It is quite a pity that in spite of
13 years of civilian
governments, no succeeding
government has been able to
find a lasting solution to the
recurrence of strikes by
university teachers in Nigeria.
There is no doubting the fact
that one of the major causes of
educational backwardness in this
country is incessant strikes by
university lecturers, which are
always precipitated by
disagreements between
government and teachers.
Going down memory lane, it is
important to make mention of
some protracted strikes during
the military and present civilian
regimes.
The universities’ academic
calendar were greatly disrupted
during the days of the military
dictator, General Ibrahim
Badamosi Babangida (retd).
The situation degenerated from
bad to worse during the regime
of another despot, the late
General Sani Abacha. We also
experienced ASUU strike when
the then President of Nigeria,
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo failed
to implement the agreement
reached with university
teachers.
In a similar vein, the late
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua
clashed with ASUU and another
strike ensued.
It is so unfortunate that the
history of ASUU’s industrial
action repeated itself in the
present day Nigeria, when we all
thought that Dr. Goodluck
Jonathan, who is a
democratically elected president
and a former academic, will set
the records straight.
Effects of strikes
Speaking with Vanguard
Learning, Professor Peter
Okebukola, former NUC Executive
Secretary said; “It is important
not to narrow down strikes in
Nigerian universities to only one
group such as the Academic Staff
Union of Universities (ASUU).
There are four staff unions
(ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NATT)
any of which is capable of
inflicting damage on the system
when it calls its members out on
strike.
“There is also the Students’
Union. The five unions should be
discussed in matters relating to
effects of strikes on the Nigerian
university system. Ostensibly, it
is the strike by ASUU that is
apparently most impactful.
“I see seven negative and two
positive effects of such strikes.
On the negative side is the
depressing effect on the quality
of graduates from Nigerian
universities since time lost due
to strikes that should be used for
delivering the curriculum is not
gained after the strike.
“The typical scenario is to
condense content that should
have been taught for the period
of the strike to about a fifth of
the expected and rush students
to examinations thereafter. This
is recipe for half-baked products.
“The second effect is the poor
public image of Nigerian
universities. Locally, that is in
Nigeria, the public is
unimpressed with the
universities on account of the
frequency of strikes.
Globally, there is the usual sneer
when Nigerian universities are
mentioned and a quick link with
unstable university calendar due
to frequent strikes. This image
robs graduates of our
universities of international
esteem even when their worth
has not been proven through
employment.
Additionally, top-rate universities
that are desirous of staff and
student exchange will elect to
partner with universities with
stable academic calendar in other
parts of Africa.
The third effect is loss of
revenue. Many potential students
prefer universities in
neighbouring African countries
including Ghana, Benin and Togo
not because of superiority of
academic programme offerings
but because of instability of
academic calendar owing to
strikes.
These countries earn huge
revenue from Nigerian students
attending their universities.
Fourth is financial loss to the
universities. When the university
shuts down due to strikes, staff
are paid, even if it is several
months after, but they end up
being paid.
The university runs and pays for
services such as power and
water as well as running and
maintenance of vehicles.
An estimate of this internal and
external loss to the Nigerian
public university system for one
month of total strike involving all
the unions is in the
neighbourhood of N38.2bn.
The fifth effect is psychological
on the part of students who
have to stay idle at home,
lamenting their woes and
causing irritation to parents.
Internet fraud
The sixth effect closely
connected to the fifth is
engagement of the idle students
in social vices including joining
bad gangs and engagement in
internet fraud. Not a few cases
of pregnancy of young
undergraduates during the
period of strike have been
reported.
The seventh is what can be
broadly grouped as collateral
effect. Some undergraduates die
in road accidents during the
period of the strike in an attempt
to “stretch their legs” to visit
friends to kill the idleness.
There are two seemingly
positive effects. Strikes when
moderately implemented are
indicative of the positive human
rights posture of government
and that as a democracy, we
give allowance for the labour
law which empowers workers to
express their grievances
through strike.
Secondly, it would appear that
the major gains of the Nigerian
university system in terms of
improved conditions of service
for staff and improvement in the
physical conditions for teaching,
learning and research have been
attained as “dividends of
strikes.”
There is no university system in
the world that has no strike
history. However, ours in Nigeria
is at the extreme with strikes
lingering for months. In North
America, Europe and Asia where
the top-ranked universities
reside, strikes last for a few
hours or maximum one day! The
unions in Nigerian universities
should be entreated to explore
dialogue to the fullest before
calling out their members on
strike.”
Professor Biko Agozino, a
professor of sociology and
Director of Africana Studies
Programme, Virginia Tech,
Blacksburg, in one of his
publications said:
“The time has come for us to
review the permanent revolution
strategy of ASUU and see if the
mode of protest has outstripped
the means of protest and what
needs to be done. The preferred
means of protest by ASUU is the
declaration of indefinite strikes.
If we look around the world, it is
clear that this means of protest is
no longer as popular as it once
seemed in the 20th Century.
Indefinite strikes by university
teachers are almost unheard of
in a modern university where
the mode of struggle is
predominantly intellectual and
moral for obvious reasons.
If the universities in Nigeria are
nowhere in the ranking of the
top 1,000 universities in the
world, it may not be simply
because of inadequate funding
but also because for large
chunks of the academic year that
university academic staff are on
strike for legitimate reasons
when they could be contributing
scholarly growth that would
propel our institutions into the
list of some of the best in the
world.”

Advertisements