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Say No To Another ASUU Strike

The Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU) is threatening to go on yet another strike over the failure of the federal government to implement its part of the agreement reached between both parties.

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ASUU  had gone on strike in March 2020 following a disagreement with the government over the funding of the universities and discrepancies in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), among others.

The lecturers’ union had developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS)  to replace IPPIS and held several meetings with officials of the ministries of finance, education, labour and employment, and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, before UTAS was approved and before the last strike was suspended.

ASUU had contended that the Memorandum of Action discussed in the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 2017 Memorandum of Action had not been implemented. This is sad.

The minister of state for education, Emeka Nwajiuba, had blamed bureaucracy at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for why lecturers had not received monies promised to them in 2020 before the last strike was called off.

In the considered opinion of this newspaper, using strikes as a tool to force the government to meet its demands is primitive and should be discarded as, over the years, it has not achieved the desired result.

Sadly, since 1999, university teachers in the country have embarked on strikes over 15 times, which saw them stay away from work for about 50 months, resulting in a loss of about 21 per cent of study time. This means that for every five years since 1999, Nigerian universities spent one on strike. This is unacceptable.

In most cases, it is the students who bear the brunt of these senseless incessant strikes by ASUU as the lecturers are often paid their salary and allowances during the strike, and even if they don’t get paid during the strike, they always find ways of arm- twisting the government to pay the backlog of salaries not paid during strikes,  effectively earning salaries for work not done. We cannot continue like this.

We are tempted to ask what has been the contribution of ASUU to the development of education in the country? Whatever it can lay claim to in this regard are almost wiped out by the incessant strikes. We can confidently say that most of the strikes are not for altruistic reasons as widely believed.

In most cases, due to public pressure, the government signs agreements with unions that it has no intention of implementing, just to buy time. In most cases, the funds are simply not there to implement the demands by unions.

Indeed, apart from the education sector, health, defence and infrastructure are other sectors in dire need of funding by the government.

This again brings to the fore the argument on improving the revenue base of the government and cutting the cost of governance in order to create and free up more funds for spending on critical sectors of the country’s economy.

Sadly, according to the 2020/2021 ranking released by the Centre for World University Ranking, only two universities in the country, the University of Ibadan and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), made the world’s best 2,000 universities.

The Centre for World University ranking utilised quality of education which is measured by the number of a university’s alumni who have won major academic distinctions relative to the university’s size, alumni employment (number of alumni who have held top executive position at the world’s largest economies), quality of faculties (number of a university faculties who have won major academic distinctions), and research performance (measured by the total number of research papers, high quality publications in top-tier journals, influence and citations) to arrive at the latest ranking.

However, unlike Nigerian universities, the first 13 universities in South Africa made the best 2,000 universities while seven of them made the best one thousand varsities in the world.

No doubt, education in the country is in bad shape. In the last 40 years, the budget for education in Nigeria has been between 6 per cent and 9 percent. This is lower than most other African countries which range between 11 percent and 30 per cent. This has to change.

Sadly,  allocation to education in the last 10 years has been miserly. Out of a budget of N55.19 trillion, only N3.90 trillion, or 7.07 per cent, was allocated to the sector.

In view of the foregoing, we call on ASUU to shelve its planned strike as, over the years, it has not yielded the desired results. It should look for more creative ways of engaging the government, and not continually jeopardise the development of the youth under its care.

We insist that incessant strikes have contributed greatly to the falling standards of education in the country. Needless to say, the government should stop signing agreements it cannot implement.

Source,: Leadership

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