THERE is no doubt that Nigeria’s tertiary education is seriously under threat. The impasse in negotiations between the federal government and the protesting Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) makes things worse. Some sources actually believe that the current stalemate may usher in more damages to tertiary schools, especially the public university system if nothing is done urgently.
ALMOST a whole season has passed since ASUU embarked on her current work action, yet the strike still subsists. Seven months since it started, students are left at home without hint of when to return with families passing through a lot of stress because of the development.
Even some of the lecturers who are apathetic to the strike are not finding it easy as most of them have not been paid for many months and are even getting tired of the whole thing. The truth is that the situation is neither helping the country nor anybody in the real sense. Nobody is finding it funny.
FOR AVOIDANCE of doubt, ASUU has been on strike since March. Core issues in contest are payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAE), revitalisation of the university system, setting up of Visitation Panels to universities, fulfilling conditions included in a 2004 agreement reached between the FG and ASUU, among others.
ASUU and the FG have held several meetings that have been deadlocked as a result of disagreement over the payment channel for the ASUU members. ASUU is also requesting that N110 billion be released to public universities for revitalisation as agreed in 2019. They have suggested to government ways to raise fund to complete the revitalisat
ion process, including the use of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as mode of payment. The federal government on her part, insists on the use of IPPIS while maintaining that she can only afford N20 billion for the over 74 public universities.
IN AS MUCH as one cannot certainly reasonably state whose stand or argument is superior between ASUU and the federal government on this matter, it is pertinent to state that the stance of both sides is neither clear nor convincing to many people comprising vital stakeholders such as students and parents. Going by the fact that things are already out of hand, we believe it is time they arrived at a compromise.
Both parties should note that in a negotiation, any party that insists on having its way may end up losing everything. They should be more concerned about how best to sustain university programs and the future of Nigerian students.
BEFORE WE kill the entire tertiary institutions in Nigeria under this lingering impasse, let us recall that the grace to grass history of Nigeria’s public primary and secondary school system started exactly like this. The public primary school system ran averagely well until the late 1980s through early 1990s when incessant strikes by teachers to protest being paid by local governments finally killed it.
By the time state governments later found a way around the problem and opened an account jointly controlled by states and local governments for teachers’ salaries, it was already too late as the private sector had taken over the responsibility of providing basic education to Nigerian children.
Unfortunately, since many of these school owners cannot hire trained teachers, they make do with what they can afford. That is how the country ended up compromising the quality of education that Nigeria’s future leaders should be having right from the primary school level.
WORSE on the matter now is that getting sound education at the primary and secondary school levels has become the preserve of the children of the rich. And since every good parent would like to leave an inheritance for his children, the parent would opt to struggle to get money anyhow and by any means to fulfill the desire.
EVEN if what happened to public primary and secondary schools is what education stakeholders desire for our tertiary institutions, the main acts in the current impasse in our university system, the big problem is that unlike the basic education that could easily be provided by private enterprises even if substandard, private proprietors in tertiary education cannot easily foot the requisite bills in that sector.
The cost of running private universities is huge and many Nigerians may never smell the four walls of a university if private universities hold sway. In simpler terms, if we allow the public universities to die, tertiary education will be too expensive. Values and standards will also be inconsistent as various proprietors such as churches will insist on their values.
This will not bode well as we would likely have a plethora of fanatics and fundamentalists bred in quasi-intellectual facilities tagged universities. Parochial values and skewed philosophies are not good at that level. But we may end up with them if we leave tertiary schools in the hands of fundamentalists and faith-based bodies because he who pays the piper, calls the tune. This will make what has made the nation’s tertiary education what it is get eroded.
NATIONAL Light believes that this is time for stakeholders and lovers of education in this country to speak out in unison and demand an end to this impasse. We should act just in time to keep what we have before it slips away.
ASUU and the federal government should sheathe their swords and reach a workable agreement for students to return to school while they continue further negotiations. If Integrated Payment Platform System (IPPS) is the vexed issue, they should look for an alternative for the sake of Nigeria’s future as the impasse is becoming too expensive.
OUR professionals such as lecturers as well as institutions should stop showing indifference in their work as it appears they are taking the students and their parents for fools. Lecturers should endeavour to live to their call as anchors of researches and moulders of people’s minds.
Those in federal institutions should take a cue from their colleagues working in state owned institutions and go back to their work. It is well understood that they are trying to have things that will make their work and the students, who are their products come out better as obtainable in other climes but they should understand that the country is presently facing so many challenges and take things easy with the government.
IF ANYTHING, the current crisis looming in the country as a result of youth protests and other forms of youth restiveness can be averted if the students are fully engaged with their studies.
HOWEVER, before students resume, there is also a vital need to address issues of hygiene in the hostels and facilities of the institutions, especially this period of COVID-19 and the spread of yet-to-be- unraveled mysterious diseases across country, among other health challenges.