The The extension of the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for another four weeks has shown that the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of striking university teachers are not yet ready to resolve the labor crisis in the country’s public universities anytime soon. The longer the strike continues, the worse the rot in the universities gets. The federal and state governments have not shown enough goodwill to break the deadlock in universities. With the growing culture of educational tourism, our political leaders are not worried about the strike because their children are not studying in Nigerian universities. They are content with the idea and notion that their children are graduates of universities in the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) and Canada.
The Ukraine/Russia war has temporarily halted our educational tourism in this part of the world. This APC-led government of “change” has not done enough to change the dwindling fortunes of the country’s public universities. The government has acted as if it is unaware of all the current agreements with ASUU regarding university funding and other welfare issues. The government also seems indifferent to the plight of Nigerian students who have stayed home for more than five months because our political leaders do not care about their education and the future of the country’s university system. They care less about the poor score of the country’s human capital development index. Our global ranking on the Human Capital Development Index recently released by the World Bank is one of the poorest. The government can be blamed for the misfortunes of our universities. While the federal government even tries to fund federal universities, the same cannot be said for state universities.
State governors do not claim the underfunding of state universities, which many critics regard as glorified high schools. Teachers at state universities are poorly paid. This is why some of them resort to the inelegant “sorting out” of student extortion to supplement their meager salaries. Some Southeastern state universities are notorious for triage, a euphemism for bribery and corruption. At state universities, governors act as alternate vice chancellors and chief accountants. They run the universities like their private schools in terms of student admissions and staff recruitment to the extent that certain people who should not be teaching in the universities are forced into the system.
The staffing crisis is not limited to state universities, it even rages in some federal universities, where ethnic and religious considerations are favored in staffing and even the appointment of vice-chancellors, a highly politicized issue. in the country’s public universities. In private universities, anyone can be appointed vice-chancellor it depends solely on the whims and whims of the owner.
It is even worse in some faith-based universities where the emphasis is more on profit than on the quality of education. The Nigerian government has failed in its responsibility to provide quality university education to Nigerians because their children are going to school abroad and they are not ashamed to regale us all with pictures of such graduation ceremonies diplomas organized in the universities belonging to our former colonizers, thus prolonging the process of recolonization. , aided eminently by the all-powerful ideology of globalization. Our political leaders always bow to our colonizers and will always feel safe in their estates, schools and health facilities, hence the rise of medical tourism. This is why they underfund the education and health sectors, which have not attracted up to 15% of our national budget for the last ten years or more. No nation can develop on the meager allocation of five or six percent allocated each year to education and health. Most of the advanced countries where our leaders send their children and wards to study spend up to 26% of their national budget on education. They also do it for health financing. The proliferation of universities has aggravated the crisis of the university system. The pace of opening more universities is not the same as the pace of producing PhD graduates who will teach in the new universities. These are the same professors who teach in public universities who teach as adjuncts in private universities, especially the universities located in Lagos and Abuja. Some of these auxiliaries teach at more than two or three universities and yet they complain of poor salaries.
What’s worse is that after the strike, university professors will receive their full salary for the months they refused to work. Some of them will say that they did research during the strike period. But their working definition relates to teaching and research combined. Only in Nigeria will a worker receive pay for work not done. This is a dilemma that ASUU members must effectively interrogate. After accusing the government of aggravating the crisis in universities, the ASUU and other unions in the system such as SSANU, NASU and others have aggravated the problem by their selfishness and indifference to the decline in standards in universities. We have a university system where parallel university worker unions have sworn not to allow industrial peace to prevail in these ivory towers.
Every time the ASUU gets a pay raise from the government, the other unions will upset the system and make it ungovernable until their demands, whether good or bad, are met. It is only in Nigeria that all university teachers would insist on the same salary, whether the university belongs to the first, second or third rate and regardless of their qualifications and experience as well as their performance. It is not obtained in any other profession such as law, journalism and engineering. Universities abroad pay different salaries depending on their capacity and the quality of the teacher. The unpredictability of the academic calendar in universities has contributed to the erosion of the quality of their graduates. The insufficient funding of our universities has justified the need for university autonomy and alternative funding for universities. The government has proven its inability to adequately fund universities, colleges of technology and colleges of education. Now is the time to fully democratize the university system where the private sector will play a major role in revitalizing our collapsing and decaying university system. The government can privatize universities in order to improve the quality of education. The continued closure of universities due to strikes will end if they are privatized, autonomous and self-funded like most universities in the UK and US and even Canada. It is a paradox that parents who pay millions of naira for their wards in some private secondary schools are unwilling to pay even the 100,000 naira tuition in some public universities. Universities must be prepared to generate funds through alumni associations, endowments, and appropriate tuition fees instead of depending so much on government funding. The policy of TETFUND did not really help the insufficient funding of universities. The opacity in the disbursement of TETFUNDS must be questioned as well as the funds of UBEC.
These funds are not doing what they are supposed to do to revamp the education sector. Every year, UBEC will bring in billions of naira that have not been consulted because state governments have not provided their counterpart funding. Since the government still owns these universities, it must be serious about resolving the ASUU strike and ensuring that the universities are opened for academic activities soon.
We cannot grow when our universities are perpetually closed because the government and ASUU do not want to reach a compromise. The government and ASUU should be held accountable if the university system collapses. The disruption of the academic calendar has contributed so much to the rotting of the university system as well as the corruption in the ivory towers over the management of funds. As the ASUU strike is ongoing, the government has procured vehicles worth N1.14 billion for the Niger Republic to provide security during the elections.
This government extended the railway to Maradi in Niger while neglecting the Maiduguri/Port Harcourt railway. All of these priorities are misplaced as federal government universities complain about insufficient funding. Let the government and the ASUU show their commitment to resolving the strike which seems to be interminable.