By Abdullahi O. Haruna Haruspice
There is no doubt, that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is doing a lot to right the wrongs in our universities. They have been doing this consistently and due to their radical approach, many Nigerians now erroneously perceive them as belligerent entities. To be fair to the union, they have been the consistent voice against the neglect of our university education by the government. Many are of the view that without ASUU’s efforts, our universities would be at their best, glorified public secondary schools.
ASUU is an entity whose loyalty is shared with two masters: Nigerians and their members. No entity can serve two masters without earning the contempt of the other.
Over the years, the Union has consistently received unwarranted punches from the masses, those who largely benefit from ASUU’s struggle. Likewise, ASUU members have suffered a series of victimisation at the hands of university authorities. Meanwhile, for every success recorded by the Union, university authorities are the first beneficiaries, as Vice-Chancellors of most public universities in Nigeria feed fat from the sweat of ASUU members.
Yes, when ASUU barks, the nation gets the grip and from this, a certain respite is recorded. And this has been the lot, even though their action affects their students the more, those who receive the doses of their action are ironically their members!
The government even with its shenanigans cannot be said not to have adequately funded the universities, but a lot is being done. Sadly, what comes from the government to the universities is cornered by the university authorities. ASUU’s case is therefore like the proverbial ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’; they agitate for better funding of universities and get sidelined by vice-chancellors and their bursars.
In Nigerian universities, lecturers who make up ASUU are faced with these sad realities; For every MSc student being supervised by a lecturer, the lecturer is paid one thousand five hundred naira only per semester… That is three thousand Naira annually. While two thousand five hundred naira only per semester is paid for supervising a Ph.D. student. Every 3 months, only fifty thousand Naira is given to the Heads of Departments to run the Department. This includes practicals, fuel for electricity generation when PHCN is not available, and other needs of the department. To augment the sparing periodic allocations offered by the departments, students are often asked to pay another money in the name of departmental fees. Students are additionally charged for practicals, field trips
, and other sundry issues even when such fees are built into their school fees. Remember that most often, ASUU members who are fierce, radical, and vociferous in their agitation for better welfare, are never loved by the university authorities. Hence, most heads of Departments, Deans, and Directors are stooges of the university authorities.
Pathetically also, the yearly allocations accrued to lecturers in training e.g those running their MSc and Ph.D., by Tetfund, which is usually between 2 to 3 million annually are sometimes never paid to the staff in training. Some staff even resort to borrowing in order to fund their training and conferences, getting such funds require you to have a godfather or be loyal to the university authorities. Note also that being loyal to the authorities means you are ASUU “sellout”.
Depressingly, information has it that even when the government releases these funds, there are times principal officers pocket them or needlessly withhold their disbursements. While Universities like Kaduna State University pay their own lecturers in training
that money, in places like Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria, an institution that has one of the fiercest ASUU presence, such funds are rarely released.
It is also said that whenever the Federal Government releases funds for arrears, the management of universities often arm-twist ASUU leadership such that many ASUU members are shortchanged with no explanations.
These are the issues we should be talking about and not the perennial talk of revitalisation and funding when the real issues stay with how funds are managed by university management.
Sadly, whoever speaks on the lingering ASUU crisis is tagged uninformed; for everyone to be uninformed about the crisis shows one factual error of concerns. It shows ASUU is not communicating enough, hence the reason you have everyone talking from uninformed angles.
Ordinary Ahmad Isah initiated a fundraising appeal for ASUU, he was accused of not understanding the issue, Atiku in his manifesto has promised to fund ASUU and expectedly, ASUU said he is not also informed. So what does ASUU want?
And for ASUU to keep referring to people as ‘uninformed’ smacks nothing but the terrible reality of intellectual arrogance – no one lives in isolation, whatever the intent, ASUU lives for the people the same way the people live for ASUU.
Despite all these notable gaps, we must join hands to help ASUU address this perennial concern. ASUU must be told the truth that their action which always ground the universities isn’t only killing dreams but giving those with more purchasing powers more advantage over the others. The elites now send their children to private universities while the children of the masses are left at the mercy of the ASUU strike and an insensitive government.
Again, ASUU should be more interested in how vice-chancellors and their bursars are using funds that come to the universities, these vice-chancellors are feeding fat from the toils of ASUU.