Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The founder Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) of allegedly blocking the reopening of universities despite the federal government’s good disposition for resumption.
Specifically, Babalola hinged the non-resumption of final year students in Nigerian Universities like those in Primary Six, JSS III and SSS III to likely objection that could emanate from ASUU.
The federal government on Friday, March 20, 2020 ordered a blanket closure of all educational institutions in the country with effect from March 23, 2020 to curtail the spread of the deadly COVID-19.
However, in its wisdom, the federal government on Monday, 29, 2020 directed final year students in Secondary Schools to resume and take their final year examinations, leaving out the final year students in the Universities.
In a statement yesterday in Ado Ekiti , Ekiti State capital, on the prolonged closure of private universities in Nigeria, Babalola said he was not disappointed because he knew the reason why the government left out the final year students of universities
“That the federal government was aware that if it directed final year students of public universities to resume, the almighty ASUU would object and in this case, ASUU has objected”.
Having a reminiscence of his seven-year experience as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council at the University of Lagos, in relation to “Almightiness” of ASUU, Babalola said: “Before I took over at UNILAG, even Council meetings could not take place unless ASUU and other unions had been appeased or else such council meetings would not be allowed to hold. It was a serious matter at that time, but I successfully managed that”.
Babalola added: “Interestingly, it was a parent who alerted me that the federal government has directed final year students in secondary schools to resume and take their final year examinations. He told me that he was shocked and disappointed that the final year students in universities were left out.
“There are three categories of parents in this country today: the very rich parents who could send their children overseas in spite of the high cost; the average Nigerians who cannot afford to send their children overseas but who can afford to send their children to good private universities where the fee is less than one-third of what is paid overseas; and the poor parents who send their children to public schools even though they are aware of the inadequacies”.
Babalola stressed that the federal government was wrong by not insulating private universities from undue closure, stressing that “the future of this country with regards to quality and functional education lies with private universities.
“Most private universities are reputed for their moral and physical discipline, quality and functional education, hygienic and safe environment, predictable academic calendar, absence of trade unionism, committed teachers, modern teaching equipment and laboratories, and adequate preparation to prevent COVID-19.
“Indeed, no private university teacher would object to resumption of schools. Already, in the private universities of Nigeria, an Ivy League similar to that in America is emerging, to me, the top ranking private universities should be the mirror or the template for resumption of students because of the hygienic, safe environment and the undoubted discipline amongst students and teachers”.
He therefore advised the federal government not leave public and private universities while the President Task Force on COVID-19 should together visit the private universities directly or through their agent.
Babalola argued that the federal government should treat education as a necessary social service like PHCN where strike actions are forbidden.