BY IKENNA ASOMBA
WORRIED by the protracted industrial action embarked upon by public university lecturers under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Vice-Chancellors of private universities have expressed concern and sympathy for the affected students, noting that there was need to end the three-month-old impasse between the Federal Government and the striking lecturers.
The VCs of Bells University of Technology (BELLSTECH), Prof. Isaac Adeyemi; Redeemer’s University, Prof. Zachariah Adeyewa; Covenant University, Prof. Charles Ayo; and Caleb University, Professor Ayodeji Olukoju, while expressing their discomfort, noted that Nigeria’s educational system needs strategic planning and restructuring to regain its lost glory
The VC, Redeemer’s University, Prof. Adeyewa, said “some of my children are also affected by the strike and have been pleading with me to send them to private varsities because they are tired of staying at home. In fact, I want to appreciate parents who are sending their children to private varsities because they are making a lot of sacrifices. I would have loved all my children to attend private varsities but I can’t afford the tuition fees.
“We are not happy that some of our children are becoming grand-parents at home because of the ongoing imbroglio between government and ASUU. The truth is that government and the citizens are not totally committed as the average parent will want to send his wards to smaller African countries to acquire education, where they may be lost to foreign cultures.”
Lamenting the unending industrial action by unions in the country’s public tertiary institutions, BELLSTECH VC, Adeyemi, said parties going into an agreement, especially between government and staff unions, should put up an implementation strategy that must be acknowledged by the parties.
“This way, if there are changes in the agreement due to the evolving realities of life, both parties must be carried along and be willing to re-negotiate. We need to have a holistic view of the project called Nigeria and agreement should be based on current realities of life because no situation is static. But I insist that there must be constant interaction and mutual agreement between both parties.
“If government says this is what she can afford now, the next thing is to agree on an implementation strategy for the balance. However, we shouldn’t wish away the fact that those in government are also Nigerians and the good of our education system is their concern. It takes a lot to fund education and these funds can’t be reared overnight, making strategic planning necessary to restructure our education system.
Similarly, the VC, Covenant University, Prof. Ayo reiterated the need for a state of emergency to be declared in the education sector.
“It’s unfortunate that public varsities have been shut-down for over two months, especially at a time when access to and quality of education in the country are low. ASUU should not be totally blamed for standing their grounds, because government needs to show more commitment to education.
“The pertinent question we should ask is- are we able to separate adequate funding of education and quality because with our paltry percentage of annual budgetary allocation less than 10 per cent compared to countries like Ghana, South-Africa, our standards will continue to dwindle. This calls for the need for a state of emergency in the nation’s educational system.”
On his part, the VC, Caleb University, Professor Olukoju, charged government to prioritize funding of education, which is a critical sector of the economy.
“Funding of education is the core issue here but government isn’t keeping an agreement that wasn’t signed under duress. This whole situation is like when someone buys goods on credit and can’t pay on the date he promised to pay.
“I will suggest that government focuses on funding education rather than spending frivolously of things that don’t contribute to the economy as education.
On the way forward BELLSTECH VC called on FG/ASUU to device a way to end this protracted impasse, saying “if government can’t sustain education at tertiary level, it must declare its position without wasting time because it takes more than just giving peanuts as funds to education.”
Covenant University VC urged ASUU and government to arrive at a compromise and see how they can utilize the available funds disbursed to the sector. If the desirable is not available, the available becomes desirable.