On the 2022 ASUU strike
The 2022 ASUU strike which commenced February 14, is now five months. In the second week in July, after 5 months, the strike has been in very keen focus by many commentators in Nigeria. I suspect this is principally because of the appeal made by Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari.
One or two persons have raised the matter of alternatives to strike actions. Some even question not just the patriotism of ASUU and her members but challenged the intellect of ASUU and her members, with accusations of lack of innovation in finding alternatives to the use of strikes. My purpose here is to try tinkering at possible options to the use of strikes to achieve the goals of ASUU.
In 2020 ASUU was on strike for about 9 months from March till December. In the period I wrote and circulated two articles. The first was entitled: Are our Public Universities going the way of our Public Primary and Secondary Schools? The second was entitled: Public Universities closed for eight months and the Story of King Solomon and the Two Women.
When you add nine months in 2020 to one plus two plus three months in 2022, we have 15 months of strikes from March 2020 to August 14, 2022. Those admitted in 2019 are still at the 200 Level as at date. From March 2020 to August 2022 is 30 months, of which 15 months were for strikes.
In that second article, (Public Universities closed for eight months and the Story of King Solomon and the Two Women), I compared the situation with Solomon and the two women in the Bible. I pleaded that the woman who truly owns the child, should not allow her baby to be killed even if handing the baby over to the other woman. That is still my plea. Anyone who feels a sense of ownership of the Nigeria public universities should please make a sacrifice and stop what is happening.
I reflected on the earlier article on public universities going the way of public primary and secondary schools, as we got the news, last month (June 2022), that Afe Babalola University is now ranked as number one in Nigeria by Times Higher Education (THE). There are persons in our university system who discountenance these rankings as unimportant, but it is truly important. Perception, especially of higher education institutions, is important, in the world that has emerged around global higher education, and the rating of her products. I join the President HE Muhammed Buhari in congratulating the Afe Babalola University for being the first Nigeria university to be in the first 400 by that ranking. Nigeria has over the years wriggled her fingers at the not so good placing of her universities in these rankings.
The future respect for the Nigeria university system would seem to lie with her private universities. For a long time, the country has pretended to rate her universities the same. The country has also assumed that her older public universities produce better graduates than the younger ones, and the private universities. The country has also acted as if her older federal universities are better than the state universities. Some persons, including employers of labour, those participating in interviews of job seekers, those involved with postgraduate admission tests and interviews may be noticing that these assumptions may not be correct.
Today many university lecturers say it openly and in fact already implementing preferences for sending their wards to private universities. The same thing that applied to the public primary and secondary schools, with teachers with better qualifications in the employ of public-school systems gladly sending their wards to private schools with less qualified teachers. Nigeria is indeed a clever country.
While that is the case a “small” news appeared recently but seemed not well noted in Nigeria. That news is that the Chair of the NUT in Kaduna state failed the test for teachers in that state. If this news remains unchallenged, that means the number one Teacher in Kaduna state failed primary school (I hope), level test, which we learn is commonly used in those evaluation of the skill gaps of our teachers. Nigeria ought to appreciate the weight of this. We should be taking closer look at the Union leaders and how much of the profession they seek to protect, they truly symbolize and represent.
What has this to do with the universities? It is that some persons are questioning the quality of our university lecturers, their commitment to work, their conducts, not even doing the work they have been employed to do, rather than being on the staff of universities, paid by the universities, but have no exemplary performance in teaching, researching, and community service; union leaders who seek promotion without meriting that. Union leaders in universities who are guilty of the same charge as evidenced in poor-quality graduates, not being able to speak correct English, nor demonstrate quality finishing in conduct and language. Suppose there was to be an examination of lecturers on the courses they teach, what would the result be like?
But we are on the ASUU strike.
Many years ago, when teaching was still a vocation not an occupation, teachers had different temperament. Many years ago, Teachers would even pay fees for poor but bright students and pupils. Today, Teachers accept money for recharge cards from pupils and students, especially in tertiary institutions. But Nigeria has since evolved with strange gods and peculiar values.
Nigeria as a country, and many Nigerians even in their personal decisions and actions, operate as if she has her own universe, and her own realities away from what most other countries and peoples have realised in the pursuit of development and wellbeing of her citizens.
To be continued tomorrow
Prof. Nwajiuba, was Vice-Chancellor of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike between February 2016-February 2021 email@example.com