SOME students have appealed to the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resolve their differences, as they suggest Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to fund the university system.
The students, who recounted losses caused by the six months strike by ASSU, continued to express serious concern about the situation, saying the long stay at home had inflicted permanent injury on them and damage to the education system.
They made the appeal in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday.
Ms Philemon Kojo, a clinical student in the University of Abuja (UniAbuja), said that ASUU strike had become regular occurrence for many years for public university with prolonged academic years as the obvious effect.
Kojo suggested that for the issue to be resolved, ASUU and the education ministry should engage global monetary agencies to access funding or better still, the education sector should be privatised for proper management.
“The education sector should research into solutions that can lead us from a customer economy to productive economy, for example, vaccine and drug production, electronics and even energy generation.”
According to her, universities should begin to seek for grants from both private sector, and international grants to assist in funding these universities.
“The ASUU strike has been tormenting me mentally and emotionally, especially as I see my counterparts in private institutions graduating and progressing with their lives.
“As a clinical year student, all my past efforts in clinical postings are thrown away because I have to repeat them on resumption.
“Imagine four months posting done prior to a six-month strike after which I have to repeat that same posting. It’s mentally depressing.
“Do I have to speak on the financial implications such as hostel rents wasted, traveling, foodstuffs thrown away and last but not the least, the time that can never be gotten back, especially in Nigeria where there are age limits to getting jobs.
“This is my 7th year in the university, for a six- year course but I’m just starting 500 level,” she said.”
Another student of UNIABUJA, Mr Nwachukwu Cletus said there was need for good leadership “when the head is good every other part of the body will be alright, government should appoint leaders who will prioritise education and are well knowledgeable on how educational system should be managed.
Cletus also suggested that there should be optimal maximisation of production for universities as they must begin to look inward to maximise every factor of production at their disposal to contribute to their purse.
“Many universities have abundance and unutilised land which could be used for agricultural purposes, schools can go into food production like bread, snacks and sachet water which will contribute to their economy.
“Every nation doing well today invested heavily in their educational sector and any nation with good future is seen in how much they prioritise their educational system,’’ Cletus.
Mr Joseph Baker, a 300 level Biology Education student of UNIABUJA said the effect of the strike was overwhelming as it had delayed his anticipated plans.
Baker also suggested that government should consider PPP arrangement to fund education.
According to him, government alone cannot fund education; it has to seek the support of other bodies and international funding.
He, therefore, said that ASUU and the Federal Government should come to a sincere understanding and compromise for the sake of the future of the students and the country in general.
Baker, while calling on ASUU to reconsider its position, appealed to the Federal Government to pay ASUU an encouraging salary to maximise the impact of the education system for a better Nigeria.
On the strike, he said: “it has been delaying our educational lives, thereby, prolonging the accurate duration we are supposed to spend in our education.
“Most of our mates in private universities have gone farther than us who attend Federal universities just because of the ongoing strike.
“Also because of the prolonged sitting at home with our parents, sincerely most of us have been having one issue or the other with them.
“Some of us pick offense when being corrected by our parents due to frustration,” Baker said.
A 400 Level Linguistic student of Benue State University, Miss Eneh Edoh said that the strike had done more harm than good to students.
According to her, the strike has prolonged my stay in school. I should be a graduate by now thinking of serving and getting a job for myself.
“As a result of this strike, I am at home, an adage says, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Many young people have ventured into illicit acts, stealing, internet fraud and all sorts because of the idleness the strike has caused.’’
“Our house rents have expired and some will soon expire. The more we stay at home the more our brains are redundant.
“Some of us have planned our lives but the strike is taking us back. Something has to be done, the plans we have for our lives are at stake,” she said.
Another 400 Level student, Ms Ann Oriba, while speaking on the impact of the strike on education and students, said it had affected them both ways negativity.
“Our educational calendar has been extended beyond its curriculum. Also, with a break in learning, it has made studying much harder for me.’’
Meanwhile, National Association of Nigerian students (NANS), has reacted on the comment by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu that ASUU should be held liable for students wasted time
The National President of NANS, Mr Sunday Asefon argued that ASUU was neither the proprietor of tertiary institutions nor the beneficiary of the exorbitant fees we pay across tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
“Our attention has been drawn to a statement credited to the Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu, where he suggested that Nigerian students affected by ASUU strike must sue ASUU for liabilities suffered as a result of the strike.
“Perhaps the only thing Malam Adamu Adamu has gotten right in this saga, is the fact that Nigerian students need to be compensated for their wasted time, opportunities and resources.
“However, the minister is clever by half by suggesting ASUU should be held liable for the liabilities.
“ASUU is neither the proprietor of our tertiary institutions nor the beneficiary of the exorbitant fees; we pay across our tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
“It is an abuse of our intellects to suggest that students should sue employee for protesting bad working conditions and not the employer who is the proprietor of our schools and the beneficiary of the exorbitant school fees we pay,” he said.
The national president however called on ASUU to be considerate and put the interest of students as their priority, saying that ASUU was holding the nation to ransom was unpatriotic and self-serving.
In the same vein, Secretary, Workers and Youths Solidarity Network (WYSN), Damilola Owot said the strike action had caused disruptions not only in the educational sector but also in the general economic system.
“Imagine traders, bus drivers, bike men, barbers, hairdressers and computer venture operators who rely heavily on tertiary institutions for sales and patronage have been left in very pitiable and vulnerable state.
“What about the landlords of the students whose rents have expired? Some of these landlords depend on the rents for their survival too.
“Would they force-open the doors, pack students load outside and rent the rooms out to other persons? What is the fate of the students who have lost six months of their lives to the crisis in the education sector?
“While some students have braced up and turned into impromptu online vendors, some are struggling to learn as apprentices under very harsh conditions,” he said.
Mrs Vivian Bello, Convener of Save the Children campaign said that the strike had made students to pressed hard for survival in the face of educational uncertainties.
“Some have taken to anti-social engagements that could forever mar their lives and destines.
“As we know with young people, once their minds derail, it takes far-reaching struggle to return same back to the path of rectitude. The protracted strike and government authorities’ seeming nonchalance has simply lent weight to this tendency.
However, the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) who differs with some stakeholders on the ASUU strike called on the Federal Government to liberalise university unions by recognising and registering other unions.
The National Coordinator of CONUA, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, said that liberalisation of academic unions would end incessant strikes in universities.
He said the liberalisation would also engender cross-fertilisation of ideas, nurture healthy competition and protect the interests of all stakeholders.
He said CONUA was poised to ensure cross-fertilisation of ideas that took place before a strike could be embarked upon.
“What we have noted over the years is that ideas are usually muffled,’’ he said.
Sunmonu stressed that there was nothing wrong in having two to four unions in universities as the 1999 Constitution assures of freedom of association.
Also, CONUA’s National Publicity Coordinator, Dr Ernest Nwoke said the monopoly enjoyed by ASUU had been responsible for incessant strikes in universities.
He stressed that the liberalisation of academic staff unions in the universities was the only solution so that lecturers would be free to belong to unions of their choices.
“For more than 40 years ASUU has enjoyed a monopoly in Nigerian universities.
“There is no ripe time than now for the liberalisation of academic unions to put an end to strikes in the universities,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, some university workers under the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Education Institutions (NASU) have suspended their almost five-month old strike for two months.
The industrial action, which was called off on Saturday after a brief meeting between the leadership of both unions and the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu in Abuja, is expected to take effect from on Aug. 24.
In spite of calling off the strikes by these labour unions, activities in the public universities are expected to still be paralysed as ASUU insists on going ahead with the strike.
According to a monitored Channels Television report, the Adamu said that the Federal Government had committed N50 billion to pay earned allowances for members of SSANU, NASU, and ASUU. (NAN)