Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem (Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin):
The reason for the disagreement between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities should first be established. Government should come clean and let ASUU know the portion or the part of the agreement it earlier reached with the academics it can implement as a demonstration of good faith.
ASUU should also be made to realise the limitations of government in terms of current limitations with regards to meeting its obligations.
This is necessary so that our students do not continue to suffer consequences of the dispute between the two. Members of ASUU will be paid even when they are on strike, but students will be worse off because teaching and learning cannot go on under the circumstance.
What we can do at the moment is to appeal to both sides to take the suffering of parents and students into account with a view to arriving at a mutually beneficial compromise.
The government should also meet some of the demands of ASUU, at least the demands that are within its financial capabilities for now. Government should also seek help from corporate organisations in areas where it requires such to meet other obligations which are not within its immediate reach.
The point is that there is a limit to what any government can do. We just have to take it in good faith and take into cognisance our obligations to society especially our students who are at the receiving end.
Incessant strikes have had a terrible impact on tertiary education in Nigeria because nobody benefits from breakage in the learning process.
Learning has to be continuous for it to be meaningful. It does not do students any good to stay out of school due to no fault of theirs. Students should be in a position to get continuous education because that is what makes meaning and will be beneficial not only to students but also to the society.
There is always the problem of students not being able to finish the syllabus when we have industrial disputes which result in prolonged ASUU strikes.
Even when students resume and somehow are able to pull through the syllabus, most often than not, it is packaged in such a hurried manner that is difficult to say true learning actually took place.
The Federal Government and ASUU need also to realise that whatever sacrifices they are making today will, at the end of the day, be of benefit to generations yet unborn. I will once again appeal to both sides to show good faith and make concessions that will make the agreement implementable.
Auwual Musa (Rafsanjani) (Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre):
I believe with a little more commitment on the part of government this issue can be amicably settled. It is sad that this problem of poor funding of the education sector has been an issue since the late 1980 when successive military regimes pay little attention to the sector.
We expect that with the advent of democracy those at the helm of affairs will pay better attention but that has not been the case.
Even the little that is given to the sector is not properly managed. What I think the Federal Government can and should do is first to properly fund the sector and ensure that it properly monitors how these funds are used.
I don’t see any sense in universities constructing fanciful administration blocks when students hang on windows to receive lectures and live 10 or 12 in a room meant for four in their hostels.
Dr Yunusa Tanko (National Chairman/ Presidential Candidate, National Conscience Party):
These incessant strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities will come to an end when we stop deceiving ourselves. By this, I mean, until we begin to give the required attention to education in this country.
The United Nations requires that a minimum of 26 per cent of the national budget should be invested in education but here the highest that goes to the sector is six, seven or eight per cent, does that show seriousness?
We need to provide at least the basic minimum to the education sector; that is the only time we can at least provide the basic requirement to promote teaching, learning and research in our universities.
There was a time in this country that other African countries sent their students here in their numbers to get university education. This was at a time when our universities were truly centres of learning, they were few in number but well equipped and staff drawn from all over the commonwealth.
Even most of those holding political office today benefited from the system but today, they have so neglected the sector that they move their children abroad even for secondary school education.
Our leaders must take concrete steps to revive the school system, we must improve the working environment by upgrading our school infrastructure such as classroom blocks, laboratories, cafeteria, hostels and what have you. What ASUU has been demanding is for government to pay greater attention to the education sector because no nation can grow above the level of its education.
Today, politics and political office holders enjoy greater attention than the education of Nigerians, public officers including managers of our education system send their kids abroad and pose for photographs at their children’s graduation from foreign institutions and they post the photograph it on social media at a time ASUU is on strike; it is unfortunate.
Prof. Ayo Olukotun (Political Scientist/ public affairs analyst):
There is no alternative to negotiations and compromise. You know, once there are two parties in a dispute, they both have what I call negotiating positions.
These positions must be moderated at the table for dialogue. So, if what ASUU has presented is a negotiating position, then the Federal Government should do the needful.
Yes, I know they have been talking. They have had one or two meetings already. They were deadlocked as far as I heard. But there is a need for them to return to that table so that they come to an understanding which will move the issues forward.
As I said, there is no alternative to negotiation. Then, what the people are saying is that we have money in this country.
You can recall the humongous amount voted by the Central Bank of Nigeria to bail out former Skye Bank. If the government could do that, who says they cannot afford to release the funds to revitalise the university system? I think it is a question of priority.
They need to prioritise education which is about the future of the Nigerian child.
So, if the government agrees to do this and at all times, it should not take them long before they are able to draw our colleagues in the union back to the classrooms.
They both have to work out the details and make the university system work again.
Adetokunbo Mumuni (Director, Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project):
My position is that the issues the university lecturers are fighting for are all in the overall good of the university system. They are matters that will benefit the university education in Nigeria and they are clearly articulated. There was a time that a NEEDS assessment report was conducted in the universities and the needs and lapses of public universities were identified. This is part of the reasons the lecturers are saying, let us settle this matter for once.
Indeed, our university environment must be conducive for study and this is what the issues are about.
Lecturers must also be properly and adequately remunerated. So, it is better that the government resolves these issues immediately so that our children in the universities will not continue to suffer needlessly.
This is the only way we can move forward.