Solving the ASUU Strike

The University Academic Staff Union strike is in its sixth month. Unfortunately, the resolution of the issues in dispute seems impossible for the moment given the firm position of the parties involved. This speech reviews the strike and its impact on the right to education, national development and the desire for economic growth in Nigeria and concludes with recommendations on the way forward.

It is imperative to start by recognizing that education is an empowering right. It is a human right in itself and the means and vehicle for the realization of other human rights. It is a vehicle for the liberation of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized as well as for enabling the full participation of individuals and communities in economic, political and social life. Education facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, life skills, technical skills and problem solving skills for the development of society. It is the pivot on which the added value and technological breakthroughs revolve. In the modern societal context of democratization, education is important for democratic consolidation, enabling individuals to contribute as voters by making the right choices as free human beings, without being deceived and rooted in the fanaticism of ethnicity, religion, place of birth, gender, etc. Education is also needed to hold leaders accountable for their management. Democracy presupposes rational human beings who understand the issues and are able to exercise their right to vote in their enlightened interest. Education positions young people to understand their society in order to appropriate the levers of leadership.

It is in this critical context that education is still expected to be a priority in public budgets given the plan, policy and budget continuum. Education plans and policies show the pathways, agreed societal goals and directions for improving education while the budget provides the resources needed to drive the achievement of the overall goals of the plans and policies. This is particularly imperative in the minimum core content of the right to education. This minimum basic content determines the state’s basic minimum obligation in education. This minimum obligation has been articulated in the bundle identified as the right to basic education. This is the basis of Nigeria’s federal legislation which proclaims basic education as compulsory, free and universal. With the high number of out-of-school children estimated at 13 million, it is clear that the goals of universal basic education are far from being achieved. In addition, everyone has the right to the satisfaction of their basic educational needs which enable them to participate fully and realistically in economic and social life. In view of the quality and functionality of the basic education provided in our public schools, it is doubtful that the basic education meets this standard.

The ASUU strike revolves to a large extent around the issue of funding for public universities. Both federal and state governments argue that there is the challenge of resource scarcity as available resources are certainly not sufficient to meet national challenges in all sectors including health, housing, security, d other infrastructure, etc. Authorities even argue that to meet ASUU’s demands, they may need to borrow. It’s true. This comes at a time when Nigeria is bankrupt and insolvent and would have gone into liquidation if it were a private sector entity. This raises a poser: Are ASUU’s demands unreasonable or outrageous? Obviously, their demands are extremely reasonable. But there’s a deeper issue that isn’t usually brought to the fore that underlies ASUU’s insistence on receiving its dues even though the sky may be falling. It is the fact that the government only pretends to be broke when it comes time to fund the relatively low salaries of university professors.

University professors live in the same economy and are living witnesses to the enormous salaries, allowances and benefits of the office of President, Vice President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Legislators, Ministers, Commissioners, special assistants and all kinds of charlatans posing as political offices. holders. These ‘rights’ of political office holders are not only insensitive but nauseating and cannot pass the most basic test of value for money given that it is the political class that has failed Nigeria in all facets of national life – economy, unity, insecurity, etc. Political leaders have failed, refused and neglected to do their job and have led Nigeria into insolvency, a state that has to borrow to pay off its debts, the deepest situation of insecurity (apart from years of civil war) since independence, the worst health and education indicators, etc. But they don’t blink an eye in their ongoing feast on public resources. Resource scarcity is only increased when teachers demand a decent salary.

Beyond their official remuneration, politicians presided over the absolute plunder of public resources. If the system had worked, as many as sixty percent of current office holders would be in prison while others would be awaiting their turn through court trials that would finally see them put on the prison uniform.

The other major problem is that over the years the authorities have obtained the services of higher education teachers under false pretenses contrary to our criminal laws. Whenever the government signs an agreement with the ASUU, they decide from the start not to fulfill their end of the bargain while the ASUU, based on the agreements, goes back to class. Years later, the problems are still unresolved. Who needs this type of governance that has become a naked display of dishonesty, unwillingness to honor agreements, and lying to deceive the people who create wealth for society?

It will be recalled that some prominent Nigerians have in the past called for a complete overhaul of the education system, including its closure for some time to make sense of a sector that is expected to deliver optimal results with sub-optimal resources and funding. . The strike is an obvious weakness and threat that offers opportunities for revision and a fresh start. Not everything is negative if and only if the gladiators see the positive sides of the debacle. It offers the opportunity for the current government or the new government to harmonize the entire pay structure across the entire civil service – no sector should be left behind.

It is possible to review the financing of education, in particular at the tertiary level. It even requires extracting more education from the current low funding through greater efficiency and a value for money approach. A situation, as our annual budgets show, where universities vote funds for the purchase of SUVs and other ostentatious items wastes available resources.

Various intra-university crisis reports show the usual inflation of public service contracts and procurement abuses. We need to ask ourselves: what is the role of ASUU in overall education budgeting or the role of local chapters in determining each university’s funding priorities? The Federation’s Auditor General continues to report on monies owed to the public treasury but mismanaged by university administrations at a time when public funding for universities is grossly inadequate.

The financing of higher education does not depend on any particular philosophy of governance in terms of absolute state funding or the imposition of tuition and user fees on students. The spirit of our times and the reality of our times demand that we explore all possible funding opportunities, including university endowments and investments, contributions from members of alumni associations, etc.

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