From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked the National Assembly to immediately enact a law that compels public office holders to send their children to public schools in Nigeria.
The union also hailed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige for demonstrating an uncommon faith in the Nigerian university system by allowing his children school in the country; even as it called on other top government officials to emulate Ngige.
ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke made the commendation at the reconvened meeting with the federal government, being conciliated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, today in Abuja.
He said,“ We hope all others will emulate you and that the government will make it mandatory that if you accept a government appointment, your children must attend universities in the country. The National assembly must formulate a law that if you take an appointment, your children must study here. If you know that your children cannot be here, don’t take government appointments.
Osodeke lamented the decay in the public universities.
“When you hear those in government who send their children to schools abroad say that ASUU goes on strike, they should know that strike is not the problem. The problem is the issues afflicting the universities; nobody is interested in tackling them. Look at the budget we have seen recently, it is exactly the same thing we have been seeing. Nothing has changed .
“And this country is paying the high price for neglecting education- the banditry you see, the kidnapping and what have you, is because people are not being taken care of. That is why ASUU has been struggling so that Nigerian universities will be revamped, so that as our children go outside for learning, other children from other countries will come here too and pay to this country in hard currency.
Earlier in his remarks, Ngige assured that the Federal Government would not abandon the public universities in spite of dwindling resources and reiterated the government’s readiness to work with ASUU and others interested in revamping the educational system.
“ASUU is not asking for things that are impossible. They are not asking that we give them our head or blood. They are interested in getting good working conditions for their members and for the public university system to be conducive for teaching and research.”
Ngige said the government would be happy to concentrate its limited resources in areas that would produce good effects for the country.
“If the private sector can bring excellence to our universities, the government can as well do the same. So, working hand in hand with ASUU as we are currently doing is a model we must keep . We will not be going to war with ASUU all the time. We can do constructive engagement. If there is something that the government can do and it says it can’t , I am here to say no, you can because I am privy to some information.
“So, we will give the public university system a place of pride, so that when the next global assessment is done, we will get more Nigerian universities in the first 1000 in Africa.
“I am a firm believer in the public university system. That is why my children are there. I didn’t send them to private ones. One graduated from Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Awka and my daughter, at UNILAG. My third child will also come out next month from a public university again. I don’t believe that public universities are going to be abandoned. We cannot do so. If we abandon them, the children of not-too privileged or not-too rich will not go anywhere and education is the civilization we need.
“If any group of government workers or public officers will be on the side of public university system, I am the number one. I also attended a public university. I attended University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). I didn’t go to the United States of America when my classmates were going there. so, the government will do its own side, despite lean resources” he said.