Kingsley Moghalu: Prolonged ASUU strike infringement on Nigerians’ right to education/ Moghalu

A former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, has tackled the federal government over the prolonged strike by the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) describing the development as an infringement on Nigerians’ right to education.

ASUU had declared an indefinite strike in March over federal government’s failure to address its demands. The strike is already over eight months with no end seemingly in sight.

In a statement on Wednesday, Moghalu slammed the federal government for allowing the strike to drag for so long, noting that the development signals its insensitivity to the well-being Nigerians.

The statement read: “For eight months now, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike. The prolonged strike constitutes a serious infringement on the right of Nigerians, especially the youth, to education. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education is a fundamental human right for everyone.

“Nigeria has had too many ASUU strikes for any meaningful university education system. But the current strike has simply gone on for too long. Whereas industrial actions are legitimate, they become dysfunctional when they become protracted.

“That the government has allowed the current ASUU strike to continue for many months, by not reaching agreement with the lecturers, is very unfortunate. It amounts to a dereliction of the duty of the government to the wellbeing of the citizens. This strike has inflicted mental torture on university students, who are left to wonder when they will complete their programmes.

“Sadly, the ASUU strike falls into an established pattern. The government has not given due attention to education. The country has been underinvesting in education for years and is far behind its comparator developing countries and emerging economies in terms of public investment in education. For instance, the allocation to education as a percentage of Nigerian government’s total expenditures averaged just 7.7% between 2015 and 2020. In comparison, South Africa’s budgetary allocation to education was consistently above 18% in the same period, rising above 20% in 2020, according to data by the World Bank.

“At a time that the government was negotiating with ASUU over pay – even if the payment platform has dominated the negotiation – it submitted the 2021 Appropriation Bill in which only 5.6% of the total public expenditures was allocated to education. This indicates that the government is not giving enough considerations to the major issue in its long history of dispute with ASUU. The main issue has been the funding of the tertiary institutions, of which the emoluments of the lecturers are just a part.

“The ASUU strike now needs to end. To demonstrate commitment to adequate funding of education, the government needs to withdraw the 2021 Appropriation Bill and increase its allocation to education to at least 15%. This is a necessary first step to signal the wider reforms that are necessary to reposition the country’s education system.

“But it is not enough to throw money at problems. Education in Niheria needs comprehensive reform. Such reform must include: 1. Review of tertiary institution admission criteria and standards, balancing access to education with quality of education; 2. Curriculum review to ensure priority for science, technology, vocational skills and entrepreneurship; 3. Review of educational pedagogy; 4. Massive investments in learning equipment and other educational infrastructure; 5. Fundamental improvement of teacher pay (part of the subject of the ASUU strike); 6. Fundamental overhaul and strengthening of the regulation and regulatory oversight of the education sector; 7. Restoration of the CULTURE of education as a priority value system for Nigeria.”