by Solomon Osadolo
There are not a lot of arguments to be made for the case of the ever intermittent strike actions that have become a part of our higher educational system. There’s none that’s reasonable enough to justify the rot that has set in overtime as a result. It’s gotten to the point where students are certain of one thing: The course durations for their programs written in the school brochure are just that – written. You’d have to factor in the multiple strike periods that will crop up and trump them up on your stipulated time to get your accurate graduation date. Unless of course you attend a private school.
As I write this, the latest season of the all-time famous ASUU strike is exactly 2 months old and it doesn’t seem like it’d be ending soon. The haggles between Team ASUU and Team FGN is as unproductive as ever. There’s the case of the NEEDS assessment agreement reached with the FGN and the pesky issue of basic allowances/remuneration for lecturers which both form the crunch of ASUU’s reason for staying away from work. Team FGN’s response so far is that the cost of meeting ASUU’s demands is unbearable and there’s no way it’s going to fly, considering the state of our nation’s finances and whatnot (Never mind that they signed an agreement in the first place). It’s basically devolved into a haggle over cost while the ensuing rot in the system festers.
One cannot even begin to fathom which trait is worse in a government: ignoring the state of affairs in Higher education till it totally implodes from a myriad of problems or playing the dishonesty card by reneging on a contract it signed that’d actually have made a difference for good?
Then there’s the matter of ASUU having to resort to closing shop ever so often to make their grievances known. Apparently, these actions don’t seem to yield much result (as the bone of contention is the same every time) and it leaves one with a rather sickening notion that they do it just for the kicks now. There’s got to be a better way to resolve this issue, one should think.
There’s even a theory that’s been thrown around lately: that ASUU keeps juxtaposing their basic allowances and remunerations fight with the NEEDS Assessment issue to put a noble garb on their cause. (Nothing seems more apt than lecturers agitating for increased funding and proper infrastructure for schools, apparently.) According to this school of thought, ASUU is only bothered about their allowances and would shelve the strike as soon as they get paid. And, as soon as the government reneges in the allowances department (as they are wont to do), the lecturers close shop again, putting the NEEDS Assessment on the front burner to blackmail (or is it blindside?) the government, and the cycle continues.
Amidst all the bureaucratic drivel being tossed around by both parties, it appears the state of the Nigerian student hardly matters at all. No one is canvassing for the students and there are those who feel that the National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS) hasn’t quite stepped up to its mettle in this whole business. It does seem NANS is handicapped and can’t really do much to help the situation. It’s a simple case of surrounding grasses bearing the brunt of two fighting elephants. They just sit there and take it.
But after all is said and done, regardless of all the bureaucratic underlay, education really is about legacy – as much as it’s about students. Just imagine the number of youths sitting idly at home right now, bored out of their minds. And it’s not like they all can simply go out and land an interim summer job in this economy. Only a tiny fraction of them would make productive use of this down time. As is the norm, when the strike eventually gets called off, the school calendar would quickly skip many steps and exams would hold almost immediately so as to keep pace with the preset academic calendar (A semester’s worth of learning foregone in the process).
So, with a burgeoning youth population plagued by a grossly inept educational system, it’s pretty obvious what kind of legacy we’re building for the future. Regardless of any grandiose projects we have in the works to build a world class economy in the near future, these strikes – coupled with the entire burden of a decadent higher education – are all but recipes for disaster in the long run.
Team ASUU and Team FGN have got to find a way to hasten the season finale of their epic summer showdown soon enough. It doesn’t make for an interesting spectacle anyway and never did. Not meaning to begrudge the lecturers the right to fight their cause or the government its right to keep the union in check, but both parties need to work out a compromise quickly so we can save what’s left of the sanctity of our higher education. And, the government needs to honour the agreement it signed years ago so as to prove that it has any regard – other than lip service – for the proper education of its citizens. That’d force both parties to reevaluate why the school system exists in the first place. It appears the point is lost on them at the moment though.
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