To some people, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a directionless and ingrate union. Those who view things from the outside not from the inside think ASUU is a hopeless union that waste the precious time of Nigerian students, alas, ASUU is the frontliner in salvaging what remains of Nigeria’s education. The members of ASUU are enduring the insults, instigation and the pains of Nigerians’ from all quarters to improve Nigeria’s education. All academic staff of Nigerian universities sacrifice their pride and prestige to ridicule and jeering of all sorts to contribute to Nigeria’s education restructure.
And if you think Nigerian government is the saint and ASUU is the devil why do most Nigerian leaders send their children outside to study. In this century, Nigerian schools are divided between the poor and the rich – public schools are for the poor while private for the rich. Cles 2021 research says Nigeria sent 76,338 students overseas to study in 2018 and ICEF Monitor statistics indicates that there were 100,000 Nigerian students enrolled abroad in 2020 and this amounts to huge revenue loss. Nigerian politicians and businessmen send their children abroad to avoid any obstruction of study while leaving the children of the poor to battle for created problems because in all feuds ASUU is dogging on the memorandum of understanding between them and Nigerian government.
Without ASUU, Nigerian tertiary education will be like the primary and secondary schools education – without seats, roofing, fence and comfort stations in some schools. ASUU pushed for the establishment of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund) and now Tetfund is in all levels of our education; primary, secondary, private schools and organisations. Indeed, this is a great blessing that Nigerian education ever had because it proffers solutions to problems of Nigeria’s education.
Some think ASUU is selfish. This is fallacy because ASUU is always for its students’ welfare. ASUU ensures that students’ interest and laws are protected. When few resourceful Nigerians used to traveled to neighbouring African countries to secure their degrees in few months, it was ASUU that fought this irregularity and the schools are banned. ASUU is very committed to the development of Nigeria’s education like other unions but ASUU is a good example of all our academic unions because it keeps to its promise no matter the pain and the joy it faces.
Nigeria’s education is faced with some irregularities and the unions that should protect the interest of their staff sometimes don’t have the might and power to do so sentiment. Many sad events happen to teachers of primary schools, secondary and even colleges of education and nothing is done.
What happened in Edo state in 2013 when 836 teachers were sacked by the state government? What was done when Kogi state government was given bailout to settle its teachers’ salary of 20 months but slashed the salary and made preferential payment? What was the fate of the 21,000 teachers sacked by Kaduna state government?
What happened when some states like Sokoto and Enugu financially treat their lecturers of colleges of education and polytechnics like those of secondary schools? Rivers state owes five years salary of its primary school teachers and what has been done?
Although a lot happened with the assistance of Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, in some states but nothing has changed because Nigerian Union of Teachers , NUT, is paralysed and too weak to protect their members and laws and like NUT, non teaching staff of universities and polytechnics are not as flamboyant as ASUU to sustain strikes.
The people that have other round thinking about ASUU and any other unions should know that a fresh professor in Nigeria’s public university collects N342,442 (US$824) as monthly salary and from this paltry salary he has to conduct researches and attend conferences (though Tetfund sponsors publications and studies) to give the best to his students but as elections draw nearer we are seeing politicians buying nomination forms for N100 million when millions of Nigerian students are redundant while ASUU for the sake of Nigeria’S education are in “No Work No Pay” action.
Presently, many academic unions are on strike for their welfare, the students’ welfare and the schools’ dividends. ASUU’s strike is now three months, non teaching staff of Nigerian universities are also logged with government and ASUP and its non teaching staff are preparing for shutdown. But no matter what like the African saying, don’t start a fight that you cannot finish, and a Hausa proverb says, if you cannot fight for what’s is your own devise play and jokes to get it by trick.
Nigerian teachers are in abject poverty as inflation rises yet in some states teachers spend 5-10 years without promotion. This contrary to the service guidelines and with such pains of teachers some people see the other sides of teachers because they want the good for their generation. But if all unions were like ASUU, Nigeria’s education will develop because they keep promise and do not compromise their demands.
Auwal Ahmed Ibrahim Goronyo,