The strike action embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has entered its 100th day. Millions of students, including those undertaking postgraduate programmes have been idling away at home since July 2.
The failure of the federal government to fulfil resolutions reached with ASUU in 2009 and non- payment of accumulated earned allowances owed the university lecturers are yet to be addressed. The face-off took a turn for the worse with members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) threatening to join the strike by shutting down primary and secondary schools in the country in solidarity with ASUU.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan, during a recent media chat, said that the lingering strike has political undertone. Dr Uchenna Kanu, a concerned parent, bemoaned the length of the strike and the negative effect it has had on students.
He said, “Our children have been out of school for nearly four months now and the polytechnic lecturers are also threatening to join, and NUT also. If this happens, it means that this generation of Nigerian youth will be blocked off from education and, if that happens, it will amount to an intellectual genocide — that is, wiping out a whole race intellectually — and that is what we are preaching against.”
He appealed to the warring parties to consider the plight of the students who are affected and reach a speedy resolution to the crisis. “All parties involved have their case, they have their cause that they are defending but we are appealing to them to realize that they are the intellectual parents of these children and parents never go on strike.
So we are appealing to them and, at the same time, we are appealing to the government to not allow the relationship to degenerate to a point where teachers now take recourse to striking. Strike should be not only a last resort but a rare resort,” he said. Mrs Onuigbo Elezue, another parent, stated that the free time that the strike has afforded the students has led to a marked increase in acts of misdemeanor. She said, “Our children have gotten into all sorts of trouble because they have too much free time on their hands. Many young girls get impregnated every day by young boys because their idle hands have become workshops for the devil.”
Among the affected students, LEADERSHIP discovered that there was a general air of gloom and anger directed towards the federal government and ASUU. Tope Okunlola, a fresh graduate awaiting NYSC mobilisation, expressed his disappointment that the students’ suffering is not considered at all. He said, “This has been 100 days of absolute shame. It is perhaps the highest mark of irresponsibility that the said leaders of tomorrow would be allowed to waste away like this while our counterparts in other countries and private universities leave us in the dust.”
Another student, Tobi Wojuola, advised students to make good use of the time the strike has afforded them and pursue productive and meaningful ventures. He said, “It has been approximately 2, 400 hours of striking time and if you are the student who sleeps 10 hours a day, then well-done, you have slept 1, 000 hours of striking time. “The question then is: how have you used your 2, 400 hours of ASUU strike to make better your life and society? Did you spend this period watching all the movies and seasons America could offer? Or did you decide to spend the striking time at an internship, trying to better yourself in your chosen career? Or did you open up a shop or learn a skill or an art? How productive has the 100 striking days been to you as a student?” LEADERSHIP also caught up with some traders in Gwagwalada, Abuja, and it’s a collective tale of woe and worry. Their losses have consistently piled up since the strike commenced three months ago and many of them have been forced to find alternative means of making ends meet.
Mallam Audu, who operates a general store near the University of Abuja mini campus gate, complained bitterly: “Wallahi, it has not been easy at all. All the perishable goods in my shop have spoilt, even some of the packaged ones are about to expire. If you enter my shop, you will see about 20 loaves of bread that have gone bad. I have to consume many of them or even dash them out so they won’t turn to waste.” Another business owner, Madam Abigail, who sells fried yam and plantain popularly called “cosh and dosh” by the students, had her own stories of woe to tell: “On a normal day, I start selling by 6:30pm and sometimes I don’t close till 11:30pm because of the number of customers that I see but since this strike commenced, I don’t sell anything again.
Sometimes I even have to tie N200 yam and sell for N100 so that it will not waste,” she said. ASUU: FG faults VCs over N35b un-accessed funds As the nation’s tertiary education remains grounded, the federal government has blamed the university management for not accessing over N35 billion due to them from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
Speaking at a meeting with pro-chancellors/vice chancellors of federal and state universities yesterday in Abuja, the supervising minister of education, Barr. Nyesom Wike, said as at June ending, about N73.87 billion which should be disbursed to universities is still lying idle due to one reason or the other.
Wike disclosed that, out of the said amount, N35b representing 47 per cent is due to varsities. Funds un- accessed by polytechnics are estimated at N16b (21 per cent) while colleges of education has N12b.