The founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Chief Afe Babalola, on Sunday urged the Federal Government to negotiate with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), with a view to paying their salaries and equipping public universities to make them safe for reopening.
Babalola, in a statement titled, ‘COVID-19: ASUU vindicated on objection to resumption by public universities’ and made available in Ado Ekiti, 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.”
He said private universities had expressed readiness to reopen, noting that many public institutions are not ready to resume.
The legal luminary, who said COVID-19 has “exposed the unpreparedness of public universities in the areas of poor infrastructures, underfunding, inefficiency and corruption which ASUU had documented and published,” addes that although he was not a fan of ASUU in view of its penchant for strike actions, the lecturers’ body was on an “understandable strike” this time.
“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.
Babalola said the private institutions had reiterated their readiness to reopen and had as well written to the National Universities Commission (NUC) to verify their claims of compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines.
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.”
The ABUAD founder charged the Federal Government and indeed their state counterparts on the need “to concentrate on the provision of the necessary equipment and infrastructure to make the public institutions 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,” Babalola added.