In March, 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared an indefinite strike over a protracted disagreement on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
The lecturers’ union is against the use of the platform for payment of salaries of university academics offering an alternative platform known as UTAS for use by the federal government.
Although, the Nigerian government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, revealed that they have decided to put the UTAS through an integrity test, this has given students hope on what to expect on their resumption.
Strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities members have become a constant feature of the Nigerian educational system.
A report by Premium Times newspaper revealed that the Union has gone on strike for one of every five years since 1999; the report noted that lecturers have gone on strike 15 times since 1999 spanning a period of about 50 months.
With the constant strike action and disagreement between the ASUU and Nigerian government, students have been at the receiving end of the issues.
The ASUU had noted that one of the issues they are fighting against is the underfunding of the Nigerian educational sector which they described as unacceptable.
Although many persons have argued that the strike actions embarked by the union has not really yielded much results in terms of welfare enjoyed by students with degraded facilities still a bane of many Universities while others have noted that but for the strike actions, we would have had a more deplorable educational system.
With the issues around education still raging, the question remains how long the disputes will rage on and where these leave an average Nigerian student.
It is pertinent to note that the earnings by an average lecturer in Nigeria does not match the extent of work they are required to do and Nigeria would need to do more on welfarism of lecturers.
Many lecturers have taken solace in teaching at multiple institutions through a term called “Visiting Lecturer” and even at this students are made to go through rigors of getting knowledge on a topic on their own in the absence of their lecturer who has gone on to make ends meet.
If issues that usually lead to strike are not solved, Nigeria will be endangering the future of education.
The constant disagreement on policies between ASUU and the Federal government should not become a culture to be sustained. Although lecturers have repeatedly said they are usually not interested in strike actions, however events do necessitate those actions.
ASUU is right to demand for better welfare for members because the responsibility of any Union in the first instance is members’ welfarism and Unions that should fight for students’ welfare like NANS are divided , however, we must begin to device means of ensuring that protraction of disagreements to this extent does not occur.
Much of this task lies with the Federal government, issues of non-challant attitude to education and inflammatory statements in the course of negotiations occasioned by seeming pride should be shunned.
There is a need for internal mechanisms of accountability agreed upon by Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Nigerian government in best interest of the society and not unnecessary ego of policy makers.
Truthfully, there is corruption internally in Universities and beyond funding, we must also tackle issues such as this.
I do not want to be forced into the school of thought that the Nigerian Government officials are less concerned because their kids are not schooling in Nigeria but the action and body language of the government is not helping matters.
Nigeria is a community where unemployment is a raging crisis and even available jobs have age limits, thus making it hard for those who graduate at a later age to secure jobs.
If students are made to stay at home excessively, it becomes a problem and whittles down the value of education. Saying that ‘It is better late than never’ should not be an appropriate consolation for students.
Many persons are even beginning to lose hope of resuming with their mates as the strike prolongs.
The government must rise up to the occasion of responsibility and consciousness.
The attitude that shows little care is too glaring for all to see. The ASUU should also begin to explore possible ways of holding government accountable in a way that relaxes the trouble occasioned by extensive and constant strike actions.
While it is well agreed to that the Nigerian government has shown less commitment to agreements or proper funding of education including ensuring that lecturers earn what they deserve after-all politicians earn lots more for doing less, we must begin to consider the psychological and mental impacts of constant strike actions on students who are beginning to get scared of what it looks like to school in Nigeria.
We must bring back our students to the classroom and it takes collective efforts to do that.
Oyedeji writes via [email protected]