The Concerned Parents and Educators Initiative has called on the government to take action to put an end to the incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).
This came after the initiative held a virtual meeting with Parents of University students, alongside representatives from ASUU and the National Labour Congress (NLC) and other stakeholders. The meeting discussed the way forward following the extension of the strike by eight (8) weeks.
The discussion centred around a better way to resolve the disputes without students turning out to be the victims.
Amongst some of the Panelists were Mr Yomi Fawehinmi, Mr Vincent Essien, a lawyer and current affairs analyst, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, Chairperson of ASUU, OAU branch, Comrade Emmanuel Ogbuaja, Secretary-General, National Labour Congress, parents and other stakeholders in the education sector.
Most of the issues raised emphasized the need for both ASUU and the Federal Government to come to a resolution that will put an end to the strike action once and for all.
Mr Yomi Fawehinmi threw more light on the genesis of the unending crisis and said it is caused by ideological differences and not financing. He mooted that government cannot continue to subsidize university education.
He drew our attention to the fact that the govt ought not to negotiate with ASUU because the government is not the employer of members of ASUU. The university is the employer of ASUU members and as such, they should be the ones ASUU negotiates with. He pointed out that ASUU is not a watchdog but a trade union whose role is to defend its interests and not necessarily that of the students.
He alludes ASUU’s penchant for incessant strikes to the fact that ASUU is not made to bear the consequences of its many strikes: the members still get paid after each strike. He suggested autonomy for universities to make them financially independent of the government.
Mr Essien reiterated the need for autonomy of universities. Consequently, he advised that universities be registered as individual entities under the CAC just like private universities with their Boards of Trustees.
He suggested that stakeholders such as private persons who have invested in hostels in the campus ought to be on that board and nominated parents representatives. Moving forward, He suggested that students loans made up of tuition, accommodation and pocket expenses for indigent students be considered by the government and repayment terms which would include working for the government for a designated number of years.
Dr Adeola Egbedokun highlighted the stance of the ASUU in the impasse, insisting that the body is fighting for a collective right of the students and Nigerians as a whole.
Comrade Emmanuel Ogbuaja reminded the forum that ASUU is first and foremost a trade union and its members’ interests come first. They traced the dispute to the government’s lack of sincerity and refusal over the years to keep to signed agreements. Moving forward he advised that government send negotiators who have the authority to take decisions without permission from their bosses. He also advised that the government should not change their representatives in the middle of negotiations so that the representatives will be better informed of the issues on the ground.
Two parents, Mr Chimaobi Oji and Ms Irene Tenny-Dudu decried the extra years that children are made to spend in school because of the perennial strikes thereby affecting their final graduation time. They criticized ASUU for not being sensitive to the plight of the students but only thinking of its members’ wellbeing. He said strikes don’t solve any problem but only punish innocent students.
Mr Oji suggested that going forward, parents too should be invited to negotiations between ASUU and the government.
A lecturer, Prof Airen Adetimirin of the University of Ibadan demanded better treatment from the government reminding everyone that lecturers are also parents and as such would not want to see their children home due to regular ASUU strike actions.
Prof Shinkafa of the University of Abuja also agitated for better funding from the government lamenting that the laboratories are grossly ill-equipped. He pleaded that the government carries out a wholesome transformation of the education sector in Nigeria to protect the future of the Nigerian students in government universities.
Comments from the floor went on to suggest that CPE henceforth holds conversations with the government on behalf of parents to make the Federal government wake up to its responsibilities to its universities and improve the education sector as a whole.