To solve the financial crisis of the university system, we need alternative sources of financing

After months of painful idleness, discomfort and waste, there are indications that the three-month-old strike launched by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will soon be called off. Labor and Employment Minister Chris Ngige sounded optimistic last week after the negotiating team reached satisfactory agreements. The parties, comprising the President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the Chairman of the Inter-Religious Council of Nigeria, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar 111 of Sokoto, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Sampson Ayokunle as well as ministers of labour, finance and education. Also present at the session were ASUU leaders and other stakeholders.

The intervention may have been prompted by ASUU’s three-month extension of its previous three-month strike. The bleak outlook that campuses would remain closed for another 12 weeks had sparked protests among students across the country. In some states, students have resorted to blocking major roads and highways leading to traffic jams, with others swearing they will disrupt political processes leading up to the 2023 general election. Their actions have been further fueled by the rapid response from the federal government to the threat from the Air Operators of Nigeria (AON) which avoided the suspension of domestic flights in the country.

Meanwhile, the crisis between ASUU and the federal government has been going on for several decades. These range from warning strikes lasting a few days to large-scale industrial action lasting more than half a year. The current “renewed” strike, like the previous ones, was triggered by the government’s failure to respect the renegotiated 2020 agreement. The demands relate to the improvement of working conditions in the university system: financing the of public universities, payment of acquired academic allowances, deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) against the government’s IPPIS, among others. But even if the federal government decides to respond to these immediate demands and universities resume, the problem will soon resurface. Yet education is too important to be administered in fits and starts. We need a lasting solution, especially on the issue of funding.

To solve the perpetual financial crisis of the university system so that our graduates can compete globally in the world of knowledge, we must look at other sources of funding. For example, as we have suggested many times on this page, financial aid for poor-but-bright students might come in the form of scholarships and scholarships, but the idea of ​​free higher education for all is no longer realistic. For the sector to attract quality academic and non-academic staff, provide the necessary teaching aids, and ensure a conducive learning environment for students, some people have to bear the cost.

In most countries where education is taken seriously, universities are exploring several ways to raise funds for their operations, without any attempt to reinvent the wheel. Common pathways include donations, endowments, professional chairs, gifts, grants, and advisory services. Although some of our universities may be embarking on these measures, they need to step up their performance. More importantly, the administrators of these universities must also manage their resources prudently and transparently. A situation in which the wives of vice-chancellors behave like the wives of politicians, traveling abroad at public expense for questionable programs, is both irresponsible and inadmissible.

All in all, we understand what ASUU stands for, even when we disagree with their method. The state of many Nigerian university campuses today is rather pathetic. Their weak financial conditions are exacerbated by the current crippling economic crisis plaguing the nation. Yet, in addition to personnel costs, funds are needed to rehabilitate dilapidated facilities, purchase consumables and research capacity. But meeting the challenge of tight cash requires more than seasonal strikes by academic and non-academic staff, while the federal government and authorities in all 36 states must also understand the primacy of constant dialogue. It is especially important for them to take university funding more seriously while working to ensure industrial peace in the education sector.


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