by Adelabu Adeola
When I was offered admission in the University of Ibadan for the 2006/2007 session, my mother (like any other mother) testified to the goodness of God. However, people began to doubt my mother’s testimony when I was still at home by mid 2007. It wasn’t as if my admission was withdrawn or I couldn’t afford the modest fee. Rather, it was that university lecturers had decided to down tools (or down books). They had gone on strike based on some disagreements with the Federal government.
During my days in the university as an undergraduate, I and other students experienced so many strike actions that put the vehicle of our academic progress on hold while we helplessly watched that of fellow students in private varsities and schools like Unilorin moving on a fast lane. The industrial actions are attributed to the inability and/or unwillingness of the government to fulfil agreements reached with the Union
An adage in Yoruba says, ‘ki a soro ki a baa be ni iyi omoluabi’ translated to mean ‘A man’s honour is in his ability to keep to his words’. This adage keeps coming to mind when I x-ray the frequency, causes and consequences of the numerous strike actions embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) since 2001.
Our successive governments have shown that ‘honour’ is not in their vocabulary. They have consistently refused to honour the agreement which they freely entered into. The history of the current face-off, dates back to 2001. In the years that have followed disagreements have occurred and strike actions called, agreements have been renegotiated, only to be broken again. This has come to become the default mode of the FG/ASUU relationship.
While there is no excuse for the irresponsibliity of various governments,one needs to critically examine the rationale and consequence of ASUU calling various strike actions. ASUU always base their demands on the deplorable state of funding for the education sector which has resulting in insufficient facilities, mode of governance in schools and renumeration and working condition of lecturers. Truth be told, as much as ASUU wants to appear charitable, it is only interested in its members welfare as most strike actions lead to increased pay for lecturers. When they go on strike citing the aforementioned reasons (or excuses), improved pay and working condition is enough for them to ‘suspend’ the strike, while hoping that government will address the remaining issues (they are serious learners). Thus, successive governments merely address issues of salaries and working condition, and pay lip service to more fundamental issue of poor funding and decay of infrastructure. If members of ASUU still think the society percieves them as altruistic, they are simply deluded!
While strike actions remain a right of workers, particularly those with dishonourable employers (like Federal and State Governments in Nigeria), the sad thing is that each strike has undercut ASUU’s image in the court of public opinion. ASUU strikes have succeeded in antagonizing university administrators and federal education authorities and sadly, students and their parents, When ASUU is despised by the same people whose interests it claims to be representing, one has to query the wisdom in such actions as it has yielded little results in time past. Maybe it’s time for our teachers to become innovative (as they charge their students to be) and think of others ways of dealing with government especially now that strikes have lost their import.
It was the great Albert Einstein who said that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Judging from the above, one can say that our teachers have gone mad again!
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