By Adesina Wahab
Ongoing industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is seen by some as one of the reasons people patronise private universities, as lecturers there are not members of the union and would not go on strike.
Meanwhile, another set of people not participating in the strike are lecturers in some state universities and those in universities not yet unionised.
On their part, newly-established public universities are given observer status for some years before being admitted into ASUU.
Nigeria has 49 federal universities, 54 owned by state governments and 109 private ones.
Federal universities are currently on strike while some state-owned are not part of the strike, the reason being that some major demands by ASUU are peculiar only to federal universities.
The issue of inadequate funding of the education sector cuts across all public universities, just like the demand for better salaries and other conditions of service.
However, the issues of revitalisation fund and the controversial Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, are peculiar to only federal universities since it is the FG that uses IPPIS to pay its workers and revitalisation fund is given by it to its universities.
Both federal and state universities are affected by proliferation of universities, as some state governments, for instance Abia and Delta grappling with the challenge of funding one university, are creating more.
The financial implications of the demands by ASUU run into billions of naira. For example, going by an agreement signed by the FG with the union, government is expected to commit N200 billion annually for five years to the revitalisation of the sector.
To meet this segment of the ASUU demand, the Federal Government must cough out N1trillion.
But the best it did recently was the release of N30 billion as a sign of commitment.
Even though the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, and the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, have appealed to the two warring sides to sheath their swords, no truce is in the horizon. Whereas Comrade Sunday Asefon, NANS President, said students would take to the streets in protest and Alhaji Haruna Danjuma of NAPTAN said students and parents were at the receiving end, a truce is still far from being reached.
National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, is of the opinion that how soon the strike would end lies with government.
With the education sector yet to recover from the lockdown of schools following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the current strike is another blow to university education.
Whereas certificates issued by the nation’s universities are losing value internationally as holders are subjected to fresh evaluation abroad, staying out of school would further worsen the situation.
Students are getting fatigued as a four-year course sees a student spending six or more years on campus because of strike by workers.
However, universities not on strike are enjoying a sort of advantage over those on strike.
For instance, students of Edo University, Uzairue, told Sunday Vanguard of their excitement that their school is running. The university, set up in 2016, has carved a niche for itself in some areas regarding academic excellence.
A 200 level student of the institution, Awuya Maryanne, said, “Aside the fact that our school is managed by Edo State government, it is not under ASUU and it is also a world class university.
“This has made the academic calendar go as planned.
“If you apply for a four-year course you got to stay here for four years.
“I feel what distinguishes Edo University from others is because it is the only state university I know where lecturers teach well without you hearing any story of assault or taking advantage of students for higher grades.
“Secondly, the facilities needed for some practical courses like mass communication are available.
“By this, students are getting both lectures and practical teaching which differentiate them from others.
“For students, it’s a joy and motivation to know you won’t be affected by strike.
“For parents, it’s also similar to the students own.
“For lecturers, when I view it from their perspective, I would say they also don’t want to be affected by strike because lecturing is their source of income.
“The academic calendar has been going on smoothly.”
Another student, Grace Amasoh, said the fact that the day of graduation is certain is a big plus and advantage at EU.
“The effect on the calendar is stability and more effective lectures,” she added.
On her part, Okwuise Benjamin, also a student in the university, noted, “The major difference between my university and other universities is the calendar.
“Our calendar here does not change no matter the situation. I am happy and staying positive and it is one of the best institutions in Nigeria.”
Akabueze-Chukwudebe Jessica, also speaking, said, “No, my university has never gone on strike. It is known to everyone that if your university is under ASUU, that is when strikes can affect you and, since my school is not under ASUU, strikes don’t affect my school.”
Students in public universities whose lecturers are now on strike would definitely be envious of their colleagues who are not affected by the industrial action.