The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has linked the rising wave of crime in the last two months to the idleness of students, who are currently bearing the brunt of the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The students’ body, therefore, appealed to the striking union and the federal government to resume negotiations and ensure quick resolution of the strike, which is now in its 13th week.
The acting Senate President of NANS, Mr. John Shima, while addressing a press conference in Abuja Monday, lamented that about three years of study time had been lost to strikes in the last 10 years.
The lost time, he said, was enough to graduate from an undergraduate course in other climes.
“ASUU and the federal government should go back to the negotiating table. Even after wars, issues are resolved at the round table, Nigerian students are tired of sitting at home,” he said.
Shima added that although the lecturers were protesting the decline of infrastructure in the nation’s universities, the decline was not limited to the universities alone. This, he said, had led to the continual drop in Nigeria’s standard of tertiary education.
“We call for a NEEDS Assessment in our polytechnics and Colleges of Education as was done for the universities to ascertain their level of decay. This may also stop unions in these institutions from embarking on their own strikes,” he said.
The students’ body appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to urgently appoint a substantive minister to head the education ministry.
The candidate, it added, should be an individual from the education sector, who had exhibited the necessary competence, clear understanding of the sector and has the capacity to command the respect of stakeholder unions in the sector.
“We commend the out-gone education minister, Prof. Ruqqayatu Rufa’i, for doing her best while she served as minister,” Shima said.
However, a mild drama ensued at the press briefing, which had to be truncated after a young man who claimed to be NANS Public Relations Officer, Olaogun Victor, interrupted the proceedings on the grounds that his presence was not acknowledged. A group of young men also protested that the press briefing was being done without their knowledge.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State chapter of ASUU and the civil society group have concluded plans to stage a mass protest on Thursday in Abeokuta, the state capital, over the lingering strike.
Addressing journalists in Abeokuta yesterday, the Secretary of Joint Action Front (JAF), the pro-labour civil society component of the Labour and Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), Mr. Abiodun Aremu, said JAF was committed to the nationwide, zonal and state protests until the government was compelled to give public education the priority attention it deserves.
According to him, governments at all levels in the country operate anti-poor policies, saying this was clearly expressed in their lack of disposition to public education.
He said: “Funding of Public Education is not given the proper priority it deserves, because the children of those in governments and their friends are being trained in private schools in Nigeria and foreign countries with the looted public funds.” He, therefore, said government should be blamed for all the crises in the education sector, including the incessant strikes, stressing that: “the unions in education sector are not making fresh demands.”
He said: “They are on strike because government failed to implement agreements they freely entered into and signed with the unions. For example, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has been on a number of strikes since 2009 because government failed to implement the Teacher Special Scale (TSS) that was a product of agreement with government in 1992.”
Aremu noted that the deplorable state of tertiary institutions across the country was such that they were near total collapse except there was urgent intervention.
He said: “As at date, JAF makes bold to state that the federal government has refused to implement the agreement, whose funding component ought to have been concluded in 2011. Instead, the federal government tries to smartly cover up and deceive the public, in the guise of government’s being broke and provide N100 billion out of the agreed N1.518trillion.
“The other N30 billion the federal government said it has also approved is said to be for the earned allowances of N92 billion it owed. This is the fallacy of the N130 billion the federal government claimed it has approved for immediate release,” he added.