Because ASUU Is On Strike By Abubakar Evuti
‘We want N92b —to build lecture halls, laboratories, workshops and,most importantly of course, to improve our pay.’ University authorities seem to be saying.
‘Ah! But we can not pay that kind of money. Yes, a billion can be budgeted for a man’s feeding, yes, militants get millions in ‘amnesty’, yes, and law-makers are being paid more than the President of America. But education is not that important!’ The government seems to be replying.
Students are standing alone, confused, hoping, praying, and receiving blows from both sides as the fight between the government and ASUU continues. National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) —I hear it is now a sub-party of the PDP— has done little if not nothing.
Nigerian students, as it stands, are victims of circumstance; of a crazed system, of a government that can not honour the agreement it signed!
This article does not seek to worry about the insensitive government of Nigeria; It’s lack of vision or tact or anything!
We are concerned, surprisingly perhaps, about the university authorities.
ASUU, as they will have us believe, are fighting for students, fighting to make lecture halls better, fighting to make laboratories and workshops more equipped. How cute! You will want to believe this assertion but not after you worry about how much the government pays (and what happens to the money) to Universities annually. Or the money students,regular and distant learning and other programs,pay as school fees, or if you worry about why students seeking admission are asked to pay some N1,300 for ‘post UME’ (when the students do not sit for any exam but simply submit their bank draft to show they have paid the money. If you multiply N1,300 by the number of applicants to a department and add every department in a University…)
It is true that schools lack lectures halls, and laboratories and workshops are ill-equipped and it may be true that the government has been unjust to university authorities but they too (University authorities) have been unjust to students —the murder of four students in Nassarawa and the attack on students of University of Abuja at night late last year is still on our minds! If ASUU wants to fight for students, those can be starting points!
But we only like to behave as if only the government is what is wrong with education, as if only the government can be and has been unjust.
Abubakar Gimba, a profound writer, in his ‘Letter to the Unborn Child’ (2008) had this to say:
‘The principle of learning and character is impaired not only by the unhealthy latitude given to students…but is undermined by the new generation of university staff, especially the academic staff who have the most frequent contact with, and influence on, the students. No doubt, there are quite a honourable number of them who have not betrayed their core mission of impacting learning and character to their student. Many, however, have messed up this glorious maxim in the form of the conduct, dreams and ethics, shown to their students with the powers they posses to award pass marks to the students, and ultimately the award of degrees and certificate. They don’t teach the students with the noble intent to impart knowledge. They do so to leach the young ones entrusted to them, intimidate them, blackmail them, and even threaten them to elicit whatever they want; from obedience to a master who has an ego of grandeur and self-importance or arrogance of a rear specie of a savvy, to satisfaction of their erotic fancies and pecuniary thirst (the most pervasive of all the perversions). This is a far from the noble stance of teachers of yesteryears who cared for glory not gold.’
If ASUU will have us believe they care about students, they should try to make lecturers mortals —for lecturers, most of them, are immortal men to be feared and obeyed. But Gimba is not done:
‘Driven by either greed or envy or both, these lecturers want to live the lives of their rich former students or classmates, who they had thought to be less intelligent than they were…they want to have big mansion-like houses…’
And so they go on strike without caring about students or consulting students although the strike aims at improving school facilities —for benefit of students of course! And on re-occurring strikes, Gimba said:
‘When teachers down tools in a strike for increased remunerations, materialism gets a boost in the minds of students, and the honorific position of men of knowledge gets diminished. Of course teachers must be paid. And they ought to be payed very well. But a strike as not infrequently threatened by teachers, with a righteous zeal and blackmail, as well as hostage-taking of students and their parents, is an undignifying act of desperation on the part of a group that should epitomize endurance with humble dignity… The antics of blackmail with little qualms, used, do not go unnoticed by the students who take them to heart for use in later life… Even as teachers, more often than not, add other issues to their cause such as funding of institutions by government to improve learning and teaching environment, the camouflage does not hide the original motive of work stoppage.’
And, perhaps exasperated, Gimba concludes:
‘…teachers are employed to teach, not as pressure groups or self-righteous advocates on matters of policies. As citizens, they, no doubt, have a right to question and demand for anything relating to improving the standard of education and a brighter future for our young ones, just as does any other citizen. No one has given them the mandate, however, to the official spokesmen for the rest of us… Neither are they expected to hold the students to ransom, nor the parents as hostages; nor to resort to blackmail, and with a self-righteous anger forsaking reason.’
(Please plant a tree today.)
The writer is on twitter @ngugievuti
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