The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently rolled over its nationwide industrial action, which is expected to last for 3 months. The industrial action was first embarked on February 14, 2022, due to the reluctance of the government to fulfilling its demands. The Union took this action intending to ensure that all their demands and the agreements the federal government had with them are fulfilled. The most essential demands include proper funding for the revitalization of public varsity education, the acceptance of the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) payroll platform, and full implementation of the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and other Memorandum of Action (MoAs).
Ever since a lot has been written about the tactics being used by ASUU. Some spectators opine that ASUU is fighting a good fight but in the wrong way. While the Union must push for urgent reforms in the education sector, these spectators argue that a better, more effective, and productive tactic would be needed to compel the federal government to fulfill its demands.
What the academic union is fighting for is reasonable and justifiable. The actions of the government towards the tertiary educational sector should convey a message that they are less concerned about the quality of tertiary education in the country. They neither care if there is any rot in the public varsity system nor do they care if we receive quality, affordable education. If our universities are to stand out globally, there must be an overhauling of our curriculum and improvement of infrastructures and staff welfare.
The government has on several occasions rolled out plans which revealed their hell-bent nature on making tertiary education unaffordable for ordinary Nigerian students, but this was strongly opposed by ASUU.
The forceful inclusion of university lecturers in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) payment solution goes against the 2003 University Autonomy Act, which grants the governing council of every public university the right to oversee and determine their financial and administrative matters.
However, some students are ignorant of this and are only concerned about the expiration of their school identity cards and leaving as half-baked products of a system that’s no longer dwelling in renascence.
The method of struggle being utilized by ASUU is outdated and unyielding. It has done more harm than good to public varsity education. It’s been over a decade since the popular 2009 MoU was signed and agreed upon, yet it hasn’t been implemented despite all the successful strike actions being carried out by the Union.
There is a popular aphorism that says “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers”. The battle between ASUU and the government is long overdue and this has greatly affected the students, who had high hopes of completing their various degree programs at the expected time. They have been adversely affected by the actions of the Union, and the government who have done little to ensure that the demands are fulfilled. They are missing out on their education due to the lack of political will and intransigence of the government to be transparent and show more commitment to do the demands of the Union.
There is a quote by the great scientist, Albert Einstein which goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation of a different result”. This is a true reflection of what is being done by ASUU. Its successive strike actions have done more harm than good and haven’t been successful in lobbying the government to do the needful. The strike actions are no longer an effective option and have lost their relevance. It only hampers the academic progress of the students and also causes financial stress for them and their families. It’s high time for the Union to be innovative and create other alternatives to ensure that positive results are delivered.
There are other methods that the Union can employ to achieve its demands. In my article titled “ASUU, Is a Strike Action the Only Way”, published with Federalcharacter.com on February 19, 2022, I talked about some alternative tactics which the Union could exercise? I will encapsulate some of the major points:
– Effective and Profitable Dialogue and Consistent Communication with the Government.
– Engagement (with the support of students) in Physical and Cyber Demonstrations, and Display of Placards, Banners, and Flyers in every nook and cranny to show the government, Nigerians, and the global audience that they are serious about their demands.
– Involvement of the Union in National Politics, with the backing of students and their parents to push for someone who would make education a top priority.
The sooner the Union realizes that there is a need for change, the better as industrial action would never be the only language that the government understands.
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