ASUU strike is a symptom of institutionalised corruption

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By Otii Esse-theG&BJournal

MON, AUGUST 21 2017-theG&BJournal-The views from the ivory towers about the current and incessant Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, strikes are shocking and divided.

Some point laboriously at the Federal government and the others speak in hushed voices about connivance between the tertiary institutions’ administrators, the ASUU leadership and the federal government agents overseeing the funding of Nigeria’s tertiary institutions to sustain the strikes for personal aggrandizement.

The current strike which began from the 13 of August, 2017 was triggered by what ASUU leadership called the abysmal level of implementation of the 2009 ASUU/Federal government agreement, the 2013 MoU and the shortfall in salaries which has led to untimely lay-offs in some universities across the country.

A university don, Dr Oka Obono, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Ibadan, describes the strike as “an additional symptom of a broken system.”

“It is a visible reminder that there is a massive problem in the country. A person is diagnosed for cancer but you are treating him for headache” he said, alluding to the scarce attention given to fixing the massive decay in the education sector, the corruption that thrives within and the funding gap that questions the envisioning capacity of those who manage the education system and the country in general.

“I don’t think I have all the answers but the academia and the media, being part of the intelligentsia, must begin to rethink what it means to have a tertiary institution because this is the future of the country,” he told theG&BJournal.

He said no nation arrives at a positive part without making the relevant investment in research and development. “What you don’t invest in or you are investing in but do not  monitor you will not have an outcome,” he said, referring to the apparent appalling investment and budgeting for education in Nigeria which has consistently failed to meet the United Nation’s benchmark on education.

In the 2017 budget for instance only a paltry N448.01 billion was allocated, representing about 6 percent of the N7.30 trillion budget, a far cry from the UNESCO recommendation. Out of this only about N50 billion is allocated to capital project.

UNESCO in its recent report, “Education for All Global Monitoring Report,” which focused on growing funding gap for education suggests that governments and donor direct 20 percent of their budgets to education and prioritize basic education.

“The globally recommended number of years of a Childs’ schooling is 9 years but in Nigeria it is barely 6 years and this translates to poverty,” Obono said. “And this underscores the correlation between illiteracy and poverty.”

He said ASUU has to go beyond the focus of the current strike to recognise that it has a larger reason to go on a nationwide strike and that is the goal of helping to end official corruption.

The consensus, following theG&BJournals series of calls and interrogation to a number of university teachers across the country, is that the nation’s entire education is held hostage by corruption.

Stakeholders who spoke about the on-going strike say that the frequency of the strikes also underscores the country’s systemic failure to educate and prepare the next generation to be productively engaged citizens. This failure, they argue, fundamentally threatens the very fabric of the country’s nascent democracy.

One professor challenged the legislators to rise up to protect the country’s future by coming on the side of educating the growing number of youths in the country. They argued that “until fixing Nigeria’s broken education system and making ‘’education first’’ is the Legislature’s primary priority, the country will not get anywhere near sanity and it will not get anywhere near resolving the swelling hordes of Nigerians’ relapsing into poverty.”

“Until there is sincerity in communication and an element of accountability is entrenched, ASUU will be perpetually on strike,” says one professor of Law in one of the nation’s premier universities, who like a host of others preferred not to be quoted.

He,  like half a dozen other teachers who are gravely miffed about the strike, told theG&BJournal that the university administrators, ASSU and the federal government education agents are not interested in improving quality or building any infrastructure but simply see teaching as more of a business and the strikes as means to foster the business.

“Tell me, why should the university administrators be clamouring clandestinely for federal university to charge students same fees as those in the private universities across the country? One queried. “They call it reflective pricing in public education system. They are the ones creating the confusion. I can tell you that there will be another strike next year if the money they get now finishes.”

“Here lies the problem. They want to have as much money in the hands to steal. Has the federal government ever openly asked ASSU to provide any details of how they spent previous disbursement made to improve infrastructure in the universities? Or has the university managers come out to announce to the public how the money they twisted out of the federal government after any strike was utilised? No. And that is because 90 percent of that money disappears into their pockets,” he said, referring to ASUU leadership and the universities managers.

Another teacher told the theG&BJournal that most of the universities top guns-the Vice-Chancellors, Heads of Departments, HoDs and a host of ASUU leadership have their children schooling abroad.

“This underscores the corruption in the system that we are talking about.I confronted one recently with the question of where he gets the money to send his children abroad to school, I didn’t get an answer,” he said. “So where did he get the money from to make such huge commitment if not from the money he got from arm-twisting the federal government?

The confusion created by the incessant strikes means that no Nigerian university is ranked within 1000 in global ranking. In the first half of 2017 world ranking of Nigeria universities less than 50 universities were included in the ranking released by Webometrics, which relies on information (statistics) of web publications of a University for a specific period of time. In other words the ranking is based on the volume of research articles published by a university.

Stakeholders say the first step to addressing the crisis is to insulate our education system from being held hostage by limited funding and unnecessary demands by the schools’ administrators and ASUU leadership, majority of whom they describe as agents of government education administrators. They insist that funding must be prioritized going forward to enhance research and development as well as sustain the training of the future generation.

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