Why ASUU, govt should reach compromise on 9-month-old strike

WHEN Peters Uwuem eventually secured admission into University of Lagos  (UNILAG), Akoka, in 2018, he breathed a sigh of relief.

Peters, 21, from Cross River State, had stayed at home for two years after completing his secondary education at the Federal Science and Technical College, Yaba, where he sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and passed all his papers at once.

Peters’ friend and classmate, Korede Olorunda at that time was already at 400 Level at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, studying engineering.

Peters could not attend a private university like his friend because he said, “my mother couldn’t afford the high tuition they are charging.”

Peters lost his father at a tender age while in secondary school, and his petty trader mother has two other children to cater for.

“So, aside from believing in UNILAG, I also prefer the university to any other public university in the country just because of its closeness to my family,” he said. “I would not need to travel far going to school or coming home.”

But two attempts by Peter to gain admission into UNILAG to study Computer Engineering, his dream course from his primary school day were unsuccessful.

The cut off point for the course which is today’s ranked by the International Times Education as the third best in Nigeria is very high in the university.

But having secured admission to study another course (withheld), he never anticipated that anything, including his academic performance, could keep him on the campus beyond the normal four-year duration of the course.

“So, my projection is to leave UNILAG next year 2021 by the grace of God,” he said.

But as things turned out today, apart from the fact that Peters can no longer graduate next year, he is also not certain of when exactly that could be.

No thanks, first of all, to the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted academic calendar, and now worsened by the ongoing almost nine-month- old ASUU strike the second industrial action by the union in two years.

The first warning strike by the union in November 2019 birthed the ongoing one.

Now, with COVID-19 general lockdown, Peters has spent up to nine months at home doing nothing significant.

“What I could say I have done apart from sleeping and eating were two online courses I registered for, which I could have also done if I were in school,” Peters said.

Unfortunately, unlike some schools such as the Lagos State University (LASU) which have been engaging their students in learning digitally, UNILAG students have no such opportunity.

Peters said that was the strong reason he wanted an immediate end to the strike.

However, there are hundreds of thousand others nationwide that have accepted same fate, and also share same belief that both the Federal Government and ASUU are unnecessarily wasting their time and ruining their future.

One of them is the National President of the umbrella body of students, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr Chidi Ilogebe.

Ilogebe, just like Peters, also expressed strong displeasure over the lingering ASUU crisis.

Ilogebe told the Nigerian Tribune in an interview that students were already tired of the situation.

He said the eight-month-old strike had been unduly prolonged, and that the warring parties should without further delay sheathe their swords and resolve their grey areas for normalcy to return to campuses.

Ilogebe who is a student of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, said NANS had carefully studied all the contentious issues.

He noted that the meetings between the Federal Government and ASUU had revealed that the only stalemate is the salary payment system, and that the issue was more of personal (and not national) interest to both parties.

“That is why to us, both ASUU and the Federal Government should not because of their personal interest continue to hold us to ransom,” Chidi said.

He said the situation was not only traumatic for many of them as they were not engaging in economic activities but also catastrophic for Nigeria as a country.

The NANS leader noted that many of them were already indebted to the landlords of their rented accommodation even without using the facilities, adding that some of them would also not be able to participate in the mandatory one-year national youth service corps because they would have passed the 30-year age benchmark at graduation.

Sadly, Ilogebe noted that the indefinite strike was again triggered by an agreement reached between the union and the Federal Government since 11 years ago over revitalisation of the system, payment of earned allowances, NEEDS assessment, among others.

The Federal Government is bent on compulsory migration of all public university workers to the newly introduced Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as applicable to other government workers, whereas the leadership of ASUU said it had developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), which it claimed had factored in the peculiarities of the university system.

However, parents as well as students are not happy about the development because both are mostly adversely affected by the strike.

National President of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (PTAN), Kaduna, the northwest Nigeria, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, told the Nigerian Tribune in an interview that Nigeria had had enough of public universities unnecessarily shutting down academic and other activities.

He said it was disheartening that government would have to be prevailed upon before performing its statutory obligation, which in this case, borders on the provision of quality and quantitative university education to the citizens.

The NPTAN boss called on the Federal Government to yield to the demands of the ASUU by making money available so that the students could go back to school for real learning to take place.

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