Students across the various States of the Nigerian Federation in the past few months has been seen visibly making their voices heard as they continually appease the Federal Government of Nigeria to re-open the locked Tertiary institutions across the nation. The students who have been intentional and emphatic about their demands from the Federal Government went as far as staging a peaceful protest weeks ago in order to plead their case with the Federal Government and all other necessary stakeholders in the nation’s educational sector.
The decision to lock the various educational institutions across the thirty-six states of the Nigerian Federation was necessitated following the outbreak of the novel virus, corona virus, a deadly virus which broke out late last year in Wuhan China, which after its spread across the nations of the world was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The outbreak of the virus saw to the death of many across the nations of the world as death in thousands were recorded while health officials were able to save thousands from the grasp of the virus.
However the outbreak of the virus and its way of spreading from one person to the other made the World Health Organization put in place various health laws which will not have only see to it that the spread of the virus is curtailed but to ensure that lives are saved.
Some of these laws placed by the World Health Organization necessitated the urgency for the Federal Government of Nigeria to shut down with immediate effect all its educational institutions right from the primary school level to the Tertiary institution level.
As a result of the lockdown thousands of Nigerian students have been made to sit back at home while the Federal Government and all other involving stakeholders find an alternative to restoring normalcy to human engagements as they hope in earnest that a cure is found to put an end to the virus which will fast track their return back to their various schools to resume academic activities in their bid to cover up for the lost time which had been lost as a result of the lockdown and social distancing laws enacted by the World Health Organization.
As the cases and reports of the raging virus has began to drop across nations of the World, world has began to prepare for a post Covid-19 realities as nations of the world has already began putting in several infrastructure, health reforms, economic reforms and other initiative and policies to help their respective populace to adjust to the new realities which has been caused by the outbreak of the virus.
While Certain classes across the Nigerian Primary and Secondary schools levels has resumed back for school activities in a bid to help then participate in national exams, the re-opening of churches across the Federation although with strict health guidelines and surveillance, and also with the resumption of economic activities such as market re-opening, the re-opening of the aviation industry, inter-state movement among many other activities, the agitation of the Nigerian students to have its institutions re-opened has been on the increase, with many stating that if all other sectors has been given the full permission to resume their activities nothing should stop the Federal Government to re-open back its educational institutions across the nation. Adding that it is a blatant denial of the students’ rights as they have lost vital time which could have been used for effective learning in their various academic institutions across the nation.
In the light of this, the Federal Government of Nigeria has directed its Universities to start preparing for resumption in line with the Covid-19 safety protocol. While this may seem as a glint of hope for the various Nigerian students who have been held down at home for so long, the Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in response to the statement from the Federal Government of Nigeria has stated that Nigerian Universities at the moment are not ready for the re-opening of its schools.
While the union gave certain reasons as being responsible for this, the union also explained that the Federal Government of Nigeria is yet to remit the check-off dues from its members under the Integrated Personnel and Payroll information System (IPPIS) for the last four months.
This was revealed by the Coordinator of the Lagos Zone of ASUU, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, at the mini campus of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. According to Prof. Olusiji Sowande,it would be a terrible mistake for Universities across the Federation to return back to school for academic activities in an environment without the adequate structure and facilities that will help it’s students staffs to observe safe physical and social distancing in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also added that hostels’ accommodation was inadequate for students.
The Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also stated that there’s no solid step and measures which has been taken by the Federal Government of Nigeria in any of the Nigerian tertiary institution to safeguard the health of their members and also that of the Nigerian Students should the universities return back to operation as stipulated by the NUC.
Olusiji revealed this to newsmen in the presence of other executive members of the association, Dr Adebayi Oni of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Dr Joel Okewale from OOU,Issac Oyewumi from the Lagos State University,Dele Ashiru from the University of Lagos and Tunji Ettu from Tai Solarin University of Education TASUED.
It would be also recalled that the Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on months long industrial strike over the imposition of the IPPIS payment schedule put in place by the federal government among other demands. Addressing the newsmen regarding the IPPIS deductions, he blamed the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for its inability to remit the deductions from the salaries of its members who were made to be enrolled to the platform against their wish.
As the war between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities continues to linger on while the Nigerian Students are made to sit back at home because of this and the closure of its universities because of the outbreak of the lockdown.
It’s pertinent for both sides to understand the need to tread the path of peace and productive dialogue in order to ensure that its students return back to school. While the Federal Government must look into the demands of ASUU regarding its salary scheme it must also ensure that there’s adequate structure and facilities for its students to resume back to school. Pushing them to resume back to school without adequate measures and infrastructure would only lead to an unfortunate situation which must be at all cost avoided by the both sides.
By Marcus Amudipe