When the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, declared a nationwide strike on 2 July, 2013 to press home their demands from the Federal Government, not many thought about the duration of the industrial action. Forty-five days after, it doesn’t seem as if there will be ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ after all.
After series of negotiations with the union ended in deadlock, the latest taking place on Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, there seems to be no end to the defiant decision made by the lecturers.
The ASUU board members have argued that the strike action is not just about them but for the masses of the country, saying it would help in putting the ‘erring’ government officials on their toes.
According to the National Treasurer of ASUU, Dr. Ademola Aremu, “ASUU had an agreement with the Federal Government and the only thing we are saying is for them to respect that agreement and ensure that our universities are not left to look like glorified secondary schools.
“Most of those politicians don’t have their children in Nigerian tertiary institutions, others are even busy building private universities without maintaining the ones on ground.
“In LASU today, some students are paying between N250,000 and N350, 000 and don’t forget that education is supposed to be affordable, accessible and available.
“The parents are the ones to pay these fees yet this same government has refused to pay the approved minimum wage so where do they expect the money to come from?”
President, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, southwest Zone, Adeyemo Monsiru, believes that proper funding of education is the only way to forestall insurgency in the country.
The students’ leader further encouraged his colleagues to be relentless in making their grievances felt and to ensure that their demands are met, no matter how long it would take.
“If education is not funded properly, the insurgency in the country can’t reduce; amnesty is not a feasible way out so the Federal Government should stop wasting their time on that.
“When there was fuel subsidy removal in January last year, we were on the streets like this; to express our displeasure and if care is not taken, we might have to go beyond that,” he said.
More than the lecturers, the students are burdened with the consequence of the strike action. Many of the students are supposed to have graduated but for the strike action by ASUU.
A 500 level Estate Management student of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, Falope Thompson, explained that he was supposed to have graduated but for strike action.
He appealed to the Federal Government to meet the lecturers’ demands so that he could go back to school to complete his programme.
“We are going to cover the whole of Nigeria to tell the Federal Government that we are unhappy with all that it is doing to ASUU and we really need the support of the masses to achieve this. So people should come out and fight with us,” he said.
President of the Students Union Government of Lagos State University, LASU, Hassan Mojirade, who said that the strike had taken the shine off their purpose of study, added that students have stayed at home for too long.
The final year Economics student also appealed to the Federal Government to see reason with the lecturers and work out something meaningful.
“This is fast becoming a tradition and it is making our education worthless. We have stayed at home for too long and it is beginning to affect us. That’s why we are coming out to plead with the Federal Government to listen to our lecturers so that we all can return to our various schools,” she stressed.
On his part, 400-level Physics student of Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, Ahmed Oluwadaisi, encouraged all Nigerian students to come out and protest as he believes that the Federal Government’s incessant disagreement with their lecturers would yield no positive result.
The union member of OOU therefore asked for a once-and-for-all resolution of the unending crisis.
“In 1999, the students were also thrown into the streets like this and there have been other strikes since then but the students have resolved to stand by the lecturers to press home their demands this time.
“We want a permanent solution to this national problem,” he stated.
With the meeting held between ASUU and the Federal Government on Tuesday ending with no positive result, all hopes seem to be fading and there is no certainty that the meeting scheduled for Monday, 19 August, would result in an end to the crisis.