Why 42 year-old Nigeria varsity lecturers’ union, ASUU, has no Twitter account, Chairman UNILAG ASUU opens up at Platforms Africa e-Discourse
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU), University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Dele Ashiru, has some messages for hundreds of thousands of students affected by the on-going 9 month’s strike and their parents. He was the lead discussant at the Platforms Africa e-discourse where he opened up on real reason the 42 year-old varsity lecturers’ union has no Twitter account, among other. Excerpts;
What is your assessment of tertiary education in Africa?
Well assessing tertiary education in Africa may seem very tedious. What I can say is that tertiary education in Africa is doing its best within the available resources even though a lot still needs to be desired in terms of responding to development challenges in Africa.
What specific roles do you think tertiary education in the continent can play in craving for technological development?
Why technological development? We should talk about the liberation and development of minds first before technological development. Tertiary education ought to be tailored towards solving societal problems first every other thing is secondary.
You are right and so; please tell us about the liberation and development of the mind.
Functional education ought to make an individual a better person who can respond to his environment. The present education system and it’s curricular in most Africa countries is tailored towards the over glorification of colonialism and dependence. Hence the need to change this system and replace it with an Africa centered one. Only then can we talk about self-reliance and development in African.
Now on a serious matter, what is the latest on the about-nine-month old strike of University lecturers in Nigeria?
The reason is government’s unwillingness to implement an agreement it freely signed with our Union in 2009. This has remained a subject of strikes since 2013, 2017 and another in 2019 which culminated in government’s signing a Memorandum of Action (MOA) on the 7th of February 2019.
The ongoing strike action is to get government to implement that MOA. The items on the MOA are
1) Funding for revitalization of public universities in Nigeria. The aim is to get government to inject the promised funds to expanded infrastructure such as classrooms, hostels etc in order to make Nigerian Universities globally competitive.
2) Payment of arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) owed our members since 2013 to date.
3) Renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement in order to improve the conditions of service of University teachers in Nigeria. As at today NO PROFESSOR IN NIGERIA EARNS one thousand dollars in a month NOT to talk of the younger ones. How do you retain the best brains in the academy if they are so poorly paid?
4) Need to check the unbridled proliferation of Universities by state governors
5) Constituting Visitation Panels to Universities in order to check corruption and other governance issues within the system as provided by the laws establishing the Universities.
Parents of some students affected by the strike have been critical of ASUU. What feedback does your union have from parents and students?
Our students and their parents should understand that this struggle is for the survival of the public University System because government intends to price tertiary education out of the reach of the masses but our Union believes that education is a public good and ability to pay should not inhibit brilliant and qualified citizens.
The only choice that parents and students have is to support ASUU to save Public University System or allow government to do whatever it chooses in which case majority of them may not be able to return to the Universities.
Yes. We have constantly embarked on political education and enlightenment but you know an average Nigerian wants to get out of the University irrespective of the quality of education they receive from them.
Can ASUU not consider being absolutely AUTONOMOUS and having an affordable fee for Nigerians? For example the fee can be 300k and we can have a situation where the government pays 50% & the student pays 50%. Aside strike; can ASUU initiate another weapon to fight government?
There’s nowhere in the world where University education is “absolutely AUTONOMOUS”. The political economy of Nigeria cannot support this arrangement. In a country where minimum wage is 30K, where is a parent with three kids will be able to pay such amount of money?
What Nigeria needs to do is to cut greed of the political elites and wastages. University Education can be highly subsidized if government realizes that investment in education is for the overall good of the society
We are open to suggestions on these alternatives to strike. The way to look at it is that if you are talking to political elites who are interested in the future of the society the story would have changed.
How has ASUU being coping with misinformation about the strike?
Well those affected by the strike are the most active on the social media.
Yes, we do but government’s propaganda is dwarfing our efforts and in any case we also have government is always to be obeyed without questioning mentality amongst the generality of our people and this is a challenge especially in a supposedly democratic society.
How many Twitter handles does ASUU operate? Does the group operate on any other social media platform? Why is an association of varsity lecturers still lagging behind in the Twitter (new media) buzz?
ASUU has No Twitter handle. All the ones currently being operated are FAKE. That’s the position of the Union for now. If that position changes you can be sure that our Union has the capacity to function effectively in that realm.
When, in your assessment, should the students who have been at home for about nine months and their parents expect an end to the strike? And, do l have your permission to use your responses for a story?
The pressure should be on government not ASUU. If government is willing and fulfills its promises they can resume tomorrow. Yes please. Feel free. I have no objection whatsoever.
ASUU should also demand that the management of universities be accountable to the funds collected by providing not only audited accounts but allowing independent forensic investigations into the accounting system of every university. What do you say to this?