By Yusufu Musa
Watching Prof. Ibrahim Maqari’s outburst the other day made it difficult to respond to several inquiries. One of these is whether solving all the problems ASUU is bringing home will fundamentally alter the perception of the higher education system and transform our universities into those we hear about in Europe and North America.
On February 14, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) announced the start of a four-week roll-over strike that has since been extended three times. However, the issues brought up by Prof. Maqari are not ones that ASUU is examining. Instead, the union is concerned about the subpar working circumstances of its members, the proliferation of institutions, and the appalling physical and technological facilities of public universities.
Maqari alienated his old coworkers by criticizing them. He accused them of working only three to four hours a week, failing to undertake significant research, and engaging in academic fraud to further their careers. Unfortunately, I lack the means to substantiate his broad assertion because intellectual property theft is a severe legal matter. Thankfully, the targets have responded to him with detailed arguments.
I’m arguing in support of his assertion that lecturers should do the duties for which they are compensated, such as quality research and teaching if they want to be paid like Harvard professors who put in long hours. Because when a lecturer declines to instruct, the pupils suffer as a result.
I believe the next battle is one that students should win on their own. There is an internal conflict at the university. University students, who are primarily young people, can ensure that lecturers are held accountable. Still, they don’t always seem to reject the behaviour of some instructors, about whom ASUU appears unconcerned despite the proverb that “charity begins at home.”
ASUU is fighting its own battle but never agrees there are bad elements in the university system that should be fished out.
The allegorical story Animal Farm by George Orwell struck a chord with me because of how the author captured the naivety of the oppressed in the figure of Boxer. Napoleon never fails, according to Boxer. This is a ball of fire that allows himself to be fooled. In actuality, he is the manor farm’s strongest animal.
Since then, critics have said Boxer represents the Soviet Union’s working class under Stalin’s rule. Members of this group contributed to Stalin’s rise to power. What took place in the end? Boxer became so weak that he was used and dumped. He believed the “thing with two legs” to be his enemy and agreed to help destroy the farm’s owner, only for his persuaders to grow more oppressive.
Consider Nigerian students to be Boxers because they believe ASUU is always right.
While it is true that Nigeria is not working, we are all equally to blame. We understand the system rather well because we are students at the institution.
Prof. Maqari revealed the other side of the story, but ASUU was not pleased. ASUU is bringing the gospel to the government house even though they also require it.
According to Qur’an 2:44: “Despite reading the Book, do you preach holiness but fail to uphold it yourself? Why don’t you understand?”
Through a lecturer, I learned that someone had proposed in one of his university’s senate sessions that professors be required to periodically take an exam so that administration may determine if they are still “professing.” The contributor worried that his colleagues would stop performing research once they received the title. For fear of the professors leaving for other universities, his recommendation was flatly denied.
When they notice that a promotion exercise is getting closer, some professors realize they need to compose a paper. When they do, no one will read the pieces they publish in a departmental journal. The articles are created for promotion rather than to contribute to the scientific community.
I recently visited a department head in one college of education. I noticed some journals on her bookcase. I told her I wanted to submit an article for their upcoming issue. Try to guess what the HoD said. She said that the journal was only released during every promotion season.
Government investment in universities may not change much because some teachers’ unethical behaviour is not being monitored. Even worse, individuals who should be watching for such unethical behaviour believe they are always right. According to them, only the government and students engage in destructive behaviour. Who will then stand up for students?
Students should reject any proposal to restructure the university system without establishing a framework to monitor the behaviour of the teachers. The battle for a functional university system goes beyond having lovely lecture halls, modern labs, and libraries.
Junior academics, resentful of their seniors, do most of the work. Because they are overseeing their PG dissertations, they treat them like slaves.
Even in the classes these powerful lecturers teach, the juniors are tasked with grading the written assignments. A junior lecturer would be seen grading papers for eight courses.
Most of our professors would visit the classroom once or twice during our time at the institution to launch a course and hand it off to a junior scholar. Some of them never even tried to educate us. Due to their inflated sense of importance, they are too big to instruct undergraduates. They were seldom ever seen in the departments. Because their mentors don’t have time, graduate students spend years researching at the institution.
Students must understand that nobody would stand up for them. The government may revitalize institutions and increase funds for higher education, but who has the right to oversee professors’ negligence?
Nigerian young, unlike Boxer, are aware of their power, which they used during the EndSARS rally. The youth must speak up and demand changes in education and other areas of national policy that will affect their future. Some of these teachers have our support despite doing nothing. The strike will finish. We’ll return to the classroom, but will the ASUU police its members there as well?
Yusufu Musa writes from Kaduna and can be reached via email@example.com.
Leave a Reply