Varsity Lecturers’ Union, ASUU Should Declare Indefinite Strike As Nigerian Universities Are Poultries — Sowore
Human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, has charged the Academic Staff Union of Universities not to relent in its pursuit for an improved educational system in Nigeria.
He spoke recently during a discussion on ‘The role of students in rescuing public education’ organised by the Take It Back Movement on the microblogging platform, Twitter.
Sowore also said Nigerian students should wake up to their responsibilities of rescuing the nation’s educational system from collapsing.
The activist said education in Nigeria would have been worse than the extant system if students in the past had not challenged several anomalies.
He said: “The struggle for Nigeria’s independence was started by students — students who were abroad then and when Nigerian Universities began to pop up, students were at the vanguard of the struggle against the colonial masters.
“Today, students have been reduced to second fiddle in their affairs and affairs of the nation. I am a testimony to the power of students’ unionism; it was during our time that the more powerful military regime in this country was disgraced and eventually driven out of power even though we don’t get much credit for it.
“I recall how during our time at the University of Lagos, about 1992 and 1993, when the government was even more hostile to ASUU, ASUU had a conference at the University of Lagos, and at that time, UNILAG ASUU was very weak; I heard they’re better now and the DSS (Department of State Services) surrounded the building and wanted to abduct and detain the ASUU leaders. It was UNILAG students that came and ensured that all the ASUU members were free and the DSS officials eventually ran away. Today it is the same DSS that must confirm and verify the status of anyone who wants to become NANS president, even SUG leaders.
“If ASUU hasn’t been around, I don’t think there will be any public university in Nigeria. In the late 80s, when we were arriving at the university, there was a major struggle in the country, that World Bank insisted that there were too many universities in Nigeria that they wanted them to shut down. It was ASUU and NANS that fought hand in hand to ensure that the World Bank did not have its way.
“Today we have plenty more universities but universities without education, and anyone who has travelled outside maybe to Ghana will tell you how universities look like; what we have here are poultries.
“No one should ask why ASUU is going on strike. I think ASUU should go on permanent strike until they become what could be regarded as universities. I taught in a private university with 4,000 students in New York City only for some eight years as an adjunct professor (part-time lecturer). I cannot believe the resources available to students. Universities are about students.
“If you go to any university in the US, the most important building on campus is the student life centre, they invest in it. Companies also donate for them. In my class, every student had (17 students maximum, class size) access to a 5D camera anytime they want it because it was a visual arts school, they were entitled to an Apple laptop. If you want to buy an Apple laptop, the university has an arrangement with an Apple store on campus that subsidizes it. If you’re paying $1,500 for an Apple laptop, if it’s on campus, you don’t pay more than $800, that’s for people who value education.”
Sowore lamented the fact that students’ unionism is losing its relevance in several schools. He called on students to support ASUU so as to have a good educational system in the country.
He added: “Step out and fight this evil system that is doing this to you. If education is well funded in Nigeria, we will have the best classrooms, but it’s the same youths that if someone like me says when I become President, I will pay you N100, 000 as study allowance per semester, it is the same students that will insult me that my proposal is not realistic. They have been brainwashed to the extent that they believe Nigerian students cannot enjoy the country’s resources, they defend their own slavery.
“How much is N100, 000 for a student to study for a semester? It’s not even enough for some people to buy recharge cards for their children in this Abuja, neither is it enough for some people to feed their dogs.
“When I went to the US for my master’s, the night I went to accept my admission, even though I was not a US citizen, by the time I finished filling the form, I had about $10,000 in my account from grants, etc., some I didn’t even apply for.
“I got enough money to rent a house, buy a car and make sure that what I went to do was what I got to do, not be a student and be selling yam, not be a prostitute.
“It’s a crime against humanity not to pay attention to education at all levels. Those who tell you they can’t pay N100,000 to students for a semester are spending N14,000 to feed prisoners per day. The statistics are not from me but from the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs.
“Understand that you have a historical duty to fix the educational sector the way ASUU is doing. Support ASUU 150% and ASUU should support the wider struggle for a better country. ASUU cannot be neutral during elections. You announce election results and after two months you say you want to go on strike.”
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