…As Nigeria lost five years of academic sessions to ASUU strikes

By Emmanuel Edukugho
University students heaved a sigh of relief as respite came their way when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its nearly four months old strike for two weeks “to enable a cordial atmosphere for the peaceful conclusion of negotiations” between it and the federal government.

Our checks showed, that many students in their thousands are steadily streaming into the various university campuses across the country, anxious and eager to resume their academic studies distrupted since June 22, 2009 when ASUU declared indefinite, nationwide strike leading to the closure of about 53 public universities.

At the University of Lagos, students started arriving on campus since Monday when ASUU directed lecturers to resume work. Lectures have started in some of the departments.

studenteeAlthough the tempo of activities are yet to reach the peak, but life is gradually returning to the campus. Students are settling down in the various halls of residence while many can be seen receiving lectures in classrooms.

The way normalcy is returning to UNILAG is actually amazing to the extent that one can not know that only few days ago, the whole place was quiet and lack-lustre.

A final year engineering student told Vanguard Education Weekly that he is grateful to God that the strike has been suspended.

“I’ve not been able to consult my supervisor for my project which had been on hold since the strike. I can now meet him and finish up the work hoping that the strike won’t be restarted after two weeks.”

The situation is however slightly different at Lagos State University (LASU) Ojo, where lingering internal disputes within the community involving students and management and other feuding unions still aggrieved, hampered the return of students to the campus.

Investigations also pointed to students and lecturers returning to campuses at University of Ibadan (UI), Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, University of Benin, Delta State University, Abraka, and Federal University of Technology, Akure, among others.

It was reliably gathered that students are returning to the University of Port Harcourt and situation gradually coming back to normal.

Lectures have even started in the department of electrical engineering for final year students.

While a lot of students are already on their campuses trying to get themselves together and settle down for a rigorous academic work, having lost about four months, many others are bidding their time, not certain whether the peace can stay after two weeks.

Miss Margaret Omashuli of the University of Port Harcourt, who had been staying at home in Lagos, said:

“I want to wait till end of the two weeks, if there is no more strike after then, I will return to school. I don’t want to be caught inawares again.”

Another student of the University of Ibadan, who simply gave her name as Uju, expressed similar uncertainity, saying she would only return to campus after the end of the two weeks if ASUU did not resume its strike again.

Nigerian lecturers embarked on their first ever industrial action in 1973.

According to a document by Victims of persecution, a body which has proposed the Nigerian National Interest (Education) Bill, 2009, aimed at encouraging nation building in the educational sector, between 1973-2003, not less than 12 strikes rocked our education sector.

From 1990 till date, only 1997, 1998 and 2004 were the only strike-free years in the academic history of our universities.

Between 1973 to date, Nigeria has accumulatively lost 4 years, 9 months and 3 weeks of academic sessions to strikes.

“Worse still, there are no facilities for learning and studies. Most Nigerian Universities’ libraries lack dailies, journals and modern books. Most do not have internet facilities.

Even many computer science and secretarial studies departments do not even have enough computers if at all.”

They said at a recent press conference that the result has been pathetic – churning out many uneducated graduates who are ill-equipped to face the challenges of life.

Complacency of Nigerian leaders was also blamed for the woes afflicting the education sector.

It is believed that about 75% of our principal political office holders have their children in schools abroad or in expensive private schools. They are therefore insulated from ASUU strikes hence their indifference to this grave national problem.

Victims of persecution whose Rapporteur is Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, an NGO, has prepared in draft, this National Interest (Education) Bill, 2009, to be sent to the National Assembly after inputs from stakeholders.

Essentially, the Bill is to save our educational system, engender patriotism for the country, enthrone a nation our children shall be proud of.

“The Bill among other things, mandates any person who wishes to assume any of the listed political offices on 29th May, 2011, must ensure that their children and spouses would not be attending any foreign school as the person assumes the office and would not do so while the person remains in office, etc.”

The Bill also provides that both the Federal and state government shall allocate a minimum of 5% of all proceeds from the crude oil Exess Price Account to the funding of education.

That both the Federal and State Governments shall allocate a minimum of 26% of their respective annual budget to the funding of education.

“The funds shall be used to ensure that every public primary school, secondary/technical schools, every department of Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Universities are equipped with internet facilities, computer sets and facilities and library books.

No part of this fund shall be diverted to any sector. It shall be an offence to sell lecture notes to students.

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