News Analysis

The Need For Crises-Free Academic Activities In 2021

2020 would ever remain indelible in the mind of Nigerian Universities Students for a long time to come as they spent most part of the year at home.

The long spell was the consequence of an intractable dispute between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, between March and December.

ASUU and Federal Government had spent the period squabbling on existing unfulfilled agreements, and issue of enrolment into IPPIS payroll, which ASUU declined, insisting instead that the government implement the union’s locally-developed University Transparency Account System, UTAS.

The duration of the 2020 standoff between ASUU and the Federal Gvernment was the longest in the history of industrial dispute between the two sides.

An analysis of strikes in the nation’s ivory towers since the advent of democratic governance shows that lecturers had down tools on fifteen occasions, tallying to a period of fifty months, or four years and two months altogether.

However, last year’s strike situation was further compounded by the coronavirus outbreak, which would have brought an enforced stay-at-home even if ASUU and government had resolved their dispute through dialogue.

be that as it may, it is a great relief that both government and ASUU sheath swords on December 24 last year, and the latter agreed to get back to classes yesterday  going by the directive of the National Universities Commission, NUC.

The present pact as stated by ASUU National President, Dr. Biodun Ogunyemi that both parties had signed a memorandum of understanding on  how to expedite action on the test processes for deployment of UTAS, must be sustained as academic activities commence..

It is not an understatement to say Nigerian education remains poorly funded, falling below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s, UNESCO, recommendation of fifteen percent to twenty percent of annual budgets for education.

As things stand now, with ASUU calling off its strike, undergraduates have nine months extension to the duration of their courses while some Universities are yet to hold post UTME for 2019/2020 session.

In the same vein, candidates, who passed Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, conducted by the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, Jamb, are also waiting in the wings.

In view of this, it becomes imperative for ASUU and Federal Government to work assiduously to ensure the success of the renegotiation exercise.

As the saying goes that it is the grass that bears the brunt when two elephants tango, government and ASUU should give all it takes to ensure that students and parents are not subjected to another trauma of strike this academic session.

Where expectations remain to be fully met within the timeline set in the existing pact, such should be resolved with mutual understanding and patience, while government on its part should sufficiently exhibit openness to win the trust of ASUU.

Similarly, the Federal Government should give all it takes to resolve the agitations of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU, and Senior Staff Union of Universities, SSANU, as their body language poise for eventual full blown industrial action.

State Governments across the country should also avoid actions that could trigger industrial actions by tertiary institutions in their domains while staff in the ivory towers should explore all avenues for dialogue.

The education sector cannot afford more seasons of protracted strikes as it amounts to mortgaging the future of the students, and by extension clogging the nation’s wheel of progress.

Simeon Ugbodovon

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