Dons suggest solutions to incessant ASUU strike
While the entire globe is battling to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced several countries to lockdown to help stop the disease from spreading, Nigeria’s condition is more critical by the indefinite strike declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
On Monday, March 23, 2020 ASUU shocked the nation when, after its national executive council (NEC) meeting, ordered lecturers to embark on an indefinite strike to protest the failure of the Federal Government to address its unending numerous demands.
But stakeholders have however appealed to the government and ASUU to resolve the issue just as they suggested options through, which the country could avoid ‘strike’ as possible means of negotiation.
The strike is coming exactly two weeks after the union embarked on a two-week warning strike to protest the non-payment of salaries of lecturers not enrolled in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), non-compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the government and other outstanding demands.
Reacting on the development, a professor of History and Strategic Studies, Ayodeji Olukoju said it is necessary for the government to ensure that whatever agreement it reached with ASUU are implementable, while he also enjoined the university lecturers to ensure that strike is always the last options to be adopted as a means of resolving issues with government.
The former vice chancellor of Caleb University also lamented the poor remuneration of university lecturers compared with what elected and appointed public office holders earn, which he said was part of the factors irking those in the academic sector.
He however said one of the solutions that could prevent frequent strikes in the education sector “is for the government to henceforth carry ASUU along in its policies making process including budgeting and the implementation of such.”
Olukoju also suggested the need for a good working relationship among ministries of labour, education and ASUU, which he observed as lacking up till now.
“It is also imperative that such relationship should involve parents and even the students because they are all stakeholders. This is necessary because if a good working relationship were established each part involved would be in a position to sense whatever danger that is ahead so that necessary actions could be taken to stem it instead of opting for strike option.”
While he said the problem of industrial actions could not be ruled out between employers and employees, not only in the education sector, the professor of History urged the government to always ensure sincerity it its dealing with ASUU just as he urged the lecturers to not allow matters affecting individual universities to spill over to national issues. “There should be mutual issue of trust and not mistrust between the government and ASUU.
Other proposals he made to end strike in the education sector include the need for Nigeria to invest more in the communication industry to enhancing distant learning programmes like the one currently operated by Open University as alternative to conventional university system. He also urged the Federal Government to incorporate ASUU in the budget making process and implementation of education sector especially funding of university education.
Suggesting a drastic approach to addressing the Nigerian university system, a scholar, journalist and novelist, Professor Adebayo Williams called for total closure of the university system “otherwise, there is no approach I foresee that would bring solution to the roots in the university system.”
According to him, “We should close down the university system at least for a year and set up a committee or board that would look at the root of the problems. A lot of professors in the system cannot even profess anything and it is obvious that government cannot continue to have inputs in the selection of university officers and expect sanity.”
Williams described the Nigerian university system as a dying ember that must definitely collapsed “just a matter of time. For instance, our government could no longer continue to fund the university system. It is true that students must pay more but from where would their parents get such additional school fees?”
The novelists also likened the challenge in the education system to the larger problems in the country and a symptom of the postcolonial state. I have nothing but contempt for what is going on in our university system.”
While disagreeing with the suggestion to close down the university system, the pioneer Chair, Oba Sir Sikiru Adetona professorial chair in governance, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye (OOU), Prof Ayo Olukotun said the idea of closing down the entire university system “would bring about total collapse.”
Olukotun called on the government to be more proactive and make sure necessary provisions are provided to address flashpoints through surveillance before it snowballed into crisis as we are witnessing today.
The don further flayed government for not being honest enough in implementing most agreements it reached with ASUU just as he recommended constant brainstorming from time to time between the union and the government.
Meanwhile, the trio lamented the persistent strike in the country’s university pointing to the fact that it brings about disruption in the institution’s academic calendar. They argued that once there is industrial dispute, it would give room for calendar adjustment, which will inevitably affect the smooth running of technical education programme in the country.
“Once there is strike action, institutions/schools are forced to close down and there will be a temporary stoppage of teaching and learning activities in the concerned institutions.”