Education

Truce as FG, ASUU resolve to set up seven-member committee

by STEPHEN ONYEKWELU

September 12, 2017 | 1:35 am
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The 27 days old strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) ended at the weekend when the Union in a meeting with the Federal Government resolved to set up a seven-member committee to review and work out modalities for the implementation of its 2009 agreement.

Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment said this after an intensive conciliatory meeting with the leadership of ASUU, Minister of Education, among others on Friday in Abuja. The Union’s representatives at the meeting expressed satisfaction with government’s offers but said they would have to communicate same to their colleagues before taking a decision.

ASUU’s demands include the disputed registration of the Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company, fractionalisation of salaries in federal universities, gross under-funding and non-funding of state universities.

Others are arrears and implementation of earned academic allowances, the release of fund for the revitalisation of public universities as spelt out in the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, among others.

As a background, the 2009 agreement was reached after a series of standoff with the government that started in 2007 at the tail end of the Obasanjo regime. Even after signing the agreement government still reneged on the implementation of the agreement and it took another round of strikes in 2011 and 2012 before the agreement was renegotiated in 2013 where the government agreed to release N1.3 trillion over six years. Since the government released the first tranche of N200 billion in 2013, it has not released any more funds to the system in line with the agreement.

Yes, the government has not fulfilled its duty of adequately funding public universities and ASUU is within its right to demand that the government live up to its responsibility. However, the strategies employed by ASUU have not been the most effective and have become obsolete, aggravating rather than helping to solve the problem.

BusinessDay’s investigations show that like former president Obasanjo, ASUU got the Yar’adua government into signing the 2009 agreement when it knows from the first day that government will not honour the agreement. Second, some of the contents of the agreement are self-serving, impractical and inimical to the development of education in Nigeria. It is perplexing that part of ASUU’s demand is to create a separate pension system and for the federal government to continue to fund staff schools in the various universities.

How does a progressive union expect to tear up a very progressive and workable pension law that took years to enact and which is working seamlessly just for the benefit of its members? How does a progressive union expect the federal government, despite the cash crunch in the country and the call for restructuring, expect the government to take on additional responsibility of funding all the university staff schools?

But beyond the often trumpeted adverse effect of ASUU strikes on students and the education system, ASUU strikes fasten the degeneration of ASUU members themselves, making them lose track of and unable to participate in conversations within their disciplines thus turning them into quacks operating in silos in Nigeria.

Anytime ASUU goes on strike, it directs its members to completely halt teaching, research and all academic activities. The world over, research is known to be the life-wire of serious academics. How does a serious academic therefore halt his/her research activities and picks it up after months of inactivity and still expects to be an academic to be reckoned?  It is not surprising therefore that our universities are bereft of any serious academic endeavours and our so-called academics are lost in the conversations within their disciplines.

Haven cut themselves off from ‘the conversations’ with their global colleagues, Nigerian academics now create illusory ‘fiefdoms’ in the various universities where they are lords, create their own journals where they ‘converse’ with themselves, assess themselves and award themselves phony professorships with relish.

STEPHEN ONYEKWELU


by STEPHEN ONYEKWELU

September 12, 2017 | 1:35 am
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