ASUU is Still a Joke

Eight years ago as a final year student in one of Nigeria’s Federal Universities, I argued that the incessant strikes by ASUU were needless. I wrote a piece about how ASUU as a union was a complete joke. They had at the time embarked on an indefinite strike that would last six months. After all these years and after several warning and indefinite strikes by the union, I still believe they are a joke, perhaps more than I had ever believed before.

The education sector is in shambles, agreed. But that is not the only sector that is in total disarray. The health sector is starving of funds. Doctors are grossly under-paid with health facilities inadequate and dilapidated. All the six geo-political zones in the country are facing one form of security challenge or the other. Nigerians are acutely under-policed, and the existing security personnel are underpaid, too.

The reason why the university lecturers have decided to freeze academic activities in public universities, rendering students (youths) redundant is centered on funds (and the constant flow of funding). This is based on an executed ‘agreement’ between the government and the union, whereby certain amounts have to be paid for the development of the universities, especially for infrastructure and world-class teaching equipment, amongst other things. The persistent lack of sincerity on the part of the government has constantly meant that the agreements would be reneged, and that the lecturers would always consider downing their tools. This vicious cycle is one that the lecturers should be all too aware of, and it is what a lot of us find most irksome.

How can a union with this array of knowledgeable members not be able to think outside the box for sustainable solutions to funding, without the need to render active-minded youths redundant? We all know that this campaign season makes the striking lecturers’ demands less pressing for government, more so because the current administration is not seeking re-election, coupled with glaring security challenges. Moreover, the educational system in Nigeria needs a comprehensive over-haul from top to bottom, such that adequate funding for universities alone will not come close to solving them. Who is going to strike on behalf of the millions of the out-of-school children roaming our streets? The primary and post-primary education system is arguably in need of more funding than the tertiary education system, if only to ensure that there is no mismatch between the graduates churned out and ultimately absorbed by the universities.

On funding needs, deregulation of the tertiary education system is a more sustainable solution. When subsidies, wrong rules and guidelines that form barriers to competition and free markets are eliminated, the system would most likely thrive better. Universities will survive based on the quality of their facilities and the skills they offer based on the available courses in their institution.

The education system worldwide is being decentralized with schools and classes becoming increasingly online and remote. Nigerians now earn foreign degrees without the need to travel outside the country, which means good money for these ‘smarter’ countries. There is an informal agreement across the country that ASUU strikes are usually factored into the duration of stay of each student, such that the student cannot be sure when he or she would graduate, considering the inevitability of strikes by ASUU. This de-marketing of the Nigerian universities would only help the course of the increasing number of private universities and foreign higher institutions.

Strikes are outdated, just like the curricular and skills being taught in Nigerian universities. With these constant strikes by ASUU, the ends do not justify the means.

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