Students of Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka, have criticised the institution’s branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for rejecting the staff duty register recently introduced by the school management.
The critics, who are mainly students’ union leaders, expressed their views in interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday. They alleged that the union’s opposition to the policy, which has been suspended, was based on selfish interests.
Tagged “Time and Attendance Device”, the policy was announced through a July 31 memo signed by the Deputy Registrar of DELSU, Mr. Emmanuel Egheneji.
In the memo, the management said with effect from Aug. 1, academic staff members were to “clock-in and clock-out” each time they resumed and closed from work. But ASUU-DELSU, in a letter to the state Commissioner for Higher Education, rejected the policy, describing it as “unacademic, unprecedented and a deviation from best practices of the global academic community”.
The letter was signed by the branch Chairman, Prof. Abel Diakparomre, and the Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ufuophu-Biri. Consequently, in an Aug. 10 memo signed by the Registrar, Mr Daniel Urhibo, the management announced the suspension of the policy, citing a directive from the state government.
The “disappointed” students, who craved anonymity, said they were, however, not surprised by the union’s stance. According to them, ASUU-DELSU is only protecting the “regime of truancy and moonlighting among its members” in the institution. Moonlighting is the act of working at an extra paid job, especially without the knowledge or consent of the employer.
“Many lecturers in DELSU don’t attend classes regularly because they are busy pursuing their private businesses or doing extra paid jobs in private universities at our expense,’’ one student said. “What they do is prescribe textbooks and other study materials for us on their first day in class, and then disappear till the end of the semester.
“We were happy when the attendance policy was introduced by management because it was a good measure to put an end to the lecturers’ excesses but our joy was cut short,’’ another student said.
Responding to the allegations, the ASUU-DELSU secretary, Ufuophu-Biri, reiterated the union’s position on the policy. “The beauty of the academia all over the world is academic freedom but this is lacking seriously in Nigeria.
“In other parts of the world, lecturers get engaged as visiting lecturers, adjunct lecturers and lecturers on sabbatical leave. It is a pride for the lecturer and his/her university.
“In countries where lecturers engage in all of the above, the authorities have not introduced clock-in/clock-out policy for academic staff because such a policy will only make a mockery of them,” he said.
Besides, the ASUU leader argued that Nigerian lecturers were among the least paid in the world, yet they were overworked by their primary employers. According to him, the average Nigerian lecturer lectures for over 20 hours a week, while his counterpart elsewhere does an average of eight hours.
He said in spite of this, the Nigerian lecturer received below 30 percent of the African average emolument. “A South African university professor goes home monthly with over N1.6 million, while his Nigerian counterpart gets less than N600,000 monthly.
“The Nigerian lecturer has no access to funding, grants and other forms of incentives. “Ironically, Nigerian lecturers are some of the most sought after all over the world. “Go to Southern African and Eastern African countries, Nigerian lecturers top the list.
“So many are in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and many other places but here in Nigeria they are rather ill-motivated,” he stated. Ufuofu-Biri, an Associate Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism, argued that Nigerian universities were not among the best 500 in the world due to some of the “unhealthy policies” in the country.
According to him, the Nigerian university lecturer is not that regular sedentary worker, who resumes at 8 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. “Rather he works round the clock. If he is not teaching, he is engaged in research or community service. Let’s not demonize our lecturers,” he said.