By Our Editors
It was with great relief that Nigerians received the news that the Academic Staff Union of universities (ASUU) has called off its nine months’ strike. We recall that ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike in March, 2020 over the non-implementation of sundry issues especially its reservation about government’s insistence that it must bring members of the union under the federal government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
After nine months, ASUU resolved, at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, December 22, 2020, to bring the strike to an end much to the relief of parents. We say this because members of ASUU lost nothing while the strike lasted as they continued to earn their salaries for work not done. It said that the decision, reached in good faith between the government and the Union, imposed some obligations on both sides.
It is instructive that before the suspension of the strike both parties unanimously resolved the seven contentious issues that had prolonged the dispute which included funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances (EAA), salary shortfall, state universities, visitation panel, reconstitution of the government renegotiating team and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
This newspaper is hoping that this strike will be the last for the sake of the integrity of the union. If the members are sensitive enough, they would have realised that strike has lost its attraction as a compelling force to get government and its agencies to act in a desired direction. Even worse for ASUU, they have lost the sympathy they used to enjoy from parents and other stakeholders. That is why we paid keen attention to ASUU president’s response on how the new agreement with the federal government is any different from the previous agreements that did not stand the test of time.
In our considered opinion, the federal government and ASUU must ensure that both parties strictly adhere to the terms and conditions that define this latest agreement. We note also that this culture of strike by ASUU has totally eroded confidence in government-owned universities to the level that even the lecturers themselves now enrol their children in private universities in Nigeria or even abroad.
Regardless, it is the opinion of this newspaper that it is time ASUU began to think outside the box to address any labour- related grievances it has with the government without embarking on strike. The regularity of the strikes has forced many students to stay longer than necessary to complete their academic programmes at a huge cost to parents, the students in question and the country at large.
Besides, the strikes have failed to engender the provision of facilities needed to enhance teaching, learning and research in the universities and thus should no longer be an option. The effect of these repeated closures of schools and academic programmes on students’ learning can better be imagined than described. It is a sad reality that graduates of Nigerian universities enter the labour market without the qualities expected of someone who claimed to have passed through the system.
It goes without saying that tertiary education in Nigeria has suffered tremendous setback as a result of industrial actions by both the academic (ASUU) and the non-academic staff. This has always subjected the students to pitiable conditions as the get unwarranted extension in their study years, resulting also in poor students’ concentration on academic programmes as well as poor lecturer-student relationships amongst others.
Consequently, students academic performance has comparatively become so low while various forms of examination malpractice are on the increase.
It is important to reiterate that university system worldwide is famed as the citadel of learning, the fountain of intellectual development and a ground for the production of leaders of tomorrow. A university, any university plays the role of knowledge and value provider, in other words, a university progresses when it is able to provide knowledge and value and when it is not properly managed, it then fails in this onerous responsibility.
This may explain why merit is the watchword in the university system. A student must first be certified, worthy in character and learning before being admitted into the Honours Roll. The importance of universities as producers of teachers, administrators and managers for other sectors of national development can never be over-emphasized. The universities in Nigeria should therefore not be an exception.
We urge ASUU to feel for itself and its members and stop embarking on strike anytime it has a disagreement with government. On its part, the government must honour agreements reached with the Union to ensure seamless academic calendar in the university system. By all means, the charade ASUU strike has become must end.