The industrial action of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that took effect from February 14 started like a joke. Nobody envisaged that our university communities had embarked on a journey that would not end even after seven months. It has been so protracted.
Parents of these young undergraduates are frustrated already. The students too have run out of patience. No wonder we have experienced a spate of peaceful protests across the country in recent time. Passengers who plied Lagos-Ibadan Express Way on the day they “paid the road a visit” have a pathetic story to tell. Again, pages of our national newspapers were filled with news of how all activities were put on hold the day they took their protest to Lagos Airport.
As much as the dons have a number of good and genuine reasons for their agitation, we think it’s high time they had a second thought.
The demands of the lecturers are far from being selfish. They talked about improving the infrastructures in the schools as well as raising the standard of education in such a way that our universities would be able to compete favourably with their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Several meetings and negotiations brokered between the federal government and the teachers’ union were deadlocked. When the government felt the strike action was dragging for too long, they came out with “no work no pay” policy. In their thinking, they felt the lecturers would be threatened to go back to work. They were wrong, in that it didn’t work that way.
Honestly, in the United Kingdom, their workers dare not go on strike. Instead, they hire protesters when the need arises. They know that if they do, they would not get paid. It’s an established fact, that cannot be contested.
From the body language of the government, they’re ready to rescind the policy of no work no pay.
Contentiously, the matter got before the National Industrial Court of Nigeria. The court has given its verdict, that the lecturers should go back to work. But, in what looks like “fight to finish,” ASUU has stood its ground on not going back to work until their demands are met.
What is their argument? We have right of appeal. That’s very correct. They’re right. But what about the humanitarian angle? Is that decision fair to parents and their wards? In any case, the students seem unperturbed.
Candidly, does the government have the wherewithal to facilitate all they have outlined? Our economy is moribund. It’s as good as “borrowing to feed.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige on behalf of the federal government said that the pronouncement of the court would not in any way deter further negotiations.
The Lower House of the National Assembly has taken it upon itself to wade in to the imbroglio.
As much as the parents and students differ in the reception of the court judgment, in that parents are fed up of the strike action, while the students still see reasons with their teachers, it’s advisable the lecturers shift ground, before the students “change their mind tomorrow.”
Just like the popular saying, “It is better to quit the stage when the ovation is loudest.” We appeal to our great academicians to sheathe their sword and go back to the classrooms even as they resume further negotiations with the government.