AFTER nine months of ditching work, lecturers on the platform of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended their strike last Wednesday, 23rd December.
But it was not all-clear yet for industrial temper in the tertiary sector: the union warned its members would head back to the trenches without notice if the government fails to meet its obligations under the new pact reached with them.
Also, the sheathing of swords by the teachers’ union did not translate to an immediate reopening of the long-shuttered schools. In his statement, ASUU National President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said in view of the raging Covid-19 pandemic, the schedule for the reopening of the schools lies with the government which recently ordered partial lockdown measures to arrest the pandemic’s second wave.
In effect, even with the call-off of the crippling ASUU strike, students must await a respite in the Covid-19 siege to get back to studies.
ASUU had pulled the plugs on academic work in universities on 9th March, accusing the Federal Government of failing to honour a 2009 agreement and Memorandum of Understanding entered into with the union. In the 2009 deal, the government agreed, among other things, to provide funds for revitalizing decaying infrastructure in public universities and set up visitation panels to ascertain the actual state of the respective institution.
Another major grouse of the union with government was over its implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which ASUU argued negated the autonomy of universities and proposed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) platform in the alternative.
Well, it took nine months for government to come to a fresh understanding with the teachers; it is thus highly important that this new deal does not fall through again to warrant fresh recourse to industrial hostility by the teachers, who are getting paid for all the months they were on strike whereas students have lost a whole academic session on their studies – time that can by no means be recovered.
Students have always been the loser in ASUU strikes.
If now it is being said their return to studies will await abatement of the new Covid-19 wave at ‘God knows when,’ Hardball says, ‘No!’ ‘No!’ Time having been wasted more than enough already, universities should devise mechanisms to get teachers to immediately begin teaching online. To be sure, the teaching should be closely monitored and evaluated to ensure the maintenance of standards.
Teachers get paid for the idle months, but a huge task that awaits them (if they haven’t thought of it) is jumpstarting for assiduous academic work the brains of students who had gone on to other ventures over nine months of academic idleness. But then, that is where they will earn their pay, and the earlier they get started the better.
By Hardball, The Nation