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ASUU’s strikes and the day after (3)

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By Douglas  Anele
SUCH a technocrat, with a track record of good performance in his or her chosen field, of course, should be supported by deputy vice-chancellors who are thoroughbred academics.

There are several of such individuals in the country whose wealth of experience can be mined to the benefit of the universities. In a nutshell, then, I suggest that ASUU must be more involved in the selection of the most suitable people to run our universities, and propose bold and innovative ideas on how to develop the critical mass of human capital needed to meet the challenges of a fast-changing world.

It should not acquiesce to the current domination of ethnicity in the appointment of principle officers of the various institutions. On the question of how to get more funds to run the universities and provide reasonable welfare package for lecturers, Ayo Banjo, a retired professor and former vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, was right in suggesting that part of the problem is that lecturers move from place to place seeking for individual consultancy jobs rather than working synergetically under the umbrella of the consultancy units of their various institutions.

Banjo suggests, and I agree, that better funding would accrue to the universities if lecturers present a united front in sourcing for consultancy services outside the system. Virtually all universities have consultancy outfits. But in some of these establishments, due to parochial considerations, square pegs are put in round holes. ASUU can see to it that lecturers work together to make the interface between the “town and gown” more financially rewarding to the universities and to the lecturers too.

In the attempt to raise more  funds, many universities are running academic programmes for which they have neither the required number of competent academic staff nor the facilities.

Certainly, there is a lot of pressure on existing universities to admit more students in order to absorb the ever-increasing number of people who desire university education. In the satellite campuses, for example, “cash and carry” has become endemic, because a lot of those teaching there are “academic traders” motivated mainly by pecuniary considerations. Without the participation of ASUU members, these low quality programmes cannot exist.

I think it is time ASUU took a principled stance against the proliferation of half–baked academic programmes by demanding that its members should not participate in them, irrespective of the financial benefits to the universities and lecturers.

It is better for our universities to produce a small number of graduates with top class quality than to produce a large number of mediocre degree holders.

On the question of strikes, ASUU should allow the system to run uninterruptedly for ten years so that some degree of stability can be achieved. A moratorium on strike for the next decade, except in cases of grave and obvious assault on the universities, such as arbitrary sack or maltreatment of academics, will enable the universities to recover from some of the negative effects of previous strikes.

Additionally, rather than depend on stoppage of teaching to get what we want, as researchers we should think out of the box, so to speak, in  order to chart a new course in ASUU-government relations. As I said earlier, the academic union should discourage lecturers from creating the impression that they are always eager to “come and eat” with politicians and military dictators.

Secondly, the union needs to reach out to, or lobby, those who truly have the ears and hearts of the ultimate decision makers in matters relating to funding of education. For instance, it is relatively easy for ASUU to discover whether a sitting president takes the advice of his spouse very seriously. If that is so, then ASUU can, covertly, enlist the help of respected senior female academics, including those that have retired, to convince the president’s wife so that she can make her husband appreciate ASUU’s position better.

I am sure some of my colleagues will rashly scoff at my proposal.

Still, I am convinced that personal informal interventions such as the one I just recommended can be effective in achieving better results during disagreements and negotiations. Consequently, I suggest ASUU should give it a try and see what happens.

There are several other issues ASUU should focus on to enhance academic work in the universities. One of them is the issue of mentoring younger academics who are new in the profession. Aside from bag-carrying dobale mentality, there is inadequate mentoring going on presently.

Of course, there are sound academic mentors in our universities, especially in the well-established federal universities, such as UNILAG, UI, UNN, ABU etc. Personally, I really appreciate the mentoring I received from late Prof. C. S. Momoh, Profs. S.B. Oluwole, Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, J.I. Omoregbe, Princewill Alozie and others. But the number of such real mentors genuinely interested in helping junior colleagues to attain their full academic potentials is decreasing.

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