Monday, 19 October 2009

Suspension of ASUU strike: matters arising

Re-negotiation between the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is expected to resume following the suspension of the union’s strike that lasted more than three months. This was the outcome of the peace brokered by the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwahab Umar.
In the resolution reached in trust, ASUU agreed to suspend the strike for two weeks to allow for a cordial atmosphere for discussions. It was also agreed that the agreement that will emerge be signed by both parties, with the Association of Pro Chancellors of Universities signing on behalf of the federal government.
Another compromise reached was that any clause in the draft agreement that may be binding on state governments be expunged. The recommendations would serve as a benchmark for best practices in university education, which state governments would be advised to aspire to attain in order to remain competitive and relevant.
The universities have reopened technically, but normal academic activities are yet to resume in many of them as everyone waits with bated breath, literally, to see how the discussions would go. ?

But stakeholders who spoke to Guardian Life all assented that calling the bluff of other staff unions in the university such as the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) by the government’s refusal to go into meaningful negotiation, was a costly error. The onslaught is that the three unions are latching on ASUU strike for their own agitation. They all consented that the import of selective agreement with just ASUU at the expense of others is a failed attempt to further polarize and fractionize the university system.
SSANU, NASU and NAAT have directed their members to continue with the strike, an action that is frustrating the two-weeks suspension of ASUU strike. Nurses, doctors, accountants, engineers, administrators, radiographers, faculty members, hall porters and others performing strategic functions in administrative capacity were asked to sit out. Comrade Promise Adewusi, chairman of the Joint Unions, lamented “since we have been called idiots by this pronouncement, we are withdrawing all the concession we had given. Before now, the three unions under the aegis of the Joint Unions had demonstrated high level of patriotism and maturity by ensuing that the university system did not collapse through the provision of skeletal services, but now, our members are ready for showdown.”
The government had recently announced a 40 per cent salary increase for ASUU members while other unions got 20 per cent, thus accentuating the impression that they are more important and superior in the system. The seeming perpetual mistrust and distrust that exists between the academics and non-teaching staff arose from the fact that in the early years of the university, academics performed administrative functions along with their traditional roles of teaching and research, but the phenomenal growth which the university had witnessed over the decades naturally resulted in the emergence of a corp of career administrators.

...Real cost of the school closure

By Femi Akinwumi
IN 2003, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was involved in a trade dispute with the Federal Government. It was not the first time, but it was one battles that ASUU embarked on to make a point about the state of the country’s tertiary institutions.
The industrial action was suspended after six months; and a lot of concerned stakeholders had intervened.
Barely six years after, ASUU revisited its long battle with the Federal Government, and at a time when a university graduate and protagonist of the rule of law, President Umaru Yar’Adua, is at the helm of affairs.
ASUU is fighting for the same thing as it did in 2003 — improved funding of university education, improved welfare package commensurate with the political class, autonomy etc. while employing the same strategy -- an indefinite strike action.
After four months, a two-week suspension or period of moratorium was declared so that ASUU executive will meet their state chapters to discuss government’s new proposal.
The question now is, ‘Is anything wrong with ASUU’s approach to pressing its cause?’

Since 1992, therehave been as many as six national strikes by the association. But to what extent have there been successes?
The impact of this indefinite strike and like many others in the past on the country’s educational system has been grievous. During the period in view, students in all the public universities across the length and breadth of Nigeria turned to wanderers; with many doing nothing productive. Some even took to various forms of anti-social behaviours inimical to the common good of the society.

THE real cost of these industrial actions on campus has begun to show in the credibility of graduates from Nigerian universities. We deceive ourselves if we think anybody would take any of the research outcomes from our ivory towers seriously.
We cry foul whenever the yearly world university ranking is released, and no Nigerian tertiary institution features in the first 5000 on the list.
With these structural, attitudinal and other self-inflicting problems on our educational system, how could any of them be among the top thousand?
A lot of company executives in the country have been complaining bitterly about ‘unemployable graduates’, being churned out of the tertiary institutions, but do we really blame the graduates?
Is it the closing down and poor funding of these institutions that will bring about an improvement in the qualities of our graduates?
The Federal Government and ASUU must find sustainable answers to the perennial strike in the general interest of millions of innocent under-graduates and postgraduate students and their parents. ASUU and the government must shift grounds in the interest of Nigerian students.

Painting while ASUU strikes

By Kenechukwu Udeh
WHILE eagerly awaiting the suspension of the four-month old industrial action embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, I went for a work camp packaged by Uhere Study Centre, Nsukka.
TheCentre is a private hostel for male students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. The camp was a project of Education Cooperation Society (ECS), a registered charity in Nigeria.
There were 15 of us and the aim of the two-week camp was to paint a block of classrooms at the Holy Infant Nursery and Primary School, Onuiyi, Nsukka.
Being amateurs, we had to learn the art of painting. Little did I know that it takes a lot to roll, dab, cut and mix paint?
While we cheerfully made a mess of the exercise, we excused our lack of professionalism to the fact that as students, we are more at home at using our brains than our hands.
Believe it; we were not paid for this job. It was free. That was what Uhere Study Centre has made us realise, while it may be easy to whine and bewail our condition, all we did was to make a difference. Thus, the work camp was a synergy: Uhere and ECS sourced for donations to buy the paints and feed us for two weeks, we contributed our labour while making the kids in the primary school in Onuiyi happy.
Other activities of the camp included soccer through which the campers learnt teamwork as well as kept themselves fit, movies’ nights and also a number of documentaries.
There were also excursions to Kogi State and S.J. Rapids in Eziagu, get-togethers where the campers were able to interact fraternally with one another.
It was a camp of fun and work. The spiritual needs of the camp were provided by Opus Dei, an institution of the Catholic Church.
I was lucky to attend this camp; many others lacked a similar opportunity. It will be a massive encouragement, if many of our youths sort to use their day in constructive ways such as these and if the opportunities were afforded them.
In this way, we can have youths, leaders of tomorrow, who not only dream or have heard of serving their nation as leaders but who really know and have lived out what it takes to serve society.
By the way, in case you need a painter – this article is my ad – just call me. You would not be disappointed.
Udeh is studying Economics in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Diary of a politically conscious student

After the suspension of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, prospective candidates are anxiously awaiting the electoral commission to lift the ban on campus politics.
The ban is lifted, students wake up the following morning to see the university community, especially halls of residence, splattered with posters screaming for your votes.
Aliases and nicknames now take the place of real names with such inscriptions as Vanguard is your choice, Consolidation for life, Revolution at UNAD SUG, who is Dejavu, watch out for Efficiency, and Alacrity welcomes you back on campus.
Few days to the manifesto night, contestants are seen dancing round the campus, beating drums, blowing trumpets, with their mass of supporters following after.
At every turn, there is a campaign message staring at you. At the dawn of the day, students are woken out of sleep with cries of morning cry from candidates and their supporters.

At the congress ground, venue of the manifesto, it is a battle between the popular and unpopular candidates. The unpopular candidates warm up to the audience by shouting ‘greatest Nigerian students’, but a loud ‘No’ drowns him or her!
He reasserts himself again with another thunderous ‘greatest Nigerian students’ and again, there is an earsplitting response: ‘you don lose’ ‘owo ti jona’ meaning campaign money has been wasted, ‘who will vote for you’. The moderator is left bewildered as he tries in vain to plead for calmness, ‘koolu koolu temper’, he says.
The unpopular candidate is forced to babble into the air vain speech coloured by jargons borrowed from socialism. He goes on a long tirade by attacking the management and accusing the outgoing student executives of mismanaging union funds with many rhetorical questions, without saying in clear terms what change he intends to bring to governance he gloriously criticised.
Other candidates climb to the rostrum to speak and they receive the same treatment from the congress until a popular candidate, curiously the last, is called to speak. Instantly, the congress ground is taken over with frenzy as the air is rented with vociferous shouts of the candidate’s pseudo-name, followed by long shouting, singing and clapping, which is evidently not from a rented crowd. Chants ‘you don win’, ‘bo tie soro, o ti wole’ meaning if you don’t even campaign, we will vote for you. All the favoured candidate can be allowed to say in a long while is ‘greatest Nigerian student’. And the congress responds with a long shouts greeeeeeeaaaaat!
Immediately, the congress begins to sing “winner oh oh oh, winner” and before the contestant is allowed to say a word more, he is carried up by the congress and the event is abruptly ended, with the opportunity to tell the congress what he intends to do in office and the opportunity of the congress to engage him in questions, lost forever

The following day is Election Day and every student, except the part one students are eligible to vote. After the exercise, the ballot boxes are taken to the SUB building to be counted.
Between 12midnight and 1am in the morning, the results are announced. And the shocker, the man of the people has lost to the unpopular candidate.
What has happened is beyond comprehension.
Various factions emerge with demands. Group A says, “the election result is doctored by the authority and so the election must be cancelled.”
Group B says “the votes should be recounted publicly by another electoral body appointed by congress.”
Group C calls for warring parties to resolve their differences and work with the newly elected executives.
This does not take long however, before students begin to lose interest in the election squabbles, as they resort to academics and other social activities.

After a month in office, the Students Representative Council (SRC) brings various allegations against the unpopular candidate, he is confronted with offences ranging from misappropriation of funds embezzlement, and converting the student union bus for personal commercial purposes.
He is therefore accused of among other things, flagrantly disobeying SRC order and grossly misrepresenting the welfare of students on campus.
Thus an impeachment is initiated. And like a child impudently reacting to discomfort, he would cry out that all the allegations are not true. A congress meeting is summoned while students begin to countdown to the next election in the next session.
Oh!… what a scenario on campus. Well, that’s what makes it thick.

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