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When’s Next Strike

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AFTER more than three months of shutting the universities down, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU,  and the Federal Government have decided to call off this round of strike, an annual ritual that befuddles Nigerians about the issues of university education.

The only time Nigerians hear about ASUU is when it is on strike. It is remarkable that this latest truce came with high prices, not exactly surprising for followers of these disruptions that have steadily seen to a fall in the quality of our university graduates.

One of the prices is that ASUU walked away with higher salaries while at the same time the Federal Government outrightly rejected increase in funding of university education to the 26 per cent of the budget ASUU requested, or any figure for that matter.  University teachers would get higher pay without improvements in libraries and teaching facilities.

So what was the strike about? ASUU felt it was poorly paid compared with lecturers elsewhere. Government could not counter-argue that it was unlike governments in other places, so it negotiated, walked out on ASUU and finally acquiesced.

The fact that the agreement is only for federal universities means another round of strike could be on. State universities are to negotiate with their governments. ASUU President Professor Patrick Awuzie is from Imo State University.

Prof. Awuzie has warned that signing the agreement was not as important as implementation. ASUU state university affiliates would go through another negotiation, a rite government claims gives them autonomy.

Nigerians have to brace themselves for these routine strikes. They no longer have any meaning beyond the complications they bring into the lives of families that expect too much from government and the academic community.

The country seems to have decided long ago that the quality of the products of its educational system does not matter. Neither the government nor ASUU is interested in education outside the lifeline it provides for contending parties.

Poor parents who cannot send their children to private universities or those who want their children in public universities are the victims. The larger society  is not spared a near illiterate work force that further under develops it.

In the interest of Nigerians, employers, governments included, must have a plan for the welfare of their workers, such that the insistent disruptions that have become part of the culture of university administration must be ended.

As each segment of the work force realises that the only way to get government attention is a strike, it would adopt that method. The Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU is set to take its own shot at a strike if its conditions of service are not improved.

It is not enough to scoff at their seeming unimportance to university education. NASU is also known to have shut down activities in universities or get them to drag to a point that we meet their demands.

The next strikes are not too far away.

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