UNIVERSITY lecturers in Nigeria, through the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have created for themselves an image of group whose sole interest is strikes. ASUU has started another strike, which it says would be “total and comprehensive.”
National President of ASUU Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie blames the federal government’s refusal to implement core components of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement for the latest strike.
The issues go beyond non-payment of entitlements of ASUU members. Last year when state universities went on series of strikes in the South East, Awuzie spoke of dismal staffing, extremely poor teaching facilities, irregular power supply, and under-funding of the universities. These are national occurrences.
Most universities have their own strikes that result in regular disruption of academics. When students are not protesting over increases in school fees or poor facilities in their schools, it would be the turn of lecturers to commence a national strike or ones in support of colleagues in other schools.
Disruption of the academic calendar has seen students graduating years after they were due. Constant strikes also hamper the ability of the universities to produce graduates of a reasonable standard. The thousands of Nigerian students who study abroad are mostly in search of the type of education that is unavailable at home and affordable to a privileged few.
A major criticism of governments is that ASUU strikes do not bother them. An explanation for this is that children of most top government officials study either abroad or in private universities, shielded from ASUU strikes.
“The federal government neglected, ignored, failed and refused to implement the core components of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement after more than two years of its signing, sacked the Implementation Monitoring Committee that served as the forum for dialogue with ASUU on this dispute,” ASUU said in justifying the strike. “The government is terribly insincere and is manifestly unwilling to genuinely implement the agreement it freely entered into with ASUU. Therefore, ASUU resolved, painfully, to direct all members of ASUU in all branches nationwide to proceed on a total, comprehensive, and indefinite strike.” With a few changes in words and dates, this statement could have announced any of the more than 20 ASUU strikes since 1999.
“For the avoidance of doubt, a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike means: no teaching, no examination, no grading of script, no project supervisions, no inaugural lectures, no appointment and promotion meetings, no statutory meetings (Council, Senate, Board etc) or other meetings directed by government or their agents,” ASUU said.
Why is government reneging on its agreement? ASUU offers an explanation. “The ruling class has failed. It cannot provide jobs, education, healthcare, affordable transportation, roads, and so on. It is incapable of uniting the people; it uses ethnic origin as a political weapon. The faction in power, with President Jonathan as head, is unable to protect the people from hunger, robbery, murder of innocent citizens and generalised insecurity.”
Genuine as its case is, ASUU knows strikes do not work. We suggest more strategic engagement of the authorities and the political class, some of who have been ASUU members at some notch in their ascendancy, as alternatives to strikes that affect those ASUU is fighting minimally – and hurts the poor maximally.