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Relief over suspension of ASUU strike

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Mixed reactions yesterday trailed the Thursday night suspension of the three-month- old strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), signaling the resumption of academic activities in public universities.

While some parents and students lauded the suspension and expressed readiness to return to school, others, however, expressed mixed feelings about the agreement between the Federal Government and the union, saying the timing for the suspension was suspect and might have political undertones.

Some viewed the development as good for the educational growth of the students, arguing that since a lot of time has been wasted as a result of the strike, academic activities should resume with immediate effect and that the move would enable the about 10 million Nigerian students who registered on their campuses to exercise their civic rights as they can return to school. Others see it as a ploy to garner votes in the general elections.

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According to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the umbrella body for all Nigerian students, shelving the strike was a good development, as it had paralysed academics in the universities.NANs, in statement issued in Enugu, yesterday, by its spokesman, Bestman Okereafor, said: “We wish to commend this positive gesture by the Federal Government and ASUU, even though we have engaged both parties in the cause of the three-month strike.

“Our commendation is, however, based on the facts that university students can now go back to school to continue their academic pursuits, even as the suspension will give students the opportunity to exercise their franchise in the forthcoming elections.”
Okereafor said the apex students’ organisation was also appealing to the government to find a solution to the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) strike, so that polytechnic students can also return to school.

Some students who spoke with The Guardian expressed joy over the truce and ASUU’s decision to stand down the strike, saying they would be returning to school this weekend. Adah Iroushu, a student of Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), was happy that the strike was over, not minding the time.

She said: “I am excited, very happy because am tired of staying at home. Staying in the house is very boring, so I am looking forward to going back to school. I think it is good that they are resuming now, because if a new administration should take over, it may be an issue for ASUU to call off the strike immediately after the elections.

“I am resuming school after the elections, because I don’t want to go and involve myself with any election issues and secondly, I want to gather some foodstuffs before I return to school.”Zaynab Akinboro, a final year Pharmacy student of University of Lagos, believes both ASUU and Federal Government are being political about the whole issue.

“I think both parties are only playing politics with millions of students’ lives because in the course of the three-month strike, nothing substantial was said to the students as to why the strike was still ongoing, and just a week to the presidential elections, the strike was called off knowing fully well that nothing serious can start in schools till after the state elections.

“I think there’s more to it than they let out with no consideration of the students that are at the receiving end. This is not fair. I think the deal was struck and it must have had to do with the elections to be honest,” she stated.

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For Paul Tyopine, a 300-level student in the Department of Sociology, Taraba State University (TASU) Jalingo, it is election fever and the fear of losing students’ votes that forced the government to bow to the demands of ASUU.The student, who resorted to menial jobs in Yola, Adamawa State capital during the strike, told The Guardian that the action of the Buhari’s administration towards the education sector is a confirmation that he has no intention of developing the Nigerian youths who he said are the backbone of democracy.

Meanwhile, some parents have expressed their reservations over the suspension, describing the move as ill-timed. According to them, allowing the children to resume at this election period is risky as they may not be safe.A parent, who identified himself as Mr. Simeon Emokpae, notes that politicians who forment trouble and cause violence may use some of the students. “This is a wrong time for students to go back to school considering that election is just a few days away. Besides, some of these students are cultists and may be used as tools by politicians to perpetrate electoral fraud,” he said.

“It is better for the students to stay with their parents who can effectively monitor them at this time. Staying at home would guarantee their safety instead of leaving them out there to be used by politicians as willing tools,” he added. Corroborating this view, Mrs. Morinsola Toluwani, maintained that her two children would remain at home until after the elections. She said, “Rather than risk their lives and allow them return to school at this period, I will keep my children with me at home.”

Also of this view is Joseph Ugwu, a father of three, who told The Guardian that though “I am happy that at least the development will enable my two children return to school, they will however not do so until the elections are over.” Ugwu, who faulted the timing for calling off the industrial action, saying it would have been better if they had announced the suspension and asked the students to return to school after the election.

“I don’t know why they would ask them to start returning to school from yesterday (Friday) when the election is less than one week. Ordinarily, the schools should be closing from next week to give room for elections.”Mr. Mathew Odey accused ASUU of calling it off because of election allowance they want to collect from government. “They are being childish! This is not the right time to call the strike off. They called it off to be able to collect allowance for the elections and go back again or what?

“This is not the first time they went on strike over the same issue and now they said they called off, or is it suspended for them to start again and if they called off, how do they think that children will run out of homes at these election period and go back to school? What is the safety guaranteed?” he queried.

For another parent, Mr. Akin Olumuyiwa, if lectures would resume immediately, he would allow his wards to return to school. Commenting on why the strike was called off, Dr. Siraj Olunifesi, a senior lecturer at the University of Lagos, said ASUU suspended the strike because the federal government has promised to meet all the demands of the Union within the timeline in their agreement.

He said: “Why ASUU suspended the strike is because the federal government has promised and they even gave dates when they would implement those things. They gave timeline, which is not like before. So based on this, ASUU suspended the strike.” Prof Muyiwa Awodipe of Osun State University, Ikire campus, told The Guardian that the strike suspension is in order, as students will have the opportunity to participate in the forthcoming polls. He added that the students, especially those in their final year, have been returning to campus in their numbers since yesterday morning.

When The Guardian visited Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Abakaliki and Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, a year-one student in the Department of Political Science, who simply identified herself as Rita, said she was happy that the strike has been called off.

Meanwhile, authorities of University of Ibadan (UI), Ibadan, have fixed the resumption of academic activities for February 14,2019. The notice of resumption signed by the management of the premier university and sighted by our correspondent reads: “Following the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), we wish to advise our students to plan to return to the University as from Thursday, 14th February 2019. This would enable those whose voting centers are located within the University to exercise their civic responsibilities on election days.

“Academic activities have been scheduled to re-commence on Monday, February 18, 2019. A revised Academic Calendar for the rest of the 2017/2018 session is being drawn up and will be circulated shortly.” The Director, Centre for Public Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Mr. Ademola Adekoya said the Senate of the institution would meet on Monday to decide on the resumption date. He noted that the students were about writing their exams when the union commenced the strike.

Professor Sunday Ododo of the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, University of Maiduguri and immediate past President, Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA) insisted the suspension of the industrial action few days to the commencement of the general elections had no political undertone. He said: “With all honesty, I don’t think the suspension was predicated on the election. It came on at the time we had a reasonable Memorandum of Understanding. So, what remains is whether government will keep faith to the memorandum of action.”

Speaking on likely implications of allowing students to sit at home during electioneering period, Prof Ododo held that some students might have registered to vote while they were in school and as such, not being in school during election can affect their franchise.

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“Similarly, some who also registered at home and being home while strike continued would be in their favour. “Be that as it may, it behooves on every university to decide when school will open to students. And I want to believe that many institutions would not want to bring the students till after the elections”, he said.

Professor Barclays Ayakoroma of the Department of Theatre and Cultural Studies, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, feared that over 80 per cent of parents would not permit their children and wards to resume until the elections are over, results announced and there is relative peace in the country.

“There is so much apprehension and one cannot say for now what is likely to happen after election.”We don’t know whether politicians will accept defeat or not, especially as they are talking of body bags. So, most parents will not allow their children to leave home within that period”, Ayakoroma stated.


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