By Steve Oni, Ilorin
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has advanced reasons why it cautioned government against reopening universities now.
It posited that throwing schools open in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic is an open invitation to tragic explosion of the scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak.
The union asked Nigerians to honestly interrogate its position on schools reopening.
Addressing journalists at ASUU’s Secretariat, University of Ilorin on Wednesday, the Zonal Coordinator, Ibadan zone, Prof. Ade Adejumo, who noted that there have been agitations from some quarters for the government to reopen schools, especially by proprietors of private universities, said that lives of students should not be endangered for pecuniary gains.
“Has the Nigerian government met the NCDC criteria on COVID-19 protocols in our institutions? Must we endanger the lives of our children for pecuniary gains? Should the primary issue on life and death be used on profit matter?
“COVID-19 is still very much with us. It is in recognition of this fact that the government itself has rolled out certain conditions to be met before schools are reopened. How many of our public institutions can confidently vouch for the safety of our children given the available facilities such as provision of running water for hand washing; social distancing among students; the use of recommended face masks and shields, which are key components of NCDC protocols?
” A situation where a room meant for four now houses 20 students cannot be said to be social distancing compliant. Our position, as a responsible Union on all these is that; throwing schools open in the midst of all these, is an open invitation to tragic explosion of the COVID-19 scourge on a scale never witnessed anywhere since its outbreak! When this happens, Nigerians will not say that they were never warned”, Adejumo said.
The zonal coordinator emphasised that members of the union would not resume work should government reopen universities, saying, “our strike action which was predicated on government’s readiness to honour its MoUs with us continues, even if the universities are opened today. It is our responsibility to call government’s attention to its duties to the nation and its citizens; this we have done and there is no going back.
“In spite of the government’s attempt to blackmail ASUU for going on strike while coronavirus ravages the nation, it is instructive to put it on record that, the strike at that point in time was the most patriotic and pragmatic action for the union to embark on. One would have thought that the government would use the opportunity of the lockdown to address the issues in contention with ASUU.
“Surprisingly, the government was carrying on as if the problems no longer exist. As we speak, the government has not called ASUU for discussion.Nigerians should note that IPPIS, though not part of our initial charter of demands, has been elevated to the status of the main issue by the government. Even at that, the union has met the government’s challenge for ASUU to develop an alternative platform that will take care of the peculiarities of the university system.
“To this end, we have developed and presented UTAS well ahead of the 18 months period that we promised while still addressing the problem of corruption as being touted by the government. This platform which is more comprehensive and robust than IPPIS was developed by our team of experts completely using our resources.
“This is another indication that speaks to the ability of Nigerian academics to further solve societal problems if given the requisite funding and enabling environment. Our final word on the ongoing action is that even if our universities are re-opened today with our demands still unattended to, the government should be blamed if our members refuse to resume work.”
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