The lecturers in public universities have been on strike since February 14 this year is no news, but the frustration the development has brought on students and parents/guardians may not be fully reported or quantified.
Victor Akere, a student in the Faculty of Education, the University of Lagos, expressing his disgust at the prolong strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, said he had given up hope of returning to school any time soon.
“I have put my mind off school for now. The way the Federal Government and ASUU are going about the issue, a quick end to the face-off does not seem to be in sight. What can we do now? The only option is to find means of spending this period and time doing something worthwhile,” he said.
His disposition to the strike palaver seems better than that of Juliet, a 300 level student of Computer Science who is putting pressure on her parents to change her school to a popular private university in Ogun State.
Her desperation is understandable, she has spent over five years on campus for a four-year course. However, her wish can only be achieved if she would agree to start from 200 level at the university of her choice.
This is because the regulations by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, and the National Universities Commission, NUC, stipulate that to get a first degree from any Nigerian university, a student must spend at least three academic years in the said university. Therefore, any student above 200 level cannot transfer from one university to another in Nigeria.
Parents are in agony – NAPTAN boss
The National President of the National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, said parents are in agony about the continued closure of public universities in the country, adding that parents are also eager for their wards to continue their studies.
“I am aware of parents selling their belongings to send their children to universities in the West African subregion, in Europe, America and even in private universities in Nigeria here. That is not good for the country. We keep telling them to exercise patience, that the issues would be resolved soon, but for how long can we continue this way?
“President Muhammadu Buhari should step into the matter and let this strike be stopped. Among our university students are orphans and those from poor background. Some are even in school courtesy of philanthropists. Some parents borrow to send their children to school with the hope that within a specific period of time, the burden of repaying such would be over.
“I have three children in the university and I don’t have the money to even sponsor one in a private university not to talk of sponsoring the three. There are many people like that and on behalf of those parents, we are appealing to the President to take another look at this issue of strike and resolve it,” he stated.
Position of ASUU
Commenting on the development, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said if the public universities are in good shape, people would not want to send their wards and children to private universities.
“One of the things we are agitating for is that our universities should be in a stead to compete favourably with others globally. If public universities are good, why would people want to send their wards abroad or even to private schools here at huge costs. We must build our university system to be globally competitive and be able to attract students and lecturers from abroad.
“Unfortunately, the way things are right now, that is not possible. We are therefore calling on parents and other stakeholders to join forces with ASUU and fight this fight. It is not ASUU’s fight alone,” he said.
We ‘re witnessing a boom – Private varsities
A number of private universities sampled by the Vanguard reported increased requests for transfer of students from public universities.
“It is true we have been receiving requests in huge number, from students in federal and state universities to switch to our university. The requests for transfer cut across many courses. I can tell you for sure that I receive not less than five of such on a daily basis. The phone numbers put on our school’s website are daily jammed with such requests.
“Some of the requests come from students in 300 level and even 400 level. But those ones are not possible. Any student that is past 200 level cannot transfer to another university according to regulations,” Dr Joshua Suleiman of Babcock University, Ilisan Remo, Ogun State said.
Asked if there was also noticeable increase in the number of applicants who chose Babcock in this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, he replied in the affirmative, but said only the Admissions Office could provide the accurate figure.
Speaking in the same vein, the spokesman of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Mr Emmanuel Attat, described the surge in transfer and admission applications to his school as a boom.
“I don’t have the figures off hand, but I can tell you it is a boom. There has been significant surge in the number of applicants who want to come over to us. This is because they know that at Covenant University, we ensure standard, quality education and there is no waste of time. We are sticklers for time, ” he noted.
The view of Mr Tunji Olofintila of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, ABUAD, is not different.
Private universities’ admission quotas may be increased
Though the management of JAMB is expected to meet with Vice Chancellors, Rectors and Provosts of higher institutions later this month to decide on cut off marks for this year’s admissions, it is almost certain that the admission quotas for private universities would he raised this year.
For last year’s UTME, the quotas given the top seven were as follows: Babcock University – 3,881, Madonna University – 3,638, Covenant University – 3,032, ABUAD – 2,670, Caleb University – 1,705, Lead University – 1,685 and Bells University – 1,473.
No comment – Education Ministry
When contacted to speak on steps being taken by the Federal Government to resolve the ASUU crisis, the Director of Press Affairs, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Goong, said he was not authorised to speak on matters relating to ASUU.
Only last week, Vanguard exclusively reported that the FG rejected the report of the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee set up to renegotiate the 2009 Agreement between the union and the FG on the basis of some alleged oversight on the part of the committee.
The committee was alleged not to have taken into confidence some vital government agencies such as the Salaries and Wages Commission, the Federal Ministry of Finance etc.
The committee was also said to have recommended a salary increase of 180 percent for teaching staff and only recommended 10 percent for non-teaching staff among others.
It was therefore asked to go back and rectify the noticed gaps, making it look like the strike could linger further.