The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, started its ongoing strike action on July 2, 2013, as a reaction to what the Union perceived as the government’s failure to implement a 2009 agreement they had on funding and restructuring the university system. It is quite common to see ASUU officials blaming the government’s default for the ‘inability of graduates to defend their certificates outside the institutions of learning, and the decay in educational standards in universities…’ There are also claims that this strike action is inevitable because they perceive that the federal government is quite wasteful in its spending, and that there is an unjustifiably huge amount of the national budget committed to the salaries of political office holders at the expense of other sectors of the economy, especially, the academia.
After seeing a lot of debates, interviews and commentaries on this issue, most of them in favour of the strike, I’m yet to be convinced of the necessity for the strike or of the possible good that may result from the whole process. That is my view, and I am certain that my view is important.
One obvious consequence of this strike action is that once again, federal universities have been practically shut down. Academic activites are frozen. But academic work is not all that goes on in a university. How many people know that there are eligible candidates for the National Youth Service programme who are having to wait for a whole year before being mobilized simply because ‘ASUU is on strike’? Fresh graduates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, for example, can tell one that much.
And this goes far beyond being mobilized by national service. A great number of sound youths are being held back from going on with their professional careers. This has implications for the national economy. Many people have criticized government for not doing enough to combat unemployment in the nation, but there is less attention paid to underemployment trends because of such disruptive actions as an ASUU strike.
Why did OAU not mobilize her fresh graduates earlier on in June? One of the reasons on the table was backlogs of earlier graduates who were eligible for national service but had not been mobilized. Then there was the issue of irregular academic calendars that caused the overlaps of academic sessions.
Those departments that have waited a whole year before mobilizing their current graduates would have a lot of work on their hands when a new set of graduates come out to join this earlier set. They too would be delayed. Did ASUU think about this painful, energy draining and unproductive delay?
I am totally confident that I can defend my certificate wherever I present it. So can my hundred strong colleagues. So can the entire set of fresh ‘graduates’ at OAU. I do not stop to think for one moment that I have been less trained than my counterpart in any private university in Nigeria, or elsewhere in the world such that my contributions to society would be of inferior quality to graduates anywhere else in the world. I can say that this argument of ASUU that I cannot defend my certificate is incredible. But it also tells you of the mentality that some of these lecturers engage when interacting their students. After all those hours of lectures, assignments, practicals, presentations, field trips, report writing, long essays, tests and examinations, do they really think we are incapable now?
I also want to point out that the consequences of ASUU strikes in the forms of lost study and research time is arguably a lot more damaging than the alleged underfunding of universities.