ASUU called off its 8-month strike in October, after the federal government secured an order to that effect from the Court of Appeal. The government still refused to heed the legitimate demands of the university lecturers. But students, lecturers and other members of federal and state universities were asked to resume at their various institutions.
Despite being the one that reneged on an earlier collective agreement, the Federal government has maintained a “no work, no pay” stance, refusing to compensate lecturers for work which it claims was paused by the strikes. However, an interview with two members of ASUU intimately familiar with the responsibilities of lecturers paints a different picture. The prolonged stalemate between the federal government and ASUU revealed the necessity for the students, the entire working class, and our communities to maintain solidarity with the union. They further unravelled a pattern in the government’s responses to the pressing needs of tertiary institutions.
Dr Layi opined that the government has failed to maintain “the tempo of ages past” in advancing tertiary education in the country. Prof. Adebukola’s account of her experience, which mirrors the experience of so many other tertiary-aged Nigerians of her time, unveils a rather staccato tune.
A pattern of disregard for this crucial sector of any country could be could be seen from the actions and inactions of governments past and the current government- both military and “civilian-presenting”-. The dismissal of education’s importance to the country’s development over the years has resulted in an urgent need to revive and revitalise the country’s existing tertiary institutions.
ASUU’s demands over the years have been consistently on two interrelated topics. These are the need for the government to commit resources needed for our universities to provide quality education, and the legitimate need for university lecturers to be well remunerated.
The worrisome rate of deterioration of the tertiary institutions due to lack of adequate funding has hastened the necessity of an appropriate federal government response. For a government to be considered competent, it must acknowledge that education should take precedence in the government’s budgetary priorities. Failed negotiations, bureaucratic bottlenecks, and propaganda will only expedite the rate of deterioration in universities. Further delays will allow issues to fester in areas like funding for research activities, environment and accommodation, technology,
The community efforts and support of lecturers like Prof. Adebukola and Dr Layi are an understated yet crucial part of being a lecturer, of what it means to be part and parcel of a university community.
The support of people like Prof. Adebukola and Dr Layi have proven vital to students experiencing financial burdens and helped equip students to further their self-development beyond just academic studies.
Such support has also helped to foster closer relations between students, and staff members in the universities, and the communities that these institutions serve. In addition to this support rendered by lecturers, their duties include carrying out research, writing recommendations for students pursuing academic and financial opportunities, public speaking and many others. These functions cannot be divorced from the office of a lecturer and they are functions necessary for students, the university and the wider community. With the knowledge of these unsung vital functions and the fact that giving lectures and holding classes are only a fraction of lecturers’ abilities, it is unjustifiable for the government to deny remuneration on the false notion that the strikes halted the work of lecturers. “No work, no pay”, is a fallacy intended to give further justification for the government’s mistreatment of ASUU and its demands. However, it can be resisted, despite the end of the recent strike- ASUU can still achieve success in its quest for a better education system, if we stand together with the union.
In order to achieve a satisfactory result all working people and our communities must rally around ASUU. The government’s false claims regarding the state and nature of ASUU must be shunned as stated by Dr. Layi and societal pressure must be mounted on members of the government on behalf of ASUU if there is to be a resolution for the sake of students, lecturers, the future of education and our society. This is the only way forward, the only way to achieve success is through- solidarity.
Student responses to our survey during the strike were different and their level of willingness to join in pushing ASUU’s demands varied for diverse reasons. However, one fact cuts across every person, the necessity of community and the dangerous isolation of individualism at the time. Communities- neighbours, families, friends, etc. must rally around students and ASUU for success to further the chances of success. As schools resume and students are thrust back into their studies, we must also give them all the support they need- mentally, emotionally and through other means. By providing support for students either mentally, emotionally or financially, and by collectively pushing the shared demands and lecturers, people’s support for this just cause will leave an indelible impression and reinforce the necessity of a revitalised tertiary education system, and reinforce the importance of education in our consciousness. Two voices together are louder than one, and more voices even louder.
It is clear that the only way to get through this and ensure lasting change, using any strategy, any method, any coping mechanism, is with our standing together in struggle and solidarity as a community of the 99% whom those in government do not care for, and are thus less interested in funding public universities for us and our children to access quality education.
The government constantly reneging on collective agreements and its refusal to fulfil its essential duty to pay workers’ salaries will prompt action from ASUU. Indeed some ASUU branches have started taking action.
At the University of Jos, work-to-rule has commenced and at University of Lagos, the branch has organized a rally.
We must generalise this response of resistance and make the ASUU struggle our collective struggle.
By Iretimide Esther Osunyikanmi.