Home Opinion ASUU: Desperation Driven by the Dearth of Decorum

ASUU: Desperation Driven by the Dearth of Decorum

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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Bala Ibrahim

By Bala Ibrahim

The sense, or senselessness of the protracted protest of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, would continue to be the subject of national discourse, until the academics see the importance of reasoning, in accordance with the principles of rationality.

A strike in the education sector, in an educationally backward country, for upwards of six months, by teachers, who, by definition, are supposed to play the role of external parents, not only call for condemnation by all, but ought to be treated with intense disgust, and extreme repugnance.

Education is a human right, a powerful driver of development, and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability. It delivers returns in terms of income and is the most important factor to ensure equality of opportunities.

In the pursuit of the fulfillment of these ambitions, the role of the teachers is not only to give knowledge but to also build character. This means the role of the teacher goes beyond following a particular curriculum but requires a mutually beneficial partnership with the students.

Until recently, there was a such symbiotic relationship between the teachers and the students, to the extent that some teachers almost always, consult the students before taking any decision, including decisions that have bearings on their own future.

In 1979, shortly after the completion of our basic or preliminary studies at the school of basic studies, SBS, ABU, Zaria, and while transiting to the main departments of the university, our principal, the principal of the SBS then, late Dr. Uriah Angulu, assembled us, his immediate past students, in one of the lecture theatres of the school. The mission was to seek our opinions, on an invitation extended to him by the then President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

Shagari had offered Dr. Angulu an ambassadorial appointment, to leave the teaching job and proceed to the United States, as a Consul in the Embassy. But because of the symbiotic, and near umbilical cord connection between the teacher and the students, Angulu said he would not accept the offer unless he gets the approval of his students, with whom he was treated like his blood children. Then, there was no desperation for materialism, nor the dearth of decorum in the teachers’ character.

In introducing the subject, Angulu narrated to us how in 1973, while serving as a principal in a secondary school in Shagari, at a time when Shagari was the commissioner of education in the then northwestern state, the need arose for the establishment of SBS, within the ABU. The aim was to bridge the gap in education and stimulate the admission of northerners into the university.

Out of the belief in his zeal to see that the north catches up, under the educationally less developed state’s program, ELDS, Shagari, as the then commissioner for education, invited him (Dr. Angulu), to take the appointment as the pioneer principal of the SBS.

He objected vehemently initially, because, as a principal in the town of Shagari, he was wielding a lot of influence. He was virtually the second in command, after the district head. But Shagari succeeded in convincing him to leave that job.

Now he said, after about six years in academia, where he is happily dining and wining with those in the business of exchanging knowledge, the same Shagari has called on him again, to leave his newfound love, for the business of diplomacy, in faraway America.

No, he wouldn’t do that, he said, because the relationship between the teacher and the students, matters more to him than that between nations. That was then when there was no desperation for materialism, nor the dearth of decorum in the character of teachers.

The hall went into mayhem, with some students saying NO, NO, and NO, while others, including yours truly, who, out of the naivety of the prestige of the teacher, were saying GO, GO, and please GO. To us then, the eminence of an ambassador was far more than the stature of the teacher. In the end, Angulu succumbed, against his will, he said. That was then when there was no desperation for materialism, nor the dearth of decorum in the character of teachers.

Today, the situation is the reverse, and posterity would mark ASUU, as the architect of that misdemeanor. Respect for teaching and love between teachers and students are heading for the rocks, as a result of the perceived pursuit of material gains, or self-aggrandizement by some teachers. The unending strike by ASUU, alongside the remorseless remarks from the president of the academic union, are combining to portray ASUU as a union of people, with a desperation that is driven by the dearth of decorum.

To register their disgust with such behavior from their teachers, on Thursday, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, joined the train of those condemning the action of ASUU, by calling on the ambition of their teachers, to collect salary arrears for a job not done, as the pursuit of self-interest. According to Sunday Asefon, the president of NANS, the students were in support of ASUU at the beginning, but the current demand made by the lecturers is not only disappointing and frivolous but also showed the pursuit of specific interest.

I know, as a consequence of this debate, the camaraderie that existed between some of my friends in academia and I, is diminishing, and diminishing rapidly. But if the truth must be told, one side is ambushed by the emblem of ego. And that side is ASUU, which is exhibiting desperation, that seems driven by the dearth of decorum.

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