Let me begin by stating that I am an official member of ASUU and have the right to express my viewpoint because of academic freedom. So please read my entire essay before you decide whether to crucify me.
ASUU must prioritize welfare and direct other complaints to current institutions.
It is true that improving teacher welfare is necessary for student success and the caliber of research output, but much like with international sanctions, the only people who suffer from the effects of strikes are the innocent bystanders. If strikes were a successful tactic 25 years ago, creating the Education Trust Fund, it is absurd to imagine that in the face of tremendous advancement in establishing institutions and mechanisms that could address and resolve such grievances, the strike is still considered an option.
Twenty-five years ago there was no Tetfund with sustainable cash flow to address strictly such matters, no National Assembly to ensure appropriation of necessary funds for periodic revitalization of public Universities, no National Industrial Court to adjudicate over such grievances, no private universities where children of the targeted elites could avoid the effects of the strikes, no autonomy for universities to innovate ways of addressing their peculiar needs, no accreditation exercises to confirm capacities of institutions to mount programs, and not as many state universities that compliment the input of Federal Government.
I have no idea what is the exit plan of ASUU in all these, but I have my doubts if we can ever recover from the extreme impacts of these strikes. It is only the children of the poor that suffer now that the children of the elites are all in private universities and institutions abroad.
The truth is that ASUU needs to be focused on welfare and well-being of its members. The salary of academics vis a vis the economic reality is poor, that’s what ASUU should have concentrated on not IPPS or UTAS or some petty revitalization funds or dictating to the employer how they must be paid. Note that upon all the strikes, NSUK’s full benefit from the revitalization funds in the last ten years is far below One Billion. That of Tetfund is considerable but could have been more if the process was transparent and ASUU pays attention to the activities of the managers of the fund
As for standard infrastructure and improved facilities, the solution is not a strike because the NUC and other regulatory body accreditation systems already take care of that. Just present the facilities as they are during accreditations for the programs to be sanctioned and the institutions will be forced to find the resources to upgrade. But members actively rig the process to secure fraudulent full accreditations only to scream of inadequate facilities immediately after the accreditation teams depart.
Claiming EAA is also unfair because we force ourselves to undertake the excess work only to forcefully claim the allowances from Government. Why don’t we just teach the accredited lecture hours and insist that the institutions hire more staff to handle the extra? Now such claims have become tools of blackmail against the Government even when the process is vulnerable to fraud. We all know that the huge claims put forward by many of our colleagues are doubtful.
In the midst of fighting wars that are not ours, ASUU has missed the point. All this will be over and SSANU and NASU and Polytechnic academics and intermediate officers will still be earning more than Professors, and the General package will still not take us home. Due to internal jealousy, we have failed to resolve the issue of mainstreaming the EAA in NSUK which in reality could amount to an improved package for our members. It’s been five years now since SSANU and NASU resolved theirs, while we are still piling up these EAA doubtful bills as claims against Government.
Between March and September this year, NSUK lost an average of Six Billion Naira in lost revenues and pay without work, far above what we stand to benefit at the best of times both from any interventions that may result from the “solidarity” strike and any form of federal support to state universities.
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ASUU should drop every other claim and concentrate on our welfare and pay package eg salaries, allowances, safety and security, housing, medical and research plus advanced training and vacations; leave the issue of infrastructure and facilities to accreditations to shut down programs not fit to remain. My position still remains that instead of EAA, Universities should employ enough teachers and researchers to cover the courses.
This piece is contributed by the Nasarawa State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Associate Prof. Abdulkarim Abubakar Kana.