Nigeria's Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on a nationwide strike for over 40 days, crippling learning in all state and federal owned universities in the country. ASUU declared an indefinite strike on July 2 over issues including non-payment of allowances. The crisis has exposed the decadence in the country's public education sector which has been attributed to the government's inability to rectify the issues that have plagued it for over two decades.
LAGOS, NIGERIA (REUTERS) - Psychology student Azubuike Chima is keeping up with his reading while a six-week strike by university lecturers across Nigeria cripples learning in government owned higher institutions across the country.
But the 23-year-old is worried that time lost as the strike persists will be impossible to recover.
"It has actually affected me in the sense that you are now living in a circle, when you wake up, instead of preparing for lectures, instead of preparing for the days academic work, you are only thinking of how to do your house chores, you know, so, it's been bad, I'd like to put it that way, you know, it's been very bad," Chima said.
Nigerian university lecturers have been in a long running dispute with the government over allowances, arrears and funding for the revamping of varsity education in Africa's second biggest economy.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) accuses Nigeria's government of failing to implement a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties.
Universities have been shut since July 2, leaving millions of students out of lecture rooms at a time when they were just two weeks away from sitting their second semester examinations.
The government says it has no "resources" to meet the lecturers' demands.
Ibrahim Usman Yakasai, spokesman for the government's National Universities Commission says ASUU's needs are insatiable.
"They wanted autonomy, they were given autonomy, they wanted increase in salary, that was given and some other allowances. This one is called earned allowances that is what they are fighting for and you see you have to earn it, you have to earn something to get it," said Yakasai.
"If you are a lecturer are you not supposed to... What is your job? You are supposed to lecture and examine the students but they get paid for examining the students," he added.
ASUU says it is also fighting for the revamp of Nigeria's education sector and an increase in the annual budget allocation to schooling.
Decades of corruption and inadequate funding have left Nigeria's education sector in crisis. In 20 years, ASUU has gone on strike eight times.
"Revitalization of the universities system in terms of infrastructure, laboratories, library and addressing the issue of brain drain both external and internal; external in the sense that we don't want our members to be going outside the country for lectureship and academic jobs, internal in the sense that we want the very best to be retained in the system," said Karo Obinaka, ASUU chairman for the University of Lagos.
Hundreds of students recently took to the streets of Nigeria's commercial capital,Lagos to protest the government's refusal to meet ASUU's demands, causing traffic to come to a stand still for several hours.
The protests were organised by the Joint Action Front, in support of ASUU's decision.
"If we can show government that education is not just about the lecturers and the students but every other Nigerian. If we can drum that into the ears of government, then government will take education much more seriously and accord it its proper place in Nigeria and once they accord education its proper place, the issue of incessant strikes by ASUU, by lecturers and so on will be a thing of the past, so that's what we intend to achieve," he said.
"When this thing started, we believed that ASUU has started again but when we had a closer look to their demands, we know that this thing has to do with proper funding of education and the demand that can make our education system to attain the globally competitive educational system so our faith is that we believe that without pain there is no gain, all we need is to mount pressure on the federal government of Nigeria to properly fund education because that is the only thing they owe Nigerians and that is when the other sectors in the country can have those that are capable to manage them," the Adeyemo Socrates, a a student leader.
President, Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday (August 18) approved the release of 400 billion naira for the infrastructural development of Nigerian universities in transforming them to international standards.
A meeting is currently being held and hopes are high that ASUU if satisfied with the recent development will put an end to the strike.