By Muhammad Isa Gaude & Sani Lawan
If our leaders are patriotic, they wouldn’t have allowed our universities to become walking corpses. And if the lecturers are patriotic, they would have devised ways of dealing with their problems, which of course is not their incessant strikes.
It’s no longer news that university students are staying idle at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. After all they might still have been at home even if the coronavirus issue has not come up due to the never ending tussle between the Federal Government and ASUU, this time as regards the IPPIS. University students are still apprehensive that they might not resume school when the Federal Government reopens schools. I doubt much if anybody could authoritatively give an account of the situation between the warring parties. It’s always a version after another. But let’s take another view of both the parties and their grievances.
ASUU has gone on strikes that not even the best of historians could give an accurate account of it’s number. No Nigerian would ever pass through a university system, I mean a public university, without encountering a strike or two. It’s a ritual that has become akin to the courses and the credit units one had to pass before being declared a graduate based on character and learning, and having passed through multiple strikes. But one remarkable aspect of such strikes is that each time you happen to have a conversation with a university lecturer, the first thing he mentioned is that those strikes are for your benefit as a student. But the confusing part of their plea is that they end up reaping the benefits of the negotiation for resumption. And for many more years the condition of the hostels and other facilities within the universities remain the same.
However, in an effort to curtail or reduce corruption and misappropriation in government MDAs, the FG introduces the intergrated personnel payroll information system (IPPIS) to capture the information of each and every public servant and centralized the payment of it’s recurrent expenditures most especially the salaries of it’s workers. The implementation of this (IPPIS) has so far been in peacemeal. With each MDA doing it’s best to see it was not captured or at worst, its vague demands are captured which was, as we have been seeing, an exercise in futility. This is not different with what ASUU is fighting. They clearly state that they are not going to join IPPIS and the FG, in fighting backs declared for non-payment of salaries of lecturers not captured on IPPIS (some of the lecturers have already enrolled on IPPIS) which led to the current strike.
ASUU’s rejection of IPPIS based on their statement are the peculiar nature of their operations and a reference to an autonomy given to them by a statute. In an effort to resolve the dispute, ASUU developed their own database “University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS)” (which some individuals dubbed as “a student developing an application to stop exam malpractice”) to handle those peculiarities and proposed it to the FG which was rejected citing many shortcomings from the government.
The peculiar operations of ASUU is largely on the issue of visiting lecturers and those appointed on a month-to-month basis. As we can see from the recent termination of these such appointments by BUK and ABU (the two largest universities in the north), this is to send a message to the government of what would happen if they continue with their implementation agenda. But here is the tussle: the over reliance and confidence of having these kind of appointment to offset the existing gap within the academia is what usually discourage the universities from employing more human resources and sponsoring them to further their education. The effects of this on the students could only be imagined. Because the parmernent lecturers of a certain university that are visitors in other universities hardly have two good classes with their actual students. They prefer using their subordinates to fill in their gap. Which in most cases are incapable of doing justice to the course. This could be of the feeling that their salary is already sealed here and they need not to worry. The story is not different to the visiting university. The lectures will start and finish in a week tagged named “marathon lectures” and most often than not an assignment be given and date for test and revision (very rare) in his second return will be announced.
In whole this battle, the students are always at the receiving end. They found themselves confused on who is really fighting for them and who is fighting for himself. Not withstanding, ASUU have been doing a great job to restore the sanctity and prestige of our dying institutions. Without what they were doing, we are sure that the story of our universities will be no different with our public secondary schools.
Nevertheless, they should know that they are the institutions that the country is now turning to for a myriad of solutions for our current predicament. Instead of fighting against being enrolled on IPPIS, why should they not fight on employing of more human resources to handle the vacum that will be created by the termination of such temporary appointment? Why should they not fight for additional resources to improve research and development in all the institutions? Or is it that they don’t have confidence in their graduands? At last when are we going to harnessed and utilised our human resources that we are proud to have?
But the Federal Government is not blameless either. They often forget that universities are the backbone of a society that has a certain destination.
Universities are supposed to be well funded for research and development. But research grants are meager and not capable of adding any value to the years students spend in those facilities. And here it’s very legitimate for ASUU to embark on strikes and ensure that our universities are ranked among the best in Africa. From there we can continue aiming higher for recognition among the best in the world.
But my big question to ASUU is this. Are we really saying that the Federal is not having the resources to employ and facilitate the academic rise of teeming youths that could fill up the positions required in the universities? Why are we then having contract staff and lots of doctors and professors moving around multiple universities in the name of visiting lecturers? If the universities could employ their graduates and sponsor them through Masters and Ph.Ds, in few years no department would cry of insufficient manpower. But now ASUU will argue that they don’t receive adequate funding to sponsor their staff through Masters and doctorate. But where is TETFUND? We have heard of the lengthy queue before one could receive such fund and proceed. We have also heard of the numerous VC’s BOYS that jump the queue. Where is the character you teach?
Muhammad Isa Gaude & Sani Lawan are Public Affairs Analysts
And for the Federal Government, I say you have become as inactive as vegetable. Most of our current leaders attended those universities and they were beneficiaries of free education, free meals and free laundry. Some of them even received additional scholarships to enable them ease out of school with not only the certificates, but with the right skills. But today we have students paying heavy tuition.
Students receiving neither free meal not free laundry. Students craving only to pass each course and leave with a certificate. The knowledge doesn’t matter. We see and hear of lecturers giving emphasis only on what would appear in the exams and not what the students are going to face in real life. We see corp members that could not write their names. We see lots of sexual assaulted in the academia. We hear of lots of acquaintance rape and suicides. Our universities have become certificate minting companies wherein thousand of students graduate annually. Those graduates do not contribute a thing to the society. We see students yearning for what he could from the country and not what the he was supposed to do for the country. This boils than to lack of patriotism. If our leaders are patriotic, they wouldn’t have allowed our universities to become walking corpses. And if the lecturers are patriotic, they would have devised ways of dealing with their problems, which of course is not their incessant strikes.
And mind you, those unpatriotic leaders send their children abroad since they wouldn’t want their kids stagnating in our ghost institutions. And some of the well to do professors that jump from one university to another, earning fat cheques at the end of every month also send down their kids abroad for quality education. And only the child of the poor is expected to stay back and languish in institutions you refuse to fund appropriately. And for the lecturers that send their kids away, they are saving their kids the horror of a visiting lecturer that comes only three times in a semester. And it does not matter if the students understand or not. His kid is away as far as he is concerned.But look at it from this angle. If we really have to say the fact, the salaries and allowances of the lecturers is nothing to write home about. They took time and labour but their take home pay is a pittance compared to what elected officials earn. It’s a pity for education.
The ASUU VS FG IPPIS is a chess game. But we pray that at the end every Nigerian would praise both ASUU and FG for their efforts at resuscitating education. Until then pray for Nigeria and pray for education.
Muhammad Isa Gaude & Sani Lawan are Public Affairs Analysts