The founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Afe Babalola, SAN has described the current strike action of Academic Staff Union of Universities as “understandable” given the current level of poor infrastructure, underfunding, inefficiency and corruption in public universities across the country.
Babalola made his position known in a statement titled “COVID-19: ASUU vindicated on objection to resumption by public universities’ made available in Ado Ekiti on Sunday, he said “From available facts on the ground, COVID-19 has undeniably vindicated ASUU’s position, protests and grievances over the years about lack of necessary facilities, equipment, and decayed infrastructure.
“This is in sharp contrast to what obtains in private universities most of which are reputed for their moral and physical discipline, quality and functional education, hygienic and safe environment, predictable academic calendar, absence of unionism, committed teachers, modern teaching equipment and laboratories as well as adequate preparation to prevent COVID-19.”
He said most private institutions had indicated their preparedness to resume academic activities and this had been communicated to the National Universities Commission (NUC), the body charged with statutory responsibilities over Nigerian universities.
He said, “I suggest that the NUC, Ministry of Education and Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 should advise the Federal Government on the danger of lumping public and private universities together when considering whether or not to allow universities to reopen.
“Many of the private universities have full residential facilities for both their staff and students. This makes it possible for teachers in private universities to mentor and monitor their students day and night. Some private universities even have lectures in the night while some have state-of-the-art teaching hospitals and well equipped medical centres.”
He said even though he was never an ASUU-apologist, due to their penchant for incessant strike actions, he, however, charged both the Federal Government and state governments on the need to improve the level of funding for public universities to make them attractive like their private counterparts.
“Government should adequately fund education so that teachers can be well paid while infrastructure, teaching aids, and research grants will be readily available for them. It is trite to note that no nation develops without a sound educational system and the foundation is really not in primary school. It is the university level education because it is the university that trains other levels.
“It is the university that provides the manpower for other levels of education and that is why you must concentrate efforts on university education. If you don’t do that, other levels of education will suffer and that is what has been happening in Nigeria.”