By Douglas Anele
IN the philosophy of mathematics, the formalists see mathematics differently from the way intuitionists see it. Why then should some lecturers resort to obloquy and harassment of colleagues critical of the frequent recourse to indefinite strikes?
The frequency with which ASUU embarks on strike is an indication that indefinite strike is not a sustainable solution to the myriads of problems in our â€œivory towersâ€. So, it is disappointing that some of my colleagues, at congress meetings, extol the herd mentality of SSANU and NASU members towards strikes.
As a body comprising academics, ASUU should provide intellectual leadership for other unions to follow, not the other way round. Uncritical acceptance of the hard-line posture of a union in the complex and controversial issue of strike is anathema to the spirit of free thought which academics ought to uphold, although the critical attitude native to philosophy is inconvenient for hard core unionists in ASUU.
As I said earlier, no one knows precisely the magnitude and ramifications of the impact of frequent indefinite strikes on all the stakeholders in our universities. Thus, disagreements about strikes and about the best strategy to wrest what is needed from government to get the universities up and running should be expected. Sometimes, the vehemence with which some lecturers argue the case for continuation of strike makes me wonder whether they truly enjoy teaching at all or are merely in academics because their attempts to get better paying jobs elsewhere were unsuccessful.
In my cynical moments, I wonder whether there are lecturers benefiting from the strikes: probably such lecturers have more time for their private consultancies outside the university. Yet, I am encouraged by the fact that there are still many core academics and sound minds in the universities who are contributing meaningfully to the training of the future generation.
I know several of them, at the University of Lagos and elsewhere. I use this opportunity to salute their courage, intellectual achievements and selfless devotion to teaching. On the argument that government is unserious about proper funding of the universities because children of top government officials are schooling abroad, it is also true that many lecturersâ€™ children are in foreign universities.
The main issue here is that due to corruption, top government officials have more financial resources than lecturers and ordinary Nigerians to send their children overseas to study. Consequently, it is morally incumbent on government to ensure that universities in Nigeria meet international standards so that the rush to have degrees from foreign universities will go down considerably.
People tend to forget that it is not just the standard of the university one attended alone that determines success or failure in life. There is some advantage in attending a reputable university abroad, no doubt; but that is not a guarantee that all graduates of such an institution will perform better in jobs than those who graduated from not-so-reputable institutions in Nigeria.
There is more to success in human endeavours than the status of the university one attended. The quest for foreign degrees, in my opinion, may be a means for some people to show that they â€œhave arrivedâ€, that they have joined the class of oppressors in the society. Therefore, for me, there is no big deal about the craze for degrees obtained from foreign tertiary institutions.
All we need is to work together to rebuild what we have here in Nigeria.Â Finally, I wish to remind my colleagues that although I am fully in support of their demand that government should fund our universities well to meet the complex challenges of a globalizing world, we should rethink our strategy because frequent resort to strikes is not, I repeat, a viable solution.
I believe that the present government is bad. But name calling and confrontational harsh language cannot help our case. What is required is a thorough and scientific overhauling of the educational system in Nigeria in such a way that individuals, corporate bodies and government at all levels would contribute to the reconstruction of our educational institutions from the lowest level to the highest.
Government should stop wasting scarce resources on frivolities and channel adequate funds to the education sector. If the government is really serious about ending ASUU strikes, it should give the lecturers concessions when they are teaching or actually working. It is because lecturers get concessions only when they go on strikes that encourages them to do so repeatedly.
In addition, my colleagues should realize that no amount of funding without genuine commitment and love for teaching can make our universities the cynosure of all eyes.
Complete resuscitation of these institutions is a long term project, but we can move towards the ideal one step at a time.
However, for the time being, there is no good reason why dialogue between government and ASUU should only take place during crisis, or in atmosphere of acrimony.
Productive dialogue is always a continuous process, so long as there is sincerity of purpose on the part of those engaged in such discussion. On a more humorous note, I am suffering from strike fatigue; I do not know about others!