of the union regarding adequate funding of the universities is the major cause of strikes by ASUU. I am not happy with recurrent stoppages of teaching, for the reasons already indicated. But, it appears that very wealthy government officials, rather than work to resuscitate public universities, are more interested in establishing their own universities, and then entice lecturers with better welfare packages to lecture there.
Government must realize that any society that humiliates its university teachers must pay a heavy price for that. Moreover, I do not see what government has gained by its persistent failure to implement agreements it reached with lecturers. Perhaps, blind egoism has been preventing government officials from really appreciating the urgency of ASUUâ€™s demands.
It is foolish for members of the ruling elite to ignore the problems in our educational institutions, simply because their children and wards are studying abroad. Some of these people, after graduation, return to Nigeria to earn a living. Obviously, there is no way they can totally avoid interaction with graduates of Nigerian universities, which means that their lives will be affected, one way or another, by the quality of university education in the country.
Therefore, government officials should stop seeing ASUU as an enemy, and co-operate with it to rebuild the universities. Keep in mind that most of them graduated from our universities, and were taught by the very lecturers they are now disrespecting.
The least they can do, as a mark of respect to their former teachers, is to ensure that there is a conducive atmosphere for teaching and research. At any rate, I am really surprised that ministers of education and executive secretaries of National Universities Commission (NUC) who were lecturers before appear very willing to implement harsh anti-ASUU policies of government.
Does it mean that political appointment has obliterated the loyalty they ought to feel for their former colleagues? Are they afraid of telling their bosses the truth about the decay in the universities so that they can retain their jobs? Those involved should ponder these questions seriously through critical self-examination.
On its own part, ASUU should avoid confrontational language in presenting its demands to, and during negotiations with, government.
Our institutions of higher learning require urgent attention to save them from further deterioration. It is in the interest of everyone that they are quickly restored to their original status as among the best in the world. It is time for the federal government to discard its pachydermatous attitude to ASUU and do the right thing at the right time!