We are unhappy seeing our children idle, says ASUU 


• CONUA Faults Continuous Strike

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday, expressed concern over the continued closure of universities, saying it is traumatic seeing their children idle for over eight months.

A leader of the union from the University of Ibadan (UI), Professor Peter Olapegba, said their children, who also attend public schools, have been idle for the past eight months and it is traumatic for them as parents.
 
Olapegba, a professor of Psychology, blamed the Federal Government for the prolonged strike, saying its failure to honour the agreement with the union was responsible for the industrial dispute.
 
But the breakaway faction of ASUU, Congress of University Academics (CONUA), noted that rather than strike, the instrument of dialogue should have been deployed by the university teachers to address the issues.

 
A leader of the group, Henry Oripeloye from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), lle-lfe in Osun State said CONUA believes in constructive and objective engagement with the government rather than strike, adding that CONUA’s main dreams is that strike action as a weapon to force the government’s attention should become history.

Olapegba, in an interview with The Guardian on the prolonged strike, said: “Most of our members have their children in public universities, whatever people are going through, we are also parents. I’m also a victim.

“The fact of the matter is that if we refuse to fight for the system, it would collapse. I don’t want my child to graduate from the university and he would not be able to defend the certificate he has.

“That is what the strike is about; that education should be made to be functional and you can’t make it functional if you don’t put necessary things in place.

“If you check through our demands, you would see that we are fighting for improved university system. We are parents; we are also affected.

Apart from the fact that we are not happy because we are not working, there is no scholar who would be happy to be idle. “On the other hand, we are unhappy that we see our biological children everyday at home doing nothing. It is government that should do the needful.
 
“ASUU has endured for years, in fact, not a penny has been added to our salaries since 2009. And we are talking of a country where everything keeps going up, including pump price, electricity tariff and VAT. I don’t have any other job, I’m a teacher and researcher, but government is making things difficult for me to fulfill my obligations to society. 

“Parents should also understand the matter and put pressure on government to accede to our demands.” Olapegba said if government wants the issues resolved, it should do the needful and save all concerned from trauma, noting: “The strike is not about any new demand; it is about government implementing what was agreed on in 2009, 2013 and 2015.

“If it wants the matter resolved today, it can make it happen. ASUU is asking the government to implement agreement it entered into, but government is complicating it by using hunger as a weapon. 

“We are being owed salaries for five months now, you can’t be talking to an hungry person. If government comes out today to say what we have agreed upon, it is ready to implement, then we will go back to work.”  
 
The professor of Psychology maintained that the controversial Integrated Personnel Payment and Information System (IPPIS) was originally not part of the union’s demand before government came up with it.
 
He said: “IPPIS was brought in as an ambush to break the strike, but government has failed, because people are beginning to see the flaws in the scheme. Government should do the needful instead of rhetoric. Blackmail would not work, they should tell us what they have done.
 
“You are asking us to go to back to the classroom and turn out graduates who would not know anything; who will go into society and would not be able to contribute anything meaningful? Do you know multinationals operating in Nigeria now prefer international graduates, even from the neighbouring Benin Republic and Ghana? They don’t have confidence in our graduates.

“That’s why we are saying we don’t want to produce half-baked. Let our institutions be properly set up, let our students be globally competitive. We are in a global economy, if your child trains in Nigeria, he should be able to go to Canada and compete globally. University is universal, parents should see reason with us; it is better to have a child that is properly trained than have a child that has a university degree, but cannot defend it. 

“Education is an investment, government should invest in it.” But CONUA, while faulting claims that it is being sponsored by government to break the rank of ASUU, said while it is in support of university revitalisation and other issues, such should be discussed peacefully with the government and not through strike.
 
Oripeloye, who restated his members’ readiness to resume work, urged the vice chancellors of various public universities in the country to recall students to campus for academic activities, adding that CONUA members across the country are not on strike.

He assured the government that should VCs recall their students now, academic activities would resume without any rancour in public varsities, as many lecturers are ready to resume and have complied with the government’s directive on IPPIS.
   
“As a union, we believe the nation’s universities should be well-funded, but in doing this, we should discuss with the government, who is the owner of these institutions.

“Universities belong to the government and it is compulsory for government to fund them. How to fund them is the issue, but strike should not be the way out, so as not to affect the quality of students being churned out and even the university system itself,” he stated.

On IPPIS, Oripeloye said CONUA enrolled on the platform on the condition that the peculiarities in the university system would be addressed, saying: “There were a lot of problems initially, but they are being attended to.

“For instance, the issue of sabbatical leave for members. Initially, they were not receiving salaries, but it has been addressed. We believe it would be perfected.” 
 
Regarding the continued strike, he said: “When people talk of ranking, is it the universities that have not been opened for eight months they will rank high? The psyche of students are affected, many will go to neighbouring countries to have a seamless education. That is what we are trying to work out in CONUA. 
 
“We want to see how we can have a seamless system. Our take is rather than go on strike, why not engage the government in a dialogue. Let us engage and employ the instrument of dialogue. If strike has been working all these years, why continue?
“Let us continue to engage the owners and make them respond. There are problems in all the sectors.”