Obtaining university education is considered a big achievement as that is where the highest level of academic excellence is attained.
In Nigeria, it is an enormous honour for one to bag a university degree considering factors such as poverty that can prevent one from attaining such height.
From the joy of bagging a university degree comes the malaise of consistent strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Since the 1980s, ASUU has pushed for better remuneration and working conditions for lecturers in both federal and state universities. The body has, however, failed to reach a defined and concrete agreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria, hence resort to repeated strike action calling for their demands to be met.
Since its inception, ASUU has embarked on more than 20 separate strikes, including the which began on February 14, 202 and lasted for almost a year.
In the usual script, the government – led by the Federal Ministry of Labour – and ASUU, sit on the negotiation table to find a solution but it drags on with no visible light at the end of the tunnel.
The situation was complicated after then-Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, told ASUU to put pressure on the Federal Ministry of Education rather than his ministry which is limited in what it can do to address the situation.
“As a conciliator, I have to make use of the labour instruments at my disposal. The bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education do not feel the strike. There are things that are above me. I am not Minister of Education,” Ngige said back then.
“I cannot go to the Education Minister and dictate to him how to run his place. But I told ASUU that you should be bombarding them at the Federal Ministry of Education for this to be moved forward. There are many ways to do so.”
While it is right for ASUU to press for its demands, academic work is after all no mean feat and is treated with utmost priority in the developed world because the university system is a driver for economic growth and development, stemming from research. It is however shameful that both ASUU and the government have never been able to reach a consensus.
On the receiving end of all these are the students whose academic pursuits and goals are being jeopardised by the incessant strike actions of their lecturers. This is not just a very bad omen for the university system, it also kills students’ interest in their academic pursuits.
The world is growing at a very fast pace where technology is defining everyday living. To be set back in academics by strikes is distasteful and gives no credibility to the education system.
With poverty ever increasing in the land, young people are looking for quick means to gain wealth rather than work hard for it. The Nigerian education system is now being questioned to the point of whether it still has any relevant value today. The desire to read, learn and research is dying.
It’s not hard to understand that after completing their degrees, the bulk of young Nigerians find it difficult to get employed and live a quality life as adults.
This further explains why many youths rather than seeking university education to become professionals would take to illegal gambling, internet fraud, sale of hard drugs, sex and human trafficking and other criminal activities to feel relevant in their communities.
This has now become endemic, with news of the aforementioned vices being reported daily. It has created a serious social problem for the government to tackle.
Perhaps, if ASUU and the government had struck a good and permanent deal years back, the situation wouldn’t be as it is today. With no sign there will be a fix to this lingering problem, the fate of Nigeria’s education sector and the future of the youth could reach a distressing point of no return.
Originally written in Pulse Nigeria on April 15, 2022, titled: ‘How ASUU strikes are creating further distrust in Nigeria’s education system’.