Monday, 21 October 2013

Strike; A right approach to Nigeria's Educational Problem

My latest piece...Your comments will be appreciated.
 Strike; A right approach to Nigeria's Educational Problem
 If you are not of the opinion that the educational system in Nigeria is in shambles then you probably just landed from Moon. This is because the decay in the system can be breathed in the air. It is evident in WAEC and NECO results and more evident in the products we churn out of our polytechnics and universities yearly. Highlighting these problems will place us in a better position to understand fully the arguments I would put forward in the course of this essay.

The major problem with the educational system is that it is a product of the Nigerian system, the pervasive corruption, the eroded value system, bad policy implementation and lack of good governance. Some other factors that have remained a clog in the wheel of success in the nation’s education sector includes but not limited to, examination malpractice, poor quality of teachers, non conducive learning environment and the quest and over-consciousness on certificates. However, for the purpose of this essay, we will be looking at the problem of Education in Nigeria, mainly as that of lack of good governance, poor funding and bad policy implementation as these are the issues that bring rise to strike actions which is the kernel for discussion.

Strike actions have been seen all over the world as a very powerful conflict resolution tool albeit too extreme. It became common during the industrial revolution when mass labour became important. It is often the last resort when collective bargaining fails. It is something both the employees and employers never pray for as it cripples the entire system and leaves it in shambles.
In Nigeria, strike has been used way too often to settle conflicts in labour- management relations. Almost all unions must have at one time or the other embarked on an industrial action to press home their demands, with the union’s education sector bearing the biggest brunt. But has it really been effective?

It is quite unfortunate that Nigeria has been very unlucky to have leaders who place little or no premium on education. When in 2009 we elected as President and Vice President people who at one time or the other been in the academia, everyone thought things were going to be different, but that was not to be as those issues which has kept the Education sector moribund remains unsettled and even getting worst.

In 2008, teachers in public schools under the auspices of the National Union of Teachers embarked on an industrial action which lasted for more than a month over government’s refusal to issue circulars relating to the Harmonized Teachers’ Salary structure which was approved by the national council for education in October, 2003, suffice it to note that the FG was part of the NCE that approved the new salary structure, but to the utmost chagrin of the teachers, the FG decided to play politics with this issue and for five years, the NUT engaged them in series of dialogues and negotiations which culminated in the protracted strike action in 2008. FG was eventually forced to pass the circular after the strike was called off. Although only 18 states went ahead to implement the new salary structure, it wasn’t a lost battle. The pressure from the strike did paid off.

The academic staff union of universities ASUU has had a history of strike actions dating back to 1988 when it organized its first strike action to obtain fair wages and university autonomy, the first strike yielded no result as the union was proscribed only to be allowed to resume in 1990. Since the dawn of democracy in Nigeria, ASUU has been very vocal and continued to be militant in demanding the right of university workers amongst so many others, engaging their employers (The government) in series of dialogues, negotiations and lobbying but none yielded any significant fruit until in 2009 when ASUU declared an indefinite strike action which lasted for over three months. The strike action again led the Federal Government into entering into agreement with ASUU to pump in money into universities for its revitalization amongst so many other things.

Four years after signing the agreement FG is yet to implement seven out of the nine agreements reached. Showing once more how insincere and uncommitted they can be to the cause of education. In 2011 ASUU once again ordered its members nationwide to proceed on another indefinite strike action over Federal Government’s refusal to implement the agreements, FG once again in a bid to end the strike and with ASUU giving in a little bit signed a memorandum of understanding with ASUU bending a little bit the agreements signed in 2009.

Those who are against Strike actions would argue that when ASUU or NUT goes on strike it is indeed the students that bear the brunt, they are quick to remind us that when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. They forget in a hurry also that nothing good comes easy. Before any major breakthrough there must be a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice we made during the Nigerian civil war that is keeping us united today as one big country. For a developing country like Nigeria certain sacrifices need to be taken today for a better tomorrow and strike actions are part of it.

Conclusively, though the ASUU strike with its frequency perplexes the mind, but when you are dealing with a government that has showed over time that it is deafer than the fish, blind and totally crippled by the grandeur of its delusions there are indeed very few choices. Strike seems to be the only thing that pricks up the government’s ears, hence it would be foolhardy not to stick to what works. Until we get a listening government, a government that is ready to honour its words, a government that is ready to enter into negotiations and fulfil whatsoever outcome it brings ASUU and NUT will continue to make use of Strikes to press home its demands.

Thanks for your time.

Uwakwe Martin

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