Thewill Editorial: Another Strike In Nigeria’s Education Sector Must Be Averted
SAN FRANCISCO, December 03, (THEWILL) – The recent warning strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is a sad reminder that the rot in the nation's education sector is yet to be fixed.
The ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had explained that a nation-wide strike was imminent if the Federal Government fails to implement the agreement regarding their welfare and a reform in the universities.
Among the grievances of the union is government's reluctance to implement the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement and 2014 Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, which it said were not properly implemented.
The lecturers are also vexed by the yet to be disbursed annual releases of N200 billion in 2013 and N220 billion that had accumulated from 2014 to 2018. There is also the alleged repudiation on their earned academic allowances, as well as the refusal to allow the National Pension Commission, NPC, to register the National Universities Pension Management Company.
Another demand of ASUU is for universities to be removed from the Treasury Single Account, TSA, which was said to have created undue bureaucracy in the disbursement of funds meant for developing the academic system.
Granted that the current administration did not enter into some of these agreements with ASUU, it is generally believed that government is a continuum. As a nation-wide strike looms, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, and its counterpart at the Colleges of Education are also still demanding that government honours the terms of similar agreements it had with them.
THEWILL is disturbed that a country like Nigeria, which ought to know the value of education, could be lackadaisical about issues that threaten the future of the millions of students in the tertiary institutions.
It worrisome that the Federal Government could willfully renege on these MOU, when in fact some of those in the forefront of implementing public policy have been part of the academic system. One would have expected therefore that they champion the course of meeting government's obligations to the sector. Late President Musa Yar'Adua was a lecturer before he became President; so was his successor, Goodluck Jonathan. And ditto for several past and serving members of the federal executive council.
Incidentally, the current Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, had been a lecturer. Yet, the rot in the system has continued to linger even now that he is the country's number two citizen.
THEWILL calls on the Federal Government to immediately initiate sincere dialogue with ASUU and indeed other unions that have issues that fall within the precept of failed agreements. Government must do everything within its power to ensure that the nation is not plunged into a protracted nation-wide strike which would further disillusion the youths.
This call has become more critical now than ever, especially as the standard of education has greatly deteriorated over the years and wealthy Nigerians are currently being discouraged from sending their children to school abroad in view of scarce forex.
Considering that no Nigerian university is listed among the top 100 universities in the world, it would be disastrous if the already bad situation is further compromised with nothing being done to give the education sector a facelift.
THEWILL believes that the incessant disruptions of the academic calendar have contributed immensely to the moral decadence and the myriad of crimes in the society. As it is often said, an idle mind is the devil's workshop.
An all-inclusive solution is expedient given the huge contribution of the education sector to nation building. A recent report by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, showed that education has been a leading source of employment in the country. However, the report added that it was also one sector where job quits was high, apparently due to poor welfare and inadequate funding.
Meanwhile, we would advise ASUU against being too insistent on the full implementation of all their demands in the face of the current economic recession and the cash crunch the government is battling with. Under the circumstance, they should allow some of their demands to be built into subsequent budgets, while the urgent ones like the exclusion of universities from the TSA red-tape must be immediately tackled.
Both parties must do all within their powers to see to it that Nigeria’s ailing education sector is not subjected to further troubles. THEWILL commends the Senate for wading into the looming crisis. The Upper Chamber must not rest on its oars with the expiration of the warning strike but must see to it that the federal government and lecturers reach a common ground for the ultimate good of the nation.