Against the backdrop of the abysmal global rating of Nigerian universities due to alleged neglect and poor funding, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked the National Assembly to initiate a law that makes it mandatory for the public office holders to send their children to public schools in Nigeria.
But the union hailed Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige for being one of the few public office holders sending their children to Nigerian public schools.
ASUU President , Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, made the position known at the reconvened meeting with the federal government, being conciliated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, today in Abuja.
Osodeke lamented the decay in the public universities.
“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 appointment.
“When you hear those in government who send their children to schools abroad say that ASUU go on strike , they should know that strike is not the problem.”
The problem are that 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,” he said.
Osodeke said the country is paying the high price for neglecting education, adding that the current spate of banditry and kidnapping in the country 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,” he said.
Commending Ngige for sending his children to the public universities, the ASUU president said his commitment to the growth and development of the country’s educational system should be emulated by other ministers.
He said: “I hope other ministers will follow the same step as you. I think you are the only minister whose children are in the country. We see others standing by their children outside the country during graduation. But, we saw you standing by one of your children who graduated in Lagos, proudly.
Earlier in his remarks, Ngige assured them that the federal government would not abandon the public universities in spite dwindling resources and reiterated 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 condition for their members and for the public university system to be conducive for teaching and research.”
Ngige said Government would be happy to concentrate its limited resources in areas that would produce good effect for the country.
“If the private sector can bring excellence to our universities, government can as well do 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 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 pride of place, so that when next global assessment is done, we will get more Nigerian universities in the first 1000 in Africa,” he said.
Ngige said that he is a firm believer in the public university system and that this was why his children are there.
“I didn’t send them to private ones. One graduated from Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Awka and my daughter, at UNILAG,” he said.
The meeting with ASUU was still ongoing as at the time of filling the report.