Recently, the Academic Staff Union of Universities threatened to embark on another industrial action citing the Federal Government’s refusal to honour the agreement reached with the union. Specifically, the union accused the government of refusing to pay 13 months’ salaries of over 1,000 of its members across the country.
It also frowned on the government’s insistence on the IPPIS. This is actually worrisome considering the length of the last strike and its impact on the education system and the students in particular. One would have hoped or thought this country would not smell strike in our universities for decades. But here we are! That will be unfortunate on the part of the government. I want to be optimistic that the strike will not happen. At least, not so soon. But why is it that the union’s voice is usually thunderous when it is about money?
I want to state categorically that I have always been a supporter of ASUU, nay, ASUU’s fight for quality education. I think that has always been the claim. And this claim has, for long, been the ‘pusher’ for their never-ending strikes. In all of this, students are supposed to be put into consideration. Well, that’s my thought. They are the ‘subjects’ of negotiations at all times. The union has always argued that it is, among others, fighting for good education that will prevent our citizens from ‘rushing to Ghana’. Good intentions!
But everything has appeared to be about the money at the expense of the students. Members of the union, in some universities, do not behave as learned people. Students cannot ask questions and cannot complain. I remember a case of a lecturer I asked a question when I was an undergraduate. I asked, “Sir, I am sorry but I am a bit confused here. What I read in…” He retorted, “Maybe, you know more than I do”. Oh my goodness! I felt embarrassed.
A student of mine who studied in one of the universities in the North recently lamented this worsening situation. He said that a lecturer in his department would always expect that students write exactly in exams what he taught them. Any attempts by them to demonstrate their personal understanding of what they have been taught in class or go outside the scope of the notes given to them would guarantee them lower marks. This risible reality is not only limited to the North; a number of lecturers in different universities are complicit in this. And this is contributory to the dwindling nature of quality education in the country.
How do we explain a situation where a lecturer tells students in the exam hall that, “You would pass this examination only if you could count the strands of hair in my beard”? How do we explain a situation where a lecturer would deliberately decide not to mark some students’ scripts until the results had been released just for the students to come to his office, pick their respective scripts one by one, hand over to him and he would mark the scripts in their presence? How were the results even approved at the departmental, faculty and Senate levels without questioning the missing results of over 200 students? Ridiculous! A friend told me a scene where he met a lecturer at the staircase and he said to him, “I learnt you are the one teaching your colleagues my course. No problem, we will meet in the exam.” Is that a threat?
How do these lecturers feel when a student brings some genuine complaints? They feel challenged if the students ask them questions. It is not a matter of honour to believe you cannot be challenged or corrected even by your Dean or HOD. It is not! That is self-conceit! In one of the universities, the Dean took a course with another lecturer. When the results were released, a particular student ‘failed’ the course. Trusting his ability, the student approached the Dean for a possible remedy. The Dean brought out a paper from his drawer and asked for the student’s matriculation number. He checked and said, “Going by what I have here, you cannot fail that course. Meet Dr….” Feeling happy, the student went straight to meet the said Dr. only to be told, “Who are you to question your results?” “Who is… (he mentioned the Dean’s name) to have asked you to meet me for correction?” He added. And truth be told, the Dean could not do anything about it. It went like that! That makes one wonder who the administrators of these universities are. What is the role of ASUU? Why can’t they instil discipline in their members? It is not uncommon now to see Vice-Chancellors erecting billboards around the campuses celebrating one year or two years in office. That’s the situation!
As if that’s not bad enough, students will travel miles, having booked an appointment with their supervisors, only to arrive to the hearing of “I am sorry I had to travel. I forgot we had an appointment”. A survey around our universities still shows that some lecturers do not attend classes regularly. Some even come to sell products to students. Students cannot complain. Administrators cannot act! ASUU can’t see that!
Students would sit for examinations and for over one year, they would not get the results. And when you eventually release one or two of the courses, they would be marred by omissions of results of more than 50 students. How do you explain that? Students met you about it, and having ascertained that they actually sat the exam through the attendance list, you still asked them to write a letter to the Senate.
Dear ASUU, is everything about money? While many are hard-working, your members too deserve some discipline. They are not gods! They are meant to serve the country through the students. Perhaps, they too underwent the similar dehumanising treatments as students. But must the ugly trend persist?
Ameen Akeem is a doctoral student in Malaysia
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