Editorial: Finding lasting solutions to the lingering ASUU strike
Just at that moment Nigerians were beginning to see the silver lining behind the lingering industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), after six months of industrial action, the union declared their strike indefinite. As far as the union is concerned, the Federal Government has shown no commitment to meet any of its demands that had initially prompted the strike in February.
We had thought the strike that has held students at home for six months would not see another in mid-July when President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu to resolve all issues with the union within two weeks. But the union while declaring the strike action indefinite, accused the Minister of Education of peddling misinformation by claiming that all issues with the union had been resolved except the payment of their salaries.
The union had in a statement revealed that “none of the issues that forced our Union to resume the suspended strike as listed in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) has been satisfactorily addressed by the government to date. The draft renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement (Second draft) remains unsigned; the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) has not been adopted and deployed to replace the discredited Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS); and the White Papers on Visitation Panels to Federal Universities, if ready as claimed by the Government more than six month ago, are nowhere to be found.
“Similarly, Government has not delivered on the promised balance of one tranche of the Revitalisation Fund more than one year after, the outstanding two tranches of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) have not been released; and nothing has since happened on the promised support for amendment to the Law of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stem the tide of proliferation of Universities especially by the State Governments” the Union said.
Although, accusing fingers as to who is to blame for the prolonged strike points to both direction depending on which part of the divide the pointer stands, however, it is important to reiterate at this point that the education system especially our tertiary education is at its worse state with universities on strike while those who could afford private universities are engaged in active academic pursuits.
Up until now, the university education has been a relative leveler between the rich and the poor with both having their wards in public universities considering the high standard these institutions are known for, but the frequent down tools by lecturers has encouraged parents with the financial capacities to contemplate and move their children to private universities. Others who can afford would take their children outside the country to further their education in neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic.
The children of the poor are left to fast and pray with keen attention to the back and forth between the government and the lecturers. It is unfortunate that the gulf between the rich and the poor has finally finds its way into the tertiary education system. What would happen to the children whose parents cannot afford the high cost of private universities tuition? Would the students affected by the strike action be compensated with employment when employers strictly stipulate the age bracket they want for their intakes?
We expected that the Federal Government would note with worry that the prolonged strike has not only affected education but also create unemployment ahead of time for the students who are mostly affected.
One would have thought the Minister of Education being in the eyes of the storm would apply diplomacy in addressing the matter both in public and private, but unfortunately the honorable minister capriciously disregarded caution and exposed his insensitivity to the plight of parents, lecturers and students affected by the actions when he urged students affected by the strike to sue the Union.
We hold to the fact that the solution to the lingering issues cannot be solved in just few days as it is evidence in the back and forth the lecturers and the government have been on the issues. We therefore called on the government and the lecturers to with sincerity and the Nigeria education system at heart, segment the issues for solution into short, medium and long term execution plans with specific time frame of execution.
The education system is failing and Nigeria must act fast before its total collapse.