The status of educational system in Nigeria is, without doubt, disheartening and utterly deplorable. Despite the bearing of education on the future development of a country, successive governments in Nigeria have never paid it the needed priority in that they have made it a venture for the dungeon. Given the hallowed nature, Benjamin Franklin asserted that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” But on the contrary, governments philosophy, favours not investment in the best interest of her hapless citizens that look up to it for respite. This is evident in the low funding of the education sector. The UNESCO benchmark of budget allocation to the education sector is 26%. However, the Nigerian government has always gone far below this minimum standard. As at 2017, the allocation was pinned at 6%- a very meagre one, not even up to the allowance extra-legally budgeted for the wardrobe allowance of the political class, who are in turn saddled with the responsibility of putting the nation on the map of progress. This and some other reasons have resulted in incessant strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
According to Femi Bamisile, the right to strike is one of the bedrock of a modern, democratic society; of which none can be truly democratic where the right is absent. Strike is the refusal by employees to work which usually arise as result of disagreement between the employees and the employers. It has been a major weapon used by ASUU to press home their demands. ASUU embark on strike to demand proper and efficient funding of the university and improved working condition for their staff. The rationale for this, among others, is to restore the efficiency of our institutions. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is not the only union that embark on strike, Non Academics Staff Union in the name of fighting for improved welfare of staff, also embark on strike.
ASUU strike is an external strike; but some universities are faced with incessant internal strike to the extent that it has became part of academic calendar of universities. The reasons for the strike might be agitations by lecturers, non-academics staff or students of concerned institutions. Strike action is not an exclusive reserve of ASUU, students under the aegis of the Student Union also, fight for improved welfares of the students and, often than not, protest against unfair treatment and victimization of students by the school management. Instead of resolving issues amicably, the school management always adopt what they see an easier way out- locking down the school till further notice, sending students home and putting academic activities on hold till when they deem fit.
As the agitations which resulted in strike seem like advantage to the students, lecturers and the university system; incessant strike actions also have their negative impact on the students. They lead to the distortion of the academic calendar which lengthen the duration of academic sessions, and thus, delay students’ completion of their academic programmes. Courses that ought to be concluded within four, five or six years extend beyond its duration. Thus amounting to waste of time for students. This is mostly unfortunate for students who gained admission at late age say 25; who by the time they graduate, they would have passed the normal age most employers want.
Strike reduce intelligence level and academic performance of students. With academics activities in progress, classes to attend, tests and exams to write; students challenged to face their studies, thus improving their intelligence. With the halt of academic activities, no class to attend, neither tests nor exams to write, students find it difficult to read, thus producing counter-productive results.
Strike also leads to increase in crime rate among students. An idle mind, they say, is a devil’s workshop. Having nothing to do, students tend to engage in crimes such as stealing, gambling, prostitution among others. The Nigeria sex worker Association told the Federal government that strike increase prostitution among female students.
Apart from the negative effects of strike on students, it damages the credibility if Nigeria universities among their peers in the international community. Graduates of Nigeria universities have their results and abilities in doubt elsewhere. This, sometimes, lead to hardship for graduates seeking admission for master programmes in international universities. Several tests are conducted to ascertain the eligibility for these programmes and in most cases, remedial courses are taken before being admitted.
In furtherance, strike creates stark division and inequality in the society. Those who are rich sent their children abroad for studies, and those that can afford private universities don’t hesitate either. The masses who have nowhere to go, suffer the brunt. Hence, leading to inequality in the country.
In the press conference held by ASUU on 18th, September 2017, the union blamed the incessant strikes on the failure of the government to honour the agreement made between the two parties. This being said, it seem clear that the root cause of strike in our institutions is the negligence of the government towards education. Thus, government being a signatory to the agreement, which is of their own free will, should take on the responsibility of fulfilling them.
Government should adhere to the UNESCO benchmark of budget allocation to the education sector. By so doing, our universities will be sufficiently funded and the quality of education will be improved greatly and strike action may be a thing of history in the Nigerian education sector.
In conclusion, according to Moza bint Nasser, “the right to quality education is, I believe, the perfect path to bridge the gap between cultures and to reconcile various civilizations. Without such right, the value of liberty, justice and equality will have no meaning. Ignorance is by far the biggest danger and threat to humankind.”