Looming Strike: Students may bear brunt of ASUU’s burden
By Telegraph Labour Correspondent
The fate of Nigerian students studying in public universities may once again hang in the balance should ASUU, the umbrella union of lecturers, go ahead with threats to pull its members out of the classroom.
ASUU said in a statement which is beginning to create shock waves that it would down tools in three weeks if the authorities do not implement agreements reached.
Its President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, said on Monday that the union might be forced to embark on another nationwide strike if the government fails to implement the Memorandum of Action reached with ASUU in 2020.
Professor Osodeke, ASUU President
Osodeke disclosed that all the issues, including those of unpaid academic earned allowances and the universities revitalisation fund have not been addressed almost one year after the understanding was consumated.
A crippling strike by ASUU, if nothing is done to nip it in the bud, may shatter the hopes of most middle income and poor families that are unable to afford the exposure of their children and wards to private education.
The new threat is coming, some say, as most public schools in the country prepare for examinations that are expected to take place before the year’s end.
A student of UNIPORT, worried by the proposed ASUU plan to shutdown told the Port Harcourt Telegraph Monday night:
“Nobody thinks of the psychological trauma that we students face. Neither do they care about the anguish our poor parents suffer.
“We are like puns on the chessboard. When they, ASUU and other unions in the university system go on strike, we are sent home.
“Some of us are being forced already to spend more time in school for no fault of ours. Our future doesn’t matter at all.”
“Our so-called student unions populated largely by products of cult groups”, a student of UNIABUJA contacted by this publication remarked, “are mere shadows of what used to obtain in the past. So, we are caught in the middle with nowhere to find hope.
“What happened to our slogan, injury to one, injury to all? These student leaders who struggle for office simply look on as we suffer multiple injuries.”
There are strong indications, most observers think, that the ASUU strike might happen.
It is doubtful that the Federal Government which is facing serious economic challenges at this time would be able to carry ASUU’s burden.
At best, the government has been borrowing heavily to sustain the provision of infrastructure in the country.
Many years ago, student groups usually chose to embark on wildcat strikes close to the exams season, claiming all forms of neglect.
Now, it is ASUU and other non academic groups in the universities which have taken over while students pray they would get out of school in record time.
ASUU is claiming that the financial standing of its members, reflected by their purchasing power, has worsened as a result of hiccups experienced in the implementation of accords entered into between it and the authorities.
What this plainly means is that the nation’s academic calendar which has been severally disrupted in the past faces the risk of yet another disruptive action by lecturers.
ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike in March 2020, following its disagreement with the government primarily over the funding of the universities and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
It had proposed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a replacement for the IPPIS.
Dr Ngige driving the peace process through on the dialogue table
In a bid to get the lecturers to return to the classroom, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, called several meetings of union leaders and relevant government officials to find a way forward.
Amidst ASUU’s action, which brought studies to a halt strike and defied all attempts at negotiation, the government and ASUU later signed a Memorandum of Action in December 2020.
The understanding paved the way for the suspension of the industrial action that lasted for nine months.
The government, it would be recalled, offered on that occasion to pay an accumulated sum of N65 billion to the lecturers to address earned academic allowances and revitalisation of universities.
On the tussle over IPPIS, both parties eventually agreed on the University Transparency and Accountability Solution.
The agreement further noted that the university lecturers’ salary arrears would be paid by the government on a different platform.
ASUU is however warning that it would resume the strike should the government fail to meet its part of the agreement reached with the university lecturers.
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