It has been 4 months now since students in Nigerian Universities were kicked out of school by the Academic Staff Union, not the longest stay-at-home order by the Union, but one of the worst ever. I look at this and wonder about so many atrocities befalling the country, security situation, economic woes, epidemic political climate, and so on, but still cannot see anything worse than their action. Even in war torn countries, Universities continue to run, sometimes they remain the only running institutions of the country even if there is no flow of cash from their troubled governments, they still find a way to keep on running their Universities, and they will never stop or give up.
In Syria, a University student who relocated to the UAE with his family told me how the students and the teachers contributed their own money to power the generators in the University just to keep it running. The rich among the teachers help the poor among the students with their fees and books, while the rich among the students help the University just to keep it running.
But in Nigeria, it is like a rumble of power exercising with every side trying to show how influential they can be in the affairs of the country without looking at the result of their actions at the end of the day.
Out of frustration, some students have fled to neighboring countries while the rich travel even farther to continue their studies. Unfortunately most of these students will not come back and contribute to the development of the country.
It is rather a shame to think that only strike will solve the problems outlined by ASUU, why? A country as rich as Nigeria should be hosting foreign students by now, but the atmosphere doesn’t give the opportunity for that, we have countries that count their economic status by the number of foreign students in the country, higher education is now a significant source of income for many countries especially in Europe, and in UK it accounts for a significant amount of their GDP. Nigerian Universities doesn’t need foreign students to keep running, there is an abundance of students in Nigeria, both rich and poor.
What stops ASUU from thinking out of the box about the proper solution to this underlying problem of underfunding? Why won’t they run a competition among the students to hear their views and ideas about the ways to properly deal with the problems of the institutions? Perhaps they know more than the students, but a student will definitely not suggest a strike action as a solution to any problem facing the Universities.
Relying on the government to provide appropriate funding is in itself a certain limitation to the level at which ASUU takes their tolls. Let’s imagine the government immediately pay the promised amounts for this year and then next year and the year ahead nothing comes in, so in literal sense students who started their studies in 2013 will face another strike in 2015, at least the ASUU way it is. I am trying so hard to figure out how strike action by the ASUU can solve the problems of these Universities, after all the main benefactors or victims are the students, and at the end, what ASUU bargains for is their 4 months arrears of which they haven’t worked for.
My opinion might be seen as Anti-ASUU, but that’s not the case because I know what they are dealing with, a government that doesn’t value education, a government that only cares about the number of barrels being exported every day and the amount of dollars that is reserved outside the country, and most of all filling their pockets and creating chaos amongst the populace. Why waste any time waiting for that government to change something that they don’t even care about, and their attention is only there when they see it as a threat to their political agendas? As a Union of educated elites of the society, ASUU were supposed to resolve their issues wisely, not politically. An uneducated folk will take a weapon to fight the government due to unemployment, what makes him different from the person that refuses to educate people due to underfunding?
Someone took a weapon, while the other broke his pen. The result will always be evil and bad and chaos everywhere.
Will you stop feeding yourself and your family because you need more salary? This is exactly similar to what is happening now. If ASUU can see the Universities as an essential part of the society then there is absolutely no need for strike, even if their salaries will be held for a year, as long as they remain teachers, strike action will never be the wisest or the only decision to make in order to resolve any problem. ASUU alongside Doctors and Police should always see their jobs as a service to the country not the government. Teachers may be even more important than the doctors or police to the society, because they created the doctors and the police. Teachers are extremely important to the society.
Among ASUU are our parents, uncles, brothers and sisters, they are family men and women with children, brothers, and sisters studying home and abroad. Where is the humanity in us that makes us think for the society not against it?
I think the long term solution to this financial issue for the Universities will come from the society itself, not the government. Any solution that will make the institutions for the society rather than for the government will be the best.
Let me lay out a solution that I think will help in solving some or all of the problems in a short period of time.
While we know that cost of education has been subsidized a lot, it is rather ironic to charge the same amount of tuition fees for both the student that their household income is higher than 1 million naira in a month and the one that their household income is lower than 10 thousand naira a month, is this fair? Let the Universities charge higher tuition fees and classify the amounts to be paid based on the household income of each student. The rich among the society should pay higher than the poor. While I don’t know how the Universities can determine if a student is rich or poor, I believe I gave some clue here and something should be done about it.
Let us think deeply on this situation as sometimes we have to look within ourselves before going somewhere else in order to find a proper and long lasting solution. Meanwhile, I hope ASUU will call-off this strike immediately followed by outlawing any strike action in the future.