Nigerian students have always been the victims of the regular scuffles between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); they are indeed the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants are engaged in a dogfight.
ASUU has always blamed government for insufficient funding of tertiary institutions in the country which has resulted in the present decay in our academic institutions and the sector as a whole. Well, that may not be far from the truth, as the nonchalance of successive governments toward education over the years has done more damage to that sector than good; and has resulted in innumerable work-to-rule actions among the teachers across all levels of education.
However, compared to previous governments, this present administration seems to have done more than its forbears to improve the status quo as well as meet ASUU’s demands. I recall reading that the federal government begged ASUU to reduce their demands, whereas ASUU said no and insisted that all provisos must be fulfilled before they would go back to the classrooms.
While it is good that ASUU make demands that will enhance our education system, and that will give them reasons to smile holding the chalks or markers in the classroom, they should also understand that all the decays in our academic institutions cannot be taken care of in one fell swoop. The progress which we all crave can only be achieved as a gradual process. And we need to appreciate the good intention of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in making a difference. After all, other governments did not seem to even care.
But, while the strike persists, the essence of it, we are told, is to favour the Nigerian students, but is this really so? The reality of it all is that Nigerian students are suffering greatly on account of this protracted strike and ASUU needs to put them into consideration as well. Most of our undergraduates are now engaged in various activities to keep themselves busy. Some are fortunate enough to get involved in legal activities, but majority are not so lucky, as they have taken destiny into their hands because they feel forsaken and frustrated and are now doing things they didn’t expect to do. Some spend time at cyber cafes, looking for the next ‘maga’ who will fall for their tricks.
The pathetic tale of this sad phenomenon can be seen in a recent report about a Nigerian undergraduate called Jane Okoro who attempted suicide because of the frustration of ASUU strike, claiming that at her age she should have been done with school if not for the unending strikes and ASUU’s hardline posture this time.
My question is, how can ASUU be destroying what they profess to be solving? It is becoming more obvious by the day that the welfare of the Nigerian students is not really the major concern of ASUU. ASUU is only fighting for its own pocket, and we might as well go to hell until the government stuffs it with enough cash.
Written by Sola Olawunmi