By Frank Ijege
When university teachers under the aegis of ASUU went on strike last July, national news media were awash with news and analyses on the strike. This is not minding that ASUP had earlier embarked on a strike in March. ASUU was trending social media. A number of people took the ASUU strike personally, so much so that if you opposed the strike, you were attacked and called all kinds of names. I happened to be one of those critical about the strike, and I was not spared. I however did not oppose ASUU strike because I was blind to the plight of university students, I opposed it because I had my eyes widely open to the plight of students in our tertiary institutions. ASUU was thus fighting solely for its interest while other institutions of higher learning shared the same problem. Yet ASUU made it seem as if it was doing so for and on behalf of the educational system. My argument then was that apart from ASUU there is ASUP, COEASU and others involved in molding future leaders. It should therefore not pretend to be the messiah.
ASUU finally got what it wanted after a long battle with the federal government and lectures have resumed in our universities while polytechnics remain closed. It turned out that most students who were the arrow heads and pro ASUU were university students fighting mainly for themselves and nothing more. The media also went to sleep, clearly underscoring the low and poor regards we have for polytechnics. Our attitude showed that we consider university education to be more important than polytechnic education. By this we silently support and approve the dichotomy between Degree holders and HND holders. If the president would sit down with ASUU leaders for 13 hours, why not ASUP too? This is a grave injustice to polytechnic students and lecturers
ASUP has been on strike for 250 days now, yet we see nothing wrong. Sometimes I wonder what kind of people we are. If the government is not serious about rescuing, reviving and preserving our educational system, can’t we as a people take charge and demand a change? We, of course, won’t because we don’t give a damn about polytechnics. Ask yourselves, why has ASUU been quiet about the ongoing ASUP strike? Is it not being selfish? Is ASUU, ASUP and COEASU not supposed to be working together for a better educational system for our children? Must it always be as long as I am not affected then it does not concern me? This attitude is certainly one of the reasons why progress continues to elude us as a people.
If there is ever a government which has paid lip service to issues affecting education, then it is this government. This to my knowledge this is the first time an association will go on strike, resume and less than two months later, go on another strike and such will be allowed to last this long. The Minister of Education seems to be preoccupied with the political imbroglio in his home State of Rivers than with the assignment which he owes Nigerians. One therefore wonders if he has not proved himself worthy of a sack, considering how he has handled issues. I don’t think the former Minister of Education, Professor Ruqaya Rufai was this reckless before she was thrown out. If he wants to be governor of Rivers State, let him simply resign from his present job, instead of abdicating on his duties and responsibilities. ASUP should also note that its continuous rigid and hardline stance is not helping issues; instead, it is aggravating them.
You cannot claim to be fighting for the students when events show otherwise. Keeping students at home for close to a year is certainly not fighting for their interest. There are better ways to fight a cause, rather than embarking on endless strikes. That is dependent of course on how responsible government is. The key to ending this strike is in the hands of the Federal Government and ASUP. They must therefore utilize it properly because polytechnic students are frustrated; suffice it to state that they are running out of patience with whose responsibility it is to end the strike.
I am not unmindful of the fact that Colleges of Education have also caught the strike fever. Well, one is patiently watching because if ASUP strike has lasted this long and there seems to be no end in sight; when then do we think issues affecting the Colleges of Education would be resolved? The problems affecting our educational system will remain unsolved unless and until all the bodies involved team up together and seek a complete overhaul. A parochial and segmented fight will achieve very little. God bless Nigeria.
Frank Ijege@foijege on twitter or [email protected]