12 December 2018

Nigeria: Of ASUU and Endless Strikes

WEDNESDAY EDITORIAL

ASUU and the federal government should find a common ground to ensure that the strike is called off

With the latest strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), quality education is increasingly being endangered in our country since the hurried academic calendars which usually follow these all-too-frequent industrial actions allow for very little attention to serious studies. As usual, the lecturers have listed their grievances to include lackluster implementation of previous ASUU/federal government agreements both on their allowances and on the funding of public universities. It is heartening that both ASUU and the government are making some progress.

Given the incessant disruption on the campuses, it is little surprise that public universities in Nigeria have continued to go down the ladder of academic ranking, even among their peers in Africa. But we also agree with ASUU that under-funding the education sector, over the years, has had collateral damaging effects, such that our universities have now become grotesque carcasses of their former glorious selves. But dealing with the challenge requires more than seasonal strikes by the lecturers while the federal government also needs to understand the primacy of constant dialogue and keeping to agreements, especially given the current realities.

While we call on the lecturers to temper their expectations with realism, it is also important for the authorities to do everything within their powers to end the current strike and find a lasting solution to a phenomenon that has virtually crippled tertiary education in the country. But much more importantly, the federal government must learn never to sign any agreement it has no capacity or willingness to implement. In giving conditions under which the lecturers will go back to work, ASUU president, Dr Abiodun Ogunyemi said the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed in October 2017 "must be implemented fully before we can even talk of suspension of the strike."

It is unfortunate that the federal government and ASUU had for several years now been locked in running battles over the implementation of agreements reached. The consequences have been lengthy industrial strikes by the lecturers, with the attendant debilitating effects on educational development in particular and academic pursuits in general. Yet, as we have repeatedly argued on this page on this recurring problem, whatever the issues are, it is important for the federal government and ASUU to find common grounds because what these strikes have done is to further damage the credibility of tertiary education in Nigeria.

While there is no way we can develop our country until efforts are made to revitalise key sectors like education, most of disputes are always occasioned by broken promises and unfulfilled agreements. Therefore, going forward requires other critical stakeholders in the education sector joining in the efforts to find a lasting solution to what has become a perplexing national challenge. But in doing this, the federal government must take the initiative so that we can collectively come up with ways to reposition tertiary education in our country.

Meanwhile, to the extent that commercialisation of academic grades and poorly written handouts, delayed dissertation, award of questionable degrees and all manner of unwholesome practices have combined to ruin university education in Nigeria, ASUU must also accept that it is complicit in the problem. Unfortunately, these are issues which seem to be of little or no concern to the lecturers and that perhaps explain why the once-vibrant union that set the agenda for national discourse in its hay days is now strike-obsessed and largely irrelevant.

These, of course, are issues we must deal with. For now, the authorities must find a way to resolve the current crisis so that ASUU can call off the strike and our students can return to school.

Nigeria

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