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Musings Academic Staff Union Strike and The Question Stable Calendar

More than before, the effects of underfunding the education sector and the jaundiced arguments of maintaining a stable academic calendar under such condition, as presented by some scholars becomes more glaring and crystal clear for all to see and understand.

Events and time have vindicated students struggle as the causal factor for the incessant school shutdown. In nothing, less than 365 days, the nation has witnessed several episodes of forceful school shutdown as a result of the failure of the federal government to meet the demands of the university workers, hence, resulting into an industrial action, which largely affects the students of such institutions.

A deep reflection on the educational sector of Nigeria would leave one with nothing, but a broken heart and hazy hope. It is so worrisome, that, Nigeria students who should be in the vanguard of clear critical thinking and analysis of the present predicaments, have left such responsibility in the hands of the older generation(that constitutes the university administration) who employ all means possible to distort balanced reasoning amongst students and cajole them into the unholy gospel of stable academic calendar without giving due considerations to the circumstances and conditions that guarantees such, hence, making students develop apathy towards intellectual platforms that serves as resistance to such.

(An effect of the underfunding of education) About a week ago, the management of Obafemi Awolowo university (OAU) were forced to shut down the school due to the national strike actions of the non-academic staff unions, after series of attempts to mechanically maintain the academic calendar. Against, the interest of the Vice-Chancellor, as he is fond of reiterating his intents of bringing stability to learning activities, at every occasion. Though, contrastingly and surprisingly, the management tagged the strike: ‘an end of the year break’, which obviously, is not provided for, in the school calendar but we understand the reason for such. As understandable, as it is, it gives one a great concern to see the depth at which the university leadership can reach to cover the gross ineptitude of the Federal Government, rather than tackle issues as they are.

A man cannot manage poverty- this clause has to be resounded to the hearings of the university leadership, as they’ve being proving over time that they can do such. In a manner not to offend their paymasters, they’ve shifted the burden of irresponsible leadership on students. Not to talk of the inhumane living and learning conditions, students are subjected to, this has led to a massive exploitation on students and further manifested into fee increment, especially in a period where the country faces economic hardship and worker’s are denied payment, without neglecting the fact that returns from school increment isn’t tantamount to a significant welfare improvement but a gain for the university’s leadership. It is only a betrayal of commonsense and a proof of foolhardy, to think fee increments would settle the crisis faced In the education sector.

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Delving back into the non-academic staff struggle, which is the bone of contention, their recent action is as a reasult of the disbursed earned allowance that was given with an altered sharing ratio, a large contrast to former disbursements. I don’t want to go into the unnecessary argument of the criteria and conditions for getting such fund, one thing we must note is that, this isn’t the first or second time such fund would be disbursed, it was disbursed in 2009 and 2014, respectively after a memorandum reached by the federal government and the staff unions in 2009, then the golden question should be: ‘Why the sudden change in sharing ratio?’ .

This question, if answered with balanced and critical reasoning would show that the federal government is the kingpin and master planner of the crisis faced within the education sector. As any rational mind would, they could have easily assumed that alterations in the sharing formula would eventuate into uproars within the university community, yet they went ahead, now bringing poor defensive arguments about the qualification difference of the workers (academic and non-academic). The reason for such can be easily predicted and understood, every oppressive class prefers to sponsor tactical divisions within the oppressed class in other to achieve their Lucifer’s will- The simple rule of divide and rule.

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It takes a clear critical and balanced analysis to understand the trends and dynamics of such actions. Firstly, they create an irreconcilable difference amongst the staffs of the university based on academic qualifications and merits, this launches an element of discrimination and they start seeing the academic staff (who are equally oppressed) as their ENEMIES. This plot has been successfully achieved, as some schools have reported to have recorded lecturers’ assaults and harrasment. Secondly, it preempts them with the idea that the enemies are those they work with and not the evil government.

A quick trace in history, we would recall that the staff unions – academic and non-academic unions used to be under the same umbrella body (T.U.C) before the Babangida military junta sponsored a divide and rule attack. Back in the 80’s, they were united in struggles and their vibrancy and strength then posed a great threat to the military era which sought means to create the division we all see today.

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A fact we mustn’t neglect out of all this, is that both the academic staff and non-academic staff are oppressed equally, as well as the studentry but the oppressors (federal government) have been so wise to disillusion and distort the unbiased opinions of these groups, thereby creating a false image for some to think they’re superiorly treated than others-these have been effectively implemented by the school management who represents the federal government in all institutions.

With logical deductions and conclusions drawn from this piece, it is obvious that a stable academic calendar remains a gross farce if certain issues aren’t properly attend to. Rather than hiding under the false hopes given that a stable academic calendar can be achieved without proper funding of education, it is important for all concerned parties, especially Nigerian students, parents, university workers and all genuine change-seeking agent to start an aggressive and massive campaign on all fronts, nationally and internationally, for the proper funding of education, so as to save the education sector from the incessant strikes and forestall a long-lasting solution to the question of a stable academic calendar.

Dunnex Samuel

Ag. Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign, ERC OAU Branch