The Olabisi Onabanjo University Chapter of ASUU held a peaceful protest on Monday, 17th March, 2014 to alert the public to their plight and to take a decision. They have not been paid their salaries and they are expected to go to work in the midst of the fuel scarcity/hike. They decided that since they’ve not been paid, they should not be expected to come to work.
Now students and parents are screaming blue murder. We’ve just come from a 7-month strike and we’re embarking on yet another strike? And all the ASUU jokes began to flood social media space again. You see, these are the kind of youths we have today. We would make jokes about the strike, abuse ASUU for striking again, ‘bind’ every demon that doesn’t want us to graduate and go for service with Batch A, and then sit at home grumbling and flinging blames wondering why ‘these ASUU people’ can’t make ‘sacrifices’ and keep on working without pay.
We have a confused definition of sacrifice and a disturbing concept of patriotism. The university is not a non-profit venture; it’s an institution that rakes in money and whose maintenance and running is the responsibility of the government. The lecturers that work at the university are not volunteers for a charitable organisation; they are people who have an agreement with the school that they will get paid for services rendered. If their employers are now defaulting on existing agreement, should the employees continue working for free because they want to be ‘patriotic’? Have they no kids of their own that must go to school? Have they no family that looks up to them for survival? Have they no responsibilities within the society?
Look, we must perish the thought that some people must make sacrifices on our behalf. Even if ASUU doesn’t go on strike, the very thought that our lecturers have to teach us without pay should upset us. What kind of knowledge do we expect them to give us in that state? The likes of Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye and Yinka Gbadebo have made themselves perpetual advocates and supporters of government’s actions when it comes to ASUU, always asking why ASUU cannot evolve new ways of getting their rights from government without involving students. We have asked them to suggest alternative methods but they have always come up empty. We will always be victims as long as we continue to carry a distorted picture of sacrifice in our heads.
The alternative left for us is to join our voices with ASUU’s to demand prompt payment of salaries and better working conditions with the understanding that better working conditions for our lecturers mean better learning environment for us. If we will not learn from anything, let us learn from the recent NIS disaster. If the myriad of unemployed youths that trooped into the stadia had been told to come out for protest against the high rate of unemployment in the country and government’s insensitivity, we wouldn’t have seen 1000 people, yet over 80,000 people turned up in the different locations across the country.
There are no two ways about it, there’s nothing like “both parties should iron out their differences”; the only solution is for government to live up to their responsibilities and stop taking education with loose hands and putting it at the bottom of their priority list. The sad thing is that the same students that are victims of government’s irresponsibility will be the same ones running around supporting APC when the same APC’s Governor Amosun finds it easier to obtain loans to build bridges than to get loans and source for funds to pay lecturers’ salaries. The same students that are victims will be the same people running after PDP and chanting “Goodluck Jonathan for 2015” when the same President Jonathan is more concerned about spending money on National Conference, Centenary celebrations, travelling round the country to welcome defectors and saving up money that should be used to develop the nation in preparation for 2015. The same students that are victims will refuse to call their political office holders to order but think it’s their own lecturers that are rightfully demanding for payment for services rendered that deserve to be abused.
The bottom line is this; we are victims and will always be victims until we get it right. The student population must realise that only a unity of the oppressed can break the stranglehold of the oppressor. No worker deserves to work without pay. We must prevail on government to pay our lecturers and provide them with better working environment because it is only then that we’ll be taught the best and have a better learning environment.
Olabisi Onabanjo University