Students of public universities in Nigeria and their parents are yet to get over the over five-month-old strike suspended on December 17 last year by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. The union commenced the strike on July 1, 2013 because of the Federal Government’s failure to implement the 2009 agreement it reached with it.
It was thus disturbing last week when one of the union leaders raised the alarm that the FG was delaying in implementing the fresh agreement it made with the union in 2013. Some stakeholders were particularly angered by the development considering the meetings, appeals and confrontations that took place before the suspension of the 169 days strike.
The National Treasurer of ASUU, Dr. Ademola Aremu, said in Ibadan, Oyo State, that the FG was foot-dragging in the execution of the Memorandum of Understanding on the NEEDS projects it signed with the union.
Aremu said the allocation of the funds claimed to have been lodged at the Central Bank of Nigeria for the execution of the NEEDs projects had not started two months after the suspension of the strike by the union.
He added that the FG should have commenced the process of depositing an extra N55bn for the first quarter based on the MoU signed with President Goodluck Jonathan.
At the meeting, Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of the union, Dr. Olusegun Ajiboye, also reportedly noted that students were yet to start benefitting from the strike because of the FG’s delay in implementing the agreement.
He also urged the FG not to further delay in implementing its part of the MoU so as to forestall fresh crisis in the nation’s public universities.
The Chairman, Enugu State University of Science and Technology branch of ASUU, Prof. Gabriel, Agu, who said he would not comment on the matter, however said the National Executive Committee of the union would meet to deliberate on some salient issues relating to the union.
He said, “We will wait for the outcome of our NEC meeting before making comment.”
Aremu also refused to make further comments on the matter when our correspondent called him on the phone. He did not pick his calls and also didn’t respond to the text message sent to his phone.
The Education Rights Campaign however noted that it was not surprised at the alarm raised by ASUU. The group said the situation showed what unions like the ASUU and Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics including Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union often suffer in the hands of the FG.
Lamenting that the union has consistently been a victim of FG’s insincerity, it advised it to continue to expose the inadequacies of government towards public education.
According to it, the delayed implementation of the MoU is another worrisome indication that more crises are to be expected in the nation’s public university system.
It added, ‘‘Regrettably, instead of increasing, allocation to education suffered a decline in the 2014 appropriation bill. Therefore, even if funds are fully released for the implementation of the MoU, in the long run, not much positive changes would occur in the universities because of the decline in budgetary allocation. Therefore, it is not only the MoU that ASUU should agitate for, it should also fix its gaze at the 2014 appropriation bill with a view to mobilising for improvement in the provisions for education. No one should be deceived.’’
The group also noted that without overall improvement in government’s budgetary provision to education and the existence of democratic management structures in the universities to ensure judicious use of the funds, huge intervention funds would fail to revamp the public universities.
‘‘According to the 11th Education-For-All Global Monitoring Report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Nigeria’s education sector faces a bleak future that it will not meet the Education-For-All Goals 1, 2 and 4 by the year 2015. For instance, Nigeria has over 40 million illiterate adults. Fifty-three years after independence, when the benefit of education is no more a matter of argument, 40 per cent of its youths are stark illiterates while 5 per cent of the poorest young women are literates compared to 90 per cent of the richest, ’’ it added.
A postgraduate student in one of the federal universities in the country, Mr. Olatunbosun Taofeek, urged the government to ensure prompt implementation of the agreement.
He said it was dangerous for any government to gamble with education. Taofeek said, ‘‘There is no wisdom in playing with the destinies of youths. Education is too important for any government to joke with. Giving attention to other sectors more than the education sector is tantamount to moving on a fast speed but in a wrong lane.’’
A student at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Mr. Chibuzor Bright, stated that there would be little attempt to revive public varsities because children of public office holders attend schools abroad and private institutions in Nigeria.
Bright said the lackadaisical attitude of government towards public education was aimed at “crippling it in order to shift attention to private institutions.”
Before the strike was suspended last year, the government promised to inject N1.3tn into public universities between 2013 and 2018. Apart from the injection of N220bn yearly into the varsities from 2014, it pledged to domicile N200bn in a special account at the Central Bank of Nigeria for the rest of 2013.
The union then demanded among other things, proper monitoring and verification of the N30bn released last year by the government and provision of N1.3tn for the renewal of the university system from 2013 to 2018.
Speaking with our correspondent, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Coordinating Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, Mr. Simon Nwakadu, said there was no cause for alarm.
Saying members of the NEEDS Assessment committee met during the week, Nwakadu added that the process of allocation of resources was ongoing. He also said members of the union who are part of the committee were in attendance.
He said, ‘‘This was the third time the committee was meeting. It is a process that every benefitting university must follow. It is the President that implemented the NEEDS Assessment himself and he is committed to it success.’’
ASUU National Chairman, Dr. Nasir Faggae, while calling off the strike last year said the union expected the already inaugurated implementation monitoring to work assiduously to ensure the process of revitalisation of Nigerian public universities.
He was optimistic that such would make the nation’s university education receive the much needed boost in order for students and their parents to see the fruits of ASUU’s struggles. Via: PunchNG Newspaper!
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