For the students, he said staying at home for that long would have changed their orientation, most of them becoming burden on parents.
As the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its nine-month-old strike, yesterday, professors from various institutions said the action had left colossal loss to the nation.
The suspension came after ASUU and the Federal Government resolved the contentious issues that had prolonged the strike. ASUU’s National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, announced the suspension of the strike at a press conference shortly after the National Executive Council meeting (NEC) of the union resolved that the protracted strike action be suspended conditionally.
Ogunyemi, however, warned that if government failed to fulfill its own part of the agreement, ASUU would resume the strike.
ASUU had embarked on an indefinite strike on March 23, over non-implementation of agreements and resolutions government reached with the union in 2009, as well as the introduction of a new payment system, Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), for university teachers.
Although the union proceeded to develop an alternative platform, University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), the reluctance of government to accept the payment platform and attend to their other demands kept university students out of school for nine months.
The strike paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities despite pleas from stakeholders to the warring parties to reach compromise and save the education sector.
While announcing the suspension, Ogunyemi said they had resolved to return to classrooms and do their best for the students and the nation at large.
“We are going back to rekindle the motivation and aspirations in our members and encourage our students to excel, all in expectation that governments at both Federal and state levels would sincerely fulfill their own part of the bargain,” he said.
Ogunyemi also appealed to parents to show more interest in their children’s condition of living and learning, and be advocates of better funding, better laboratories and learning environment for their wards.
This, he said, would ensure an all-round education that would enable graduates compete with the rest of the world.
Stakeholders have, however, lamented that the strike came at a huge a cost to the nation. Former vice chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Otta; Prof. Adebayo Adeyemi; Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju of the University of Lagos, and Dr. John Nwobodo, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Renaissance University, Enugu, described the strike action as ill-timed and a setback for the sector.
Adeyemi said the strike would negatively affect foreign students wishing to have their university education in Nigeria as well as the global rating of Nigerian universities.
It would encourage more prospective Nigerian students to seek education outside the shores of Nigeria, thus encouraging capital flight to other countries.
Some of the students, he feared, would have lost touch with the realities of their studies while others would have been affected by financial, environmental, social and family factors, which would prevent them from resuming after the strike.
Such category of students, he noted, if not properly rehabilitated, might become social miscreants.
“Unfortunately, in this country there is no follow-up by institutions and no government social agencies that can provide follow-up or succour to such group. It is the society, in the long run, that bears the brunt of the negative consequences of abandonment,” he added.
Adeyemi also argued that, with the prolonged strike, research activities, which should a major focus of academic pride, would be relegated to the background.
To address the problem of strike and ensure uninterrupted learning, the scholar said continuous academic calendar could be ensured and sustained with mutual understanding among stakeholders.
Dr. Nwobodo described the nine-month strike as an economic loss to government and the nation. Nwobodo lamented that an academic year had been lost to the strike, while government would have to pay teachers for months they did nothing.
A Development Expert, Dr. Chiwuike Uba, said the economic and social costs of the strike were huge and indeterminable, stressing that the opportunity costs will be delays in students’ graduation, loss of revenue to businesses dependent on universities, decline in quality of education and its impact on the general economy, and workers demotivation, among others.
He said: “It is shocking that, even when Universities have been granted autonomy, they are still a one-hundred percentage dependent on government subventions for their programmes and activities. One would expect the institutions to generate funding from their intellectual capital through research, studies, and innovations. There is no link between our universities and industries in Nigeria. In other countries, universities attract huge research grants from industries and from their own social enterprises. What are the inputs of Nigerian universities on national and subnational policies and development?
“It is only in Nigeria that you see professors and other lecturers selling handouts and textbooks. Some are still teaching with the handouts with which they were trained. The more reason they are obsessed with strikes, which have led to the irretrievable decline in the quality of education in Nigeria. Over N2 trillion is spent by Nigerian students in universities abroad. In fact, during the recent strike, children of well-to-do parents left the country to study abroad.”
For Prof Femi Ajayi of Agricultural Extension Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the strike is avoidable and could have been stopped if government had responded swiftly to teachers’ demands.
Programme Coordinator, Gender and Social Inclusive, Ibrahim Maryam said the prolonged strike had led to increase in crime rate across the country.
A university don from Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State, Dr. Abubakar Sadeeq Haruna, urged government to create enabling environment for private sector to invest in tertiary education as partial solution to ease huge budget allocation on education.
“ No doubt, the period covered in the strike is huge and it has crippled retention capacity of students. Although it is difficult to cover the whole time lost but efforts could be made to cover little. Universities should introduce virtual learning for students. Lecturers’ allowances should be paid and the university should be made conducive enough for lectures to start immediately,” Haruna stated.