By Ojila Yahaya Monday

Let’s face it. The federal government’s  attention to education is regrettably painful. It falls terribly short of UNESCO’s benchmark of 15 to 20 percent budget for education in the developing countries. This evident neglect of the education sector has engendered the production of quacks across boards, and no university in the most populous country in Africa can be ranked among the 10 best universities in the world. This speaks to the epileptic funding education receives from successive governments.

File photo of ASUU and FG logo 

The budget for the national assembly is way more than the budget for education. This means, 109 senators and 360 members of representatives gulp more money than millions of students. This is a misnomer of monumental proportion and strategic wickedness.

In a flip, no government anywhere in the world can fund education 100%. Ivy league universities have internal mechanisms that target financial self-sufficiency. This is where ASUU becomes guilty. The body wants the government to be the sole financier without seeking alternatives.

I give you examples. When the world was suffused in Covid-19 narcolepsy,  the Oxford University went into meta-researches and emerged with a solution in Astra-zeneca vaccines. These vaccines are not given free of charge, nations spend millions of dollars to get them. For instance, Vanguard reported in January 2021 that Nigeria was to spend 776 billion to acquire the vaccine. After that, more funds have been deployed in that direction and, other nations earmark similar fund. By implication, the money the university and the host country would make can only be imagined.

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What was ASUU doing during lockdown? Striking! It means, the body of intellectuals were sleeping in the time the nation needed them most, and when other nations keyed into e-learning due to the challenges of Covid-19, ASUU was not ready. However, lecturers received their pay for sleeping while the nation was boiling.

Most of the technologies we use today are research breakthroughs by some universities. These research breakthroughs become sources of income for the universities and the host countries. How many research breakthroughs have ASUU recorded that can lift this nation out of economic quagmire?

I read somewhere that ASUU has embarked on strike for 52 months since 1999. This means, in every five years, ASUU goes on strike for a year. For a year, lecturers are paid without actually working. And for the same year, dreams are paused, and lives pass through the official age for seeking employment.

ASUU’s strikes have been partly helpful. For instance, it led to the establishment of TETFUND, and most gigantic structures in the tertiary institutions across the length and breadth of the country were undertaken by the same body. But most of these innovations are not being put to use by some lecturers. How many professors can use electronic boards and other e-learning resources?

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ASUU is so preoccupied with funding as though that’s the only factor that guarantees quality education. Funding is merely a means to an end, and not an end in itself. How about the teething issues of sexual harassment; the painful culture of sex-for-mark; student-lecturer relationship; absence from lectures without excuses and other internal issues that strangulate sincere efforts towards quality education?

About 13 years after, the 2009 agreement has not been respected by FG. Anytime ASUU goes on strike, it calls it off soon after its leadership would have received a token, and this malady goes on periodically. I can tell without equivocation that ASUU’s selfish interests preponderate those of students.

Facts have proven that striking is not effective. Hence, I suggest the following:

1. That the national assembly come up with a legislation that gives at least 20 percent of the nation’s budget to education for ten consecutive years to address grave concerns in the education sector.

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2. That the federal government sets up a committee to review the salary structures of lecturers

3. That ASUU looks for alternative sources of funding.

4. That ASUU champions moves for research breakthroughs that would guarantee financial autonomy.

5. That ASUU takes steps to address internal issues that frustrate its efforts towards quality education.

6. That the federal government addresses other grave concerns of ASUU with immediate alacrity.

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