Courtesy:Economic Section,US Embassy in Nigeria ”http://nigeria.usembassy.gov
‘’The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system then someone is going to have to give up a piece of the pie so that someone can have more’’
A strike action according to Wikipedia is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employers to work. They serve as an instrument or way to pressure governments to change policies. It’s my opinion that a vital component in addressing a strike action is negotiation, which would mean that an agreement must be reached between two parties. The problem in that process would be when a particular side of the divide chooses never to be satisfied.
Right from 1999-2013, The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASSU, Nigeria) has accounted for a loss of over 33months of the academic calendar, that’s an equivalent of almost 3yrs wasted. This fact beats my imagination I must say, I have always thought that education is a vital instrument to the stability of a nation, well maybe that’s not the case for the Nigerian society.
I write this piece because I feel that the argument or resentment about the recent ASUU strike in Nigeria is one that lacks balance. The blame game by the government and ASUU has taken different turns with the government having a larger chunk of the fault. ASUU blames the government for underfunding and they also advocate for a need to revamp the educational system, while the government also blames the union for the inefficient use of available resources. It’s more like a game in which both parties are playing while the victims watch hopelessly as spectators.
I believe very strongly that at this stage of our development as a nation, it would certainly be negligent of the citizenry to expect the government to proffer solutions to the avalanche of problems we have. It would be a disservice to just watch the government turn the nation to Eldorado, more particularly if there were a set of people I believe should know this better, it should be the custodians of our educational system but sadly this is not the case.
Firstly, the real question we must ask ourselves is that is the struggle really about the students, the right of the lectures to strike is not meant to superimpose the rights of the students to a timely education. It’s quite ironic to insist that the struggle is about the students while you deny them the right to proper and timely education, it beats me really how that is supposed to work out. The job of the lectures is to teach and not fighting and complaining on little issues of grievance. They seem to me like tiny sparks ready to become a mighty flame at the slightest opportunity and a strike action is their best bet. Over the years, if we have known one thing to be true, it is the fact that most ASUU disputes do not solve anything as a matter of fact it only results in a cornucopia of vexed parents and also bitter students. It’s time to recognize that we cannot continue to put students at the middle of every ASUU dispute with government, because if it is really about them then we won’t.
Secondly, are the lectures really the ‘’special ones’’ in the society as they claim. Would it mean that the other individuals in other sectors do not also have the right to strike for reasons they hold to be true. Is there really a difference between the lecturers’ interest and the economic situation his student is going through, they fight for increased wages and welfare while their tutored students fights for unemployment. I would ask if these lecturers know that the woman in her forties working as a secretary in civil service deserves higher wages just as they do, therefore what would happen if everyone is the society ,the Police force, the doctors, Nurses etc stopped work as often as the teachers do. To strike is to demand, but we must remember that if all demands ended in supply, then we would stop existing as a society, as no society is perfect we can only strive to achieve excellence. I am not trying to deny their right to demand for a revamped educational system but they must recognize that they belong to the public sector where just like the Police Force; Medical doctors etc they offer services that are vital for public welfare, therefore their uncontrollable urge to strike often must be checked. A blend of unhappy teachers and a lackluster government is not the best gift a nation can get.
Thirdly, I must say that the association itself has been unfair on its sole attack on the government, if there’s going to be any headway in the recent deadlock, then they must hold their senior officers as well as themselves accountable for the ‘’award winning’’ role they played in the blockbuster movie ‘’Nigeria Educational System Failure’’. We all know that no amount of money would end the crusade of sexual harassment in our universities; no amount of money would stop them from producing graduates who cannot write a simple formal letter, yet passed through four years in school. Increased wages would not stop that ludicrous lecturer who declares right from his very first class that no student can make an ‘’A’’ in his course. Increased wages would not change the monologue system of education that has become the DNA of the university system neither would it stop the lecturer whose job is just to dictate his already prepared notes from ages past to the students. Money is just a chunk of the bigger issues at stake.
Having said this, I must say here a way forward is to change our paradigm of waiting for the government. One thing is obvious, as long as the government remains the sole provider of funding for universities, there would still be funding lapses in the system. It’s time to research for other methods of funding to revamp the system; Public-Private partnership, Alumni reinforcement etc. It has been said that for every 4 people who do things the way they have always been done, only one will wonder if there’s a better way. Also it’s time to reach a compromise for the benefits and results for proper and timely education of our children is one that cuts across all aspects of any nation. Our education is way bigger than the needs and wants of a few individuals; it is also bigger than the politicians who seem not to care about the future of the Nigerian students. If they are finding it difficult to reach an agreement, then maybe it’s time for the third party to step in, third party here would mean the victims of the deadlock being parents and students. An agreement would lie in the fact that compromise is never your way nor my way, it’s our way.
I’ll conclude this piece with two quotes, one for the Nigerian Government and the other for ASUU, from the statements you would know which one belongs to the different categories.
‘’The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not repeating what others have done’’
‘’I don’t imagine heads of government would ever be able to say I’m not an economist therefore I can’t take decision on matters of the economy. I’m not a soldier therefore I can’t take decisions on matter of defence; I’m not an educationist so I can’t take decision about education.