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BN Hot Topic: What Can We Do About the ASUU Strike?

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About 3 months ago a friend of mine lamented about the fact that her salary had not been paid for months and she was going to leave because she was frustrated. It wasn’t the first time I had heard it and I wrote about it, asking the readers if the solution was to quit working or to go on an organized strike action. {Read the piece and the ensuing discourse here}. Now, if you attended a Nigerian government university, you’re probably not a stranger to the words ‘ASUU Strike’.  Members of ASUU have constantly gone on strike when the terms of their agreement with the Federal government are not complied with.

For those of you who don’t know, ASUU is an acronym for Academic Staff Union of Universities. For as long as I can remember there has always been ASUU strike in the history of our universities. Some people who have opted for private universities have cited “finishing within the stipulated duration of study” as a reason for their choice. This is because there are NO guarantees that you’d finish a 5-year course in 5 years.  So you find that every time the government and ASUU get on a negotiation table, (usually after the commencement of a strike or the threat of a strike), both parties come out with an agreement. Fast forward a few years later (at most) and they’re back at the same place. Threat of strike, or strike – negotiation- back to work. At the butt of this vicious cycle is the student body.

Young men and women are forced to sit at home while the government and the trade union do their usual dance back and forth. I’ve been a ‘victim’ of the ASUU strike and I know what it feels like just waiting for godot. For the past 3 months, and counting, ASUU has been on strike. They’re demanding that the government honors the agreement that they came to at their last negotiation.

However, like all things in Nigeria, it appears we’ve become so used to ASUU strike that we’ve become numb. It’s one of those things that happens over and over and we just ‘accept’ it. Remember how we used to be really horrified at the Boko Haram attacks? Now it appears we’re just numb. ‘Oh those Boko Haram people are killing again. *shrug*‘ But the truth is, lives are being lost. And just like we should not allow ourselves to see the Boko Haram attacks as the norm we really shouldn’t see ASUU strikes as part of the framework of our lives.

So, what exactly is the ASUU situation? Is it funding? I asked my uncle who was one of the ‘Unilorin 44‘ what the real issue was. I asked if ASUU felt that the strikes were the only way to get their views heard. I noted that if they’ve been on this cycle of strikes and pointless negotiations that perhaps it was time to try other outlets of dispute resolution.  He responded that funding was the major problem. Recounting the glory days at University of Ibadan, access to laboratories and modern technology with which he taught in the 70s.  I asked about the funds that had been disbursed in the past to the universities. Who’s accountable for that?  Then he mentioned the corruption in the administrative offices of vice chancellors and university administrator. I sighed ‘Ah! Here it comes, the Nigerian factor’.

I believe that if we’re to find the change we desperately seek, then we have to do something drastic. I don’t believe that foreign universities rely solely on government funding. It’s a task the government cannot bear on its own if we’re to be perfectly honest. There’s room for private sector contribution and even alumni development.  There are usually endowment funds given by charitable bodies who believe in these causes.

The longer the ASUU strike remains, the longer we have young idle people roaming the streets. When I was a student and the ASUU strike met me at home, my father turned me into his investment secretary and I was basically working and trawling the streets of Marina and Lagos Island chasing unpaid dividends and bonus certificates. I felt I was being used but I’m better off for it today.

As a young person who’s affected by the ASUU strike, what are you doing to make sure you’re going to be a better person if and when the strike is called off. As a stakeholder in the Nigerian education system, what can we do to put an end to this recurring problem? Why is our education system in the pits? Why do people get sent to Education faculty if they score 153 in JAMB? What kind of teachers are we hoping to get?

We have smart people who read BellaNaija everyday, is there something we can do? Because, the truth is, this problem is killing us softly.

Let’s discuss!

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You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.

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