ASUU – Our grouse with govt, by striking varsity teachers

No Comments » March 27th, 2007 posted by // Categories: General Articles



 

 

 

 

GUARDIAN

March 27, 2007

Our grouse with govt, by striking varsity teachers

By Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi (Lagos) and Simeon Nwakaudu (Makurdi)

FOR university teachers to call off the indefinite strike that was begun nationwide yesterday, the Federal Government must restore autonomy to the ivory towers on the basis of an agreement with them in 2001.

It must also include the proposals submitted to the government by the teachers, according to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in a statement released yesterday in Benue State after a National Executive Council (NEC) meeting.

The union’s National President, Dr. Abdulahi Sule-Kano, also in a telephone conversation, affirmed to The Guardian that the strike would be indefinite until the Federal Government responds positively to their demands.

The demands also included a reinstatement of the 49 sacked lecturers at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) and a reversal of the “violation of the conditions of service of academic staff by the new Pensions Act.”

Sule-Kano told The Guardian that the union took its current position when it became clear that the Dr. Gamaniel Onosode-led Federal Government team that was constituted by the Federal Ministry of Education to negotiate with it on contentious issues had limited mandate.

The ASUU negotiating team said it had staged a walk-out on the Federal Government representatives during talks when Onosode disclosed that the mandate he had was to convince the university teachers’ team to accept the new consolidated salary structure.

The new structure was conceived by the Federal Government to arrest the multiple allowances claimed by civil servants, which would now be collapsed into a unified scheme.

The university teachers were reportedly dissatisfied that the government team did not have the mandate to address all the outstanding issues contained in the 2001 Federal Government /ASUU agreement and subsequently withdrew from the talks.

But the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, told The Guardian in an interview at the weekend that the ASUU team should have continued with the talks.

“I believe that if the two teams had continued talking, something positive could still have come out of it,” he said.

Sule-Kano stated that some of the reasons ASUU declared a strike this time include the deteriorating infrastructure in the universities and brain drain.

Asked if the union was in contact with the Minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili over the matter, Sule-Kano said: “The Minister has a team. We have written to the team, so they are all aware.” And on whether the NUC was informed, he said: “The NUC is part of the Federal Government negotiating team.”

In Makurdi, the union declared that the resumption of the strike was contingent on a committed and comprehensive re-negotiation of the 2001 Federal Government/ASUU agreement to improve the country’s university system.

Announcing the start of the strike at the ASUU Secretariat of the Benue State University after the NEC meeting, Sule-Kano, said that the union was forced to embark on the strike because of the insensitivity of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.

The ASUU president, who read a statement of the union after the NEC meeting, said: “NEC has taken this decision painfully after a long patience spanning over two years. NEC appeals to the public to prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to stop toying and experimenting with the future of Nigerian universities, its educational system and the country at large.”

He said that the union had directed its negotiating team to return to the negotiating table, if the Federal Government gives a written assurance that it would be renegotiating the 2001 agreement.

The statement noted that ASUU was specifically interested in the following components of the 2001 Federal Government /ASUU agreement:

  • 1 (a) Negotiate with ASUU team, the basic salary, allowances and other elements of the conditions of service on the basis of the 2001 agreement and the 2006 proposals submitted by the union for renegotiation;
  • Sign an agreement on conditions of service resulting from 1 (a);
  • 2 (a) Negotiate with ASUU team on the funding of universities on the basis of the 2001 and the 2006 proposals submitted by ASUU;
  • (b) Sign an agreement on funding resulting from 2 (a);
  • 3 (a) Negotiate with ASUU team on institutional autonomy and academic freedom on the basis of the 2001 agreement and the 2006 proposals submitted by ASUU; and
  • (b) Sign an agreement on institutional autonomy and academic freedom resulting from 3(a);
  • 4 (a) Negotiate on other matters on the basis of Federal Government-ASUU 2001 agreement and ASUU’s 2006 proposal; and
  • (b) Sign an agreement on other matters as in 4 (a);
  • 5. The government’s team should get its principals to reverse the violation of the non-victimisation clause in the 2001 agreement by reinstating the 49 University of Ilorin academic staff sacked from their jobs for their participation in the 2001 ASUU strike; and

     

  • 6. The government’s team shall negotiate with ASUU to reverse the violation of the conditions of service of academic staff by the New Pensions Act (2004).

    Sule-Kano said that ASUU recognised that an agreement reached through collective bargaining principle was necessary to stem the rot in the Nigerian university system and addressing and reversing the brain drain syndrome.

    ASUU berated the Federal Government for not taking education seriously, arguing that the Obasanjo administration preferred to invest resources in the servicing of foreign loans while the education of the populace was left to suffer.

    The union said: “Since 2001, the Federal Government has not allocated more than eight per cent of the total budget to education, which is a total disservice to the Nigerian people. Government is not serious with education, that is why they cannot stop brain-drain”.

    The union noted that it was forced to embark on the strike because the action had become the only way to attract the attention of the government. It said: “The only time you get an improvement in the education sector is when we embark on strike. This is unfortunate.”

    The union appealed to Nigerians to bear with it on the current strike, since it argued, it was better to make the sacrifices now, to save the nation from imminent danger associated with the churning out of half-baked graduates.”

    On the reforms in the educational sector, the ASUU National President said that reform was not an indigenous policy, but an importation from the World Bank as a neo-colonisation tool to ensure that Nigeria remains educationally backward.

    The ASUU National President noted that what Nigerians need at this juncture was a complete reconstruction of its educational sector.

    He said: “It is only in Nigeria that top government officials systematically kill public universities, simply because they want to establish their private universities which are out of the reach of the common man. For now, only 5.7 per cent of Nigerian youths have access to tertiary education and the Federal Government, through the licensing of more private universities and the killing of public universities, wants to exclude more Nigerians from tertiary education.”

    The ASUU National President also expressed regrets that Nigeria had been forced to endure a government that does not believe in the welfare of its citizenry for eight years.

    He said that it was surprising that a government that does not invest in education, health, energy and agriculture could claim that it was working for the people

     

     

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