With Uche Nnadozie
In finding solutions to the problem of funding for example, the leader of the government negotiating team and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Wale Babalakin said students’ loan is one of the ways to fund education. He explained that students can get up to one million naira in a session. 70 per cent of that sum will be used to pay fees, while the balance will be used by the student for upkeep. This sounds nice, but will have to be explained better for the people to understand.
Speaking further, Babalakin pointed out that it is impossible for ASUU to think that the government alone will fund education, especially realising our population and the quality of education we deserve.
Bottom line, he feels that the current regime of no tuition fees may not solve the problems in our universities as other areas of need compete for funding from government.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo added his voice over the weekend. Speaking at the 70th Anniversary of the University of Ibadan, he stated that the Federal Government was developing a funding template that will involve raising funds from the stock exchange. He accepted that ASUU was in the right for demanding for increased funding, admitting poor funding from government; although he made it known that poor funding was simply because government does not have all the funds. Stock market funds are normally long term loans. They are also priced at cheaper interest. What is no longer in dispute is that government must find other ways to raise funds to increase funding for the universities. What is also no longer in doubt is that ASUU cannot continue to go on strike at every opportunity simply because we have a system that pays their salaries no matter how many months they stay away from work.
I repeat, we have to get our teachers in the universities to commit to a certain level of output. Our lecturers are too laid back. They are draconian in their relationship with students and end up taking advantage of students of both sexes. “You will not pass my course” is a common refrain by a lot of lecturers. How can that be? How can a lecturer whose job is to ensure that students study to pass threaten same students that they won’t pass simply because of some majestic feeling by these lecturers? As if that is not enough, reporting a lecturer to higher authorities is another form of suicide. The system will protect the lecturer. Except where the matter is externalised or the victim is a bit connected, otherwise the victim will be frustrated all through the complaint process.
Universities cannot continue to claim autonomy only in the area of appointing its vice chancellors and other senior officials. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that, but we can go a step further by demanding that would be VCs clearly spell out how they will turn the fortunes of the universities around without government funding. University administrators should tell us how they will rebuild infrastructure, provide accommodation and improve welfare. It should no longer be about which vice chancellor will not fight with ASUU, because that is usually what is paramount during electioneering for the appointment of a vice chancellor.
Lecturers should therefore sign a contract that will see them do the work they were employed to do without threat or favour. The harassment of female students must stop. Because when one lecturer is caught be sure that 50 others were never reported. Lecturers should stop threatening male students with low grades except they pay money to them. School grades should be based on merit. A situation where students that don’t attend classes but somehow end up with Bs and As should attract outright dismissal for the offending lecturer. Also, government must take the issue of cheating in universities seriously.
We cannot afford to go take loans to fund the sector yet end up with grades that cannot be defended. Thus, cheating must be restated as a criminal offence and such crimes must attract maximum punishment.
We can surely do better for education. We call on ASUU to not just resume negotiation but resume classes. They are damaging their own calling by needlessly downing tools at the slightest provocation.
Younger and would be teachers are watching. Whatever we do must be in the overall interest of the greatest number. ASUU is seen as selfish by most Nigerians, including me. I think that they do very little but expect so much. They even complain about rich people as if teaching is for rich people. If you want to be rich, join Aliko Dangote. No teacher in the public service can claim he or she is not doing well.
They are; Teaching is not a profit and loss business; it’s a calling for higher service. Somehow, ASUU should also come out to say that after whatever agreement they reach with government this time, they are not going on strike at least for the next 15 years. After all, all of them don’t want to teach in the private universities. Those teaching in private universities are looking for ways to join the public sector. The question is why.
Let university administrators address the public on their income and expenditure at the end of every year. We need to know because the money being used to fund their schools belong to all of us. If government takes loans, we are the ones going to pay back; therefore we need to know how they spend these funds.