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Two months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities embarked on an industrial action, the negotiations between the union and the Federal Government is still deadlocked.
Like professor and Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Yomi Akinyeye, noted, ‘one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.’ In other words, one cannot achieve something without causing a few inconveniences.
According to Akinyeye, the strike will not only affect the students and the lecturers, but also the country’s economy, in the long run.
“Most of the problems that Nigeria is currently facing would have been better solved if the issues are properly addressed and the priorities set right. The academic calendar of the students has already been disrupted. This would mean the adjustment of their time table and a delay in their year of graduation. The man hours lost over this period would have to be paid for,” Akinyeye noted.
Considering the duration of the strike, which has lingered since July 1, the total sum in salary for the lecturers may run into billions of naira.
The strike also has a spiral effect on the nation’s education and economic sector, noted professor of Science and Technology Education, University of Lagos, Duro Ajeyalemi.
He stated that while the dreams of many students in their final year have invariably been put on hold, the delay in the university academic calendar will also increase the competition among candidates willing to gain admission into the universities.
These factors will also cause an increase in the number of fresh graduates in the labour market at the end of the academic year, he said.
“Because the devil also finds work for ideal hands, these students may be getting involved in other things that may not be good for the economy; those who are just idling about at home could cause security problems,” Ajeyalemi said.
The earlier the Federal Government resolved the matter, the better for the economy, Ajeyalemi advised.
“It was the government that promised N400bn over a couple of years, starting with the release of N100bn as at that time (2009). But they have not done that. Also, the allowances were part of the agreement signed. So what ASUU is simply asking for is the implementation of the agreement. It is a matter of give and take,” he said.
Even students that believe in ASUU’s struggle are tired of sitting at home. An undergraduate student of the University of Lagos, Joshua Oyeniyi, wrote: “I write on behalf of the millions of dreams that are getting squashed by the day as the total shut-down of our universities persists. I write on behalf of the future of the several hundreds of thousands who have been privileged, amidst the stiff competition for admission, to grasp tertiary education but may end up worse than their disadvantaged counterparts, since they may never finish, much less finish on schedule their educational pursuits.”
He pleaded with the Federal Government to honour the 2009 agreement with ASUU so that students could return to the lecture rooms and pick up the pieces of their “scattered semesters.”
An undergraduate of the Lagos State University, Joshua Oyero, agreed that students bear the brunt of the strike more because the lecturers would still receive their salaries during the period the action lasted.
“We suffer more intellectually. For instance, many schools would release their examination time-tables a week after the strike is called off. They wouldn’t care to know whether the school was three weeks into lectures when the strike had commenced. They are only concerned with how to start another academic calendar,” he said, adding that the Federal Government should not kill the “education economy by their tight-fisted economic policies”
For Head, Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Dr. Ayobami Ojebode, the impact of the regular strike actions embarked upon by ASUU would be most felt, not only in the quality of graduates being churned out by the country’s public universities, but also by the labour market and employers of labour. Like he put it, the country has a “greedy and rabidly impatient employment system.”
“Graduates, everywhere, are like computers. You don’t buy a laptop today and expect that right now, it must run your salary system for you, and compute your departmental results and do everything you want. No computer is configured to do all of that. You must sit down and programme it; install the right software and input data. Employers in Nigeria have to understand that.
“When you employ a graduate, and you expect him to speak the language of your organisation, write your memos in your house style, or operate your fabrication machine as if that is the only one known in the wide world, you are being unrealistic in your expectations, impatient and greedy. Fresh graduates have to be trained – that is, you must install your software in them and input data into them. This is investment, also known as sowing – and the Nigerian entrepreneur wants to reap, he or she doesn’t want to sow. Reaping where you hadn’t sown is a major Nigerian problem,” he said.
Many analysts have argued that considering the issues involved, the fruits of this strike would certainly not taste sweet for any of the parties involved.
By Punch’s Arukaino Umukoro