Our major issue with Federal Government -ASUU President
The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in an exclusive chat with NewsDigest on Wednesday, spoke about the crisis rocking the educational sector and the alleged plan of the union to embark on an industrial action over attempts to increase tuition fee across Nigerian varsities.
Speaking to our reporter in a telephone chat, ASUU President Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, said the issue ASUU has with the Federal Government has gone beyond that of tuition fee increase, but the refusal of the government to return to the negotiation table.
“The issue we have with FG is not about their attempt to increase tuition fee , but the refusal of the government to return to the negotiating table. The government has been playing hide and seek game with ASUU.”
Speaking further, Prof. Ogunyemi, said negotiations went on smoothly from March in 2017 till July 2018, but since then discussions have been stalled.
He blamed the leader of government’s negotiating team for causing the hitch in their dialogue.
“Since we started negotiations, we have been having issues with the government’s negotiation team leader. He is not receptive to ideas. We agreed to make some compromise and reconsider government’s position, but he never listened to us.”
He said the issue surrounding the attempt to increase tuition fee boils down to an attempt to commercialize Nigerian education.
“There have been several attempts to commercialize education by over-burdening parents of our universities’ students by asking them to pay outrageous school fees. We should note that the government in proposing the increase in tuition fees wants to introduc education banks. However, this idea or programme has been introduced in the past and failed.”
The ASUU helmsman, said education banks will not turn around the fortunes of the country’s education system. Rather, he advised that, government should lay greater emphasis on evolving friendly and progressive policies so as to restore the fortunes of the comatose education system in the country.
“Since 1993 and up til 2002, there was education banking. But it collapsed due to corruption, private sector mismanagement and other issues. The issue is that if you ask students to take a loan of 1 million naira and ask them to repay it, how will they repay it? Where would they get the money to repay later?If the government have billions to invest on education banks, why don’t they channel same funds to developing public universities?”
He noted that the thorny issue surrounding Nigerian education is also an attempt to commercialize public universities beyond a common man’s reach. A development, he said, the union will vehemently resists.
On the possibility of a potential strike action, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, noted that members of the union are tired of the deceitful game played by the government, saying that their (government’s) ‘hide and seek’ cannot continue forever.
“Our members are tired. The meetings and negotiations were meant to last for six weeks, but see what they have turned it into. If the government fails to return to the negotiation table soon, we will have no other choice but to listen to whatever our members decide. We are bound as leaders to listen to our members”, he said.
NewsDigest gathered that there have been reports suggesting that the federal government plans to increase tuition fees to as high as #500, 000 (five hundred thousand naira), a move that has been condemned by many stakeholders in the education sector.