That’s how long our nation’s future has been out of their federal tertiary institutions. For Universities such as Obafemi Awolowo University that ended an academic session in December last year and proceeded on sessional break, students have been home for exactly a year. A year of nonacademic work.
Did you know?
That the current ASUU strike is the worst and longest spanning strike since 1973.
The Association of Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had declared a strike action since March, this year. Its impact, however, wasn’t felt because the Nation had shut down due to the Corona Virus Pandemic.
Privately owned institutions were able to adapt to global standards by successfully having lectures and conducting examinations for their students online. But our students in Federal Universities? Nothing. Why? Because our Federal Institutions do not have the facilities for that. And even if they did, Lecturers who would have conducted it were on strike.
However, life gradually returned to normal and by August, students would have been able to return to schools with strict compliance with the COVID 19 protocols as the national Lockdown finally eased off. Since then, Students have been taken for many rides to nowhere in particular. They’ve been promised resumption too many times we’ve lost count. The Federal Government and ASUU have been in several meetings all with no fruitful outcome.
One of the major reasons for the strike action is the Government’s decision to place all members of ASUU on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). IPPIS aims to have a centralized payroll system that meets the needs of Federal Government employees and helps the Government to plan and manage the payroll budget by ensuring proper control of personnel costs. The IPPIS was created in 2007 under the Obasanjo presidency and also aims at checkmating ghost workers within various sectors.
However, it became a thing of debate between the government and institutions of higher learning. The leadership of ASUU ordered its members not to enroll in the scheme as it would mean massive salary and allowances cut and they couldn’t be subjected to ridicule or any form of slavery.
As usual, students were at the receiving end of these two elephants going at it. Alternatively, to IPPIS, ASUU has created a scheme that will cost less for the federal government, the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS). According to the union, the IPPIS scheme would rob universities of their autonomy.
At some point, it seemed as though there was light at the end of this dark tunnel. The Federal Government and ASUU finally agreed to terms a few weeks ago and students began to pack their bags in anticipation for a resumption date. However, ASUU still refused to give the order for the strike to be called off.
Why? Because the Federal Government stilled owed them salaries — you see since June, the Federal Government had stopped the Salaries of members of ASUU. And though terms were agreed as regards the bonuses owed them, ASUU refused to resume until salaries were paid.
All this back and forth with the lives of our kids. Our University Lecturers still teach with 30-year-old curriculums that are out of touch with modern-day realities and issues. And now our children have been out of school for months. They can’t compete with their mates across the world.
If you’ve ever seen a graduate or a student from a Federal Institution compete or excel globally then know that it took personal learning and improvement and is no result of their institution or lecturers. One of the Vaccines to combat the Corona Virus Pandemic was made by the University of Oxford. Can we boast that our students can do the same?
Where is the Minister of Education in all of these? It almost seems to me as though he doesn’t exist. We have a minister of education who has remained cool and calm, despite a nine-month-old strike by the academic staff of the nation’s federal universities. And to be candid, we actually can’t blame him. He’s a square peg in a round hole. Because in what nation does an Accountant head the education ministry?
Nigeria heads for the festive season. Schools are supposed to resume in January. There’s still no hope of resumption for our students. If Nigeria fails to pay attention to the next generation, we just might be sitting on a ticking time bomb.