Biodun Ogunyemi, President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), says lecturers are “frustrated, distracted and disenchanted” with the federal government’s “lukewarm attitude” to the funding of university education.
According to Ogunyemi, who declared an indefinite strike by the union in all public universities, the government is out to kill the ivory tower as it did primary and secondary education.
He accused government of failing to honour its agreements with ASUU in 2009 and 2013, saying has been insensitive to what is happening in the university system.
He lamented that the federal government has been hidding under the poor state of the nation’s economy to starve the university education the needed fund when it pays attentions to other sectors of the economy.
While noting that government has not accorded university education the importance it deserves, he said the same government has been awarding contracts and attending to other issues despite the state of the economy and leaving the education sector to suffer.
Ogunyemi said all these had left lecturers “frustrated, distracted and disenchanted”.
His words: “They have always been there when the country was buoyant. I know the issue we have been talking about is the state of the economy. They are awarding contracts every day, are you aware of that?
“Other issues are going on, they are buying vehicles and doing other things. You see, it depends on importance we place on universities. We have conceptualised universities as centres of development and if we should allow university system to collapse — like the primary school system has collapsed, secondary school system has also collapsed — the future of this country is in jeopardy.
“That is why it is time for us to rescue the system. The ruling class in Nigeria, the political class, does not give any due consideration to the university system because now they have shifted their attention to private universities and sending their children to schools abroad.
“If all of us here should encourage them to destroy the university system, then the future of our children is in jeopardy because certainly not all of us can afford to send our children to private schools or to universities abroad. So this is why we are coming out to call on Nigerians that we should give the university system that attention it deserves.”
Speaking also, Isa Faggae, immediate former President of ASUU, bemoaned the percentage of the national budget being allocated to education, which he noted is a far cry compared to what other serious-minded countries allocated to theirs.
“Countries that are serious invest huge percentage of their money on education,” he said.
“In the case of Nigeria; yes, there are issues; insurgency and they are trying to address that, the economy that is down but that does not stop them from sharing money in the name of Paris club debt.
“What we are saying is that if you are interested in addressing the problems of development in the country you must pay adequate attention. The allocation to education in 2015 and 2016 for instance is not more than seven percent of the total budget of the country.
“For countries that are really serious about development, they allocate at least more than 20 percent of their total budget to education. If you want to see Nigeria, the giant of Africa, playing its role as a country to reckon with in the international comity of nations, we must place high premium on education.
“Apart from that, we have an agreement, even if you cannot meet up with the agreement; it is your responsibility to call the other party to come back to the negotiation table. We have not seen that from the government.”