Founder and Chancellor of the Afe Babalola University, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN), Ado Ekiti has praised the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for resisiting Federal Government’s move to re-open universities for academic activities after about five months of closure following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, citing lack of necessary facilities, equipment and decayed infrastructure as his reasons.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 recently rolled out guidelines for resumption of schools.
Babalola said the pandemic had vindicated the ASUU’s position that public universities were not safe for resumption as most of them could not comply with the PTF’s guidelines due to lack of proper funding.
Babalola stated that the laid down conditions have exposed the unpreparedness of public universities in the areas of infrastructures, underfunding, inefficiency and corruption which ASUU had documented and published.
“These inadequacies and neglect by those managing the nation’s public universities forced ASUU to go on strike and are still on strike long before the universities were closed down,” he said.
In a statement he personally signed, the erudite lawyer argued that what obtains in public universities were in sharp contrast with what obtains in private universities, most of which, according to him, were reputed for their moral and physical discipline, quality and functional education, hygienic and safe environment, predictable academic calendar, absence of unionism, committed teachers, modern teaching equipment and laboratories as well as adequate preparation to prevent COVID-19.
He, therefore, called on the National Universities Commission (NUC), Ministry of Education and PTF to advise the Federal Government not to lump public and private universities together when considering whether or not to allow varsities reopen because the private varsities were ready.
“To ascertain their readiness to reopen for academic works, many of the private universities have written to the NUC to come and verify their claims of compliance with the PTF guidelines,” he added.
He lamented that Nigerian youths have been idle for over five months, a development he said was not in the best interest of the nation, considering the fact that education is a necessity since it is the panacea to lack, ignorance, diseases and all forms of extremism.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to dialogue with ASUU to resolve the lingering problem, even as he called for an immediate cancellation of the N186 billion slated to feed school children when schools are closed and the children are with their parents.
“Instead, the N186 billion earmarked for the feeding should be used to support public institutions to purchase testing machines such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine, face masks, sanitizers and serological test machines. These safety measures will enable the public higher institutions to re-open because the hygienic status of their campuses would have been guaranteed.
“Government should also negotiate with the ASUU, pay their salaries and equip the various public universities with a view to making them safe for reopening.”
Babalola equally called on the Federal Government to comply with UNESCO’s recommendation that each nation should devote 26 percent of its annual budget to education.