By OLUWOLE SOGUNLE
LAGOS- As the nationwide strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) persists, private universities in Lagos have shared their experiences on students’ enrolment for the new academic session.
Recall that the union had, on Feb. 14, embarked on a one-month strike, making several demands on the Federal Government.
The union had gone on strike to protest the non-implementation of an agreement it signed with the Federal Government in 2009.
It said the Federal Government had failed to release the revitalisation funds for public universities and refused to allow the use of the University Transparency Accountability System (UTAS) for their payment.
The striking lecturers want the UTAS for the payment of their salaries and allowances, rather than the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) used by the Federal Government in paying its workers.
They are also unhappy with the inability of government to produce the white paper report on the visitation panel to universities, among other issues.
ASUU rolled over the one-month strike several times until its National Executive Committee (NEC), on Aug. 29, resolved to turn it to a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike.
It claimed that despite dialogue with the Federal Government, most of the demands of the union still remained unattended to.
Dr Elvis Otobo, Deputy Director, Public Relations and Marketing, Caleb University Imota in Ikorodu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the now indefinite strike was worrisome.
On how the strike had impacted enrolment in the private university, he told NAN that over the years, the institution had been recording considerable enrolment.
He said that this was in line with its mandate of teaching, research and community service.
“I will say that the whole issue about strike in the public universities is unfortunate.
“However, we have been on top of our game in terms of deliberate upgrade of infrastructure, moral and academic excellence.
“Coming to enrolment, I will say yes, there is an increase, but I really will not want to attribute that solely the the prolonged ASUU strike.
“We have built capacity, developed infrastructure and have been holding our own not just in Nigeria, but globally.
“Right now, I may not be able to give you the statistics of enrolment, but I think it is quite commendable,” Otobo said.
Mr Samuel Ighalo, Strategy and Communications, Anchor University, Ayobo, Lagos, on his part, said they had over 100 applicants already and were eagerly waiting for them to begin.
Ighalo said that admission for the new session just started last month and the applicants so far received were across all programmes, while admission was still ongoing.
“The programmes include law, nursing, architecture, medical lab science, public health and environmental management, and toxicology.
“About 160 applicants applied last session, while this year, 100 have applied so far, with admission still ongoing.
“Our new session will kick off this September ending, but generally, the strike is also helping us to get new applicants,” he said.
Efforts to get the enrolment pattern in other private universities in the state were unsuccessful.
NAN reports that fees in public universities are generally low, when compared to that of private ones.
Meanwhile, the state-owned Lagos State University(LASU), Ojo, on Monday matriculated 6,377 students for the 2021/2022 Academic Session.
Two other newly-created state-owned universities, Lagos State University of Science and Technology, and the State University of Education are also unaffected by the strike.
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, in Abuja, met with Vice Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors of federal universities toward ending the protracted ASUU strike, which is nearing seven months.
At the end of the meeting, the Federal Government again set up a 14-man committee to look into the grey areas of the ASUU demands.
Mr Ben Goong, the Spokesperson of the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu disclosed this at a press conference at the end of the meeting.
“After enormous two-hours deliberations, the meeting constituted a committee made up of four Pro-Chancellors, five Vice Chancellors and others, to be chaired by the minister of education to further look at the grey areas ASUU is demanding, particularly the areas where there has been no consensus.
“As I speak to you, that committee is meeting and they will proceed to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the outcome of the deliberations of that committee.
“Two basic areas that the committee will be looking at is the ‘no work no pay’ issue and the issue of remuneration of university lecturers,” he said.
On the demand of ASUU to use the UTAS, Goong explained that it was not part of the areas under consideration as government had already set up a committee to fine-tune the two payment platforms including the existing IPPIS.
He said that in few days’ time, the committee would conclude and thereafter meet with President Muhammad Buhari
Meanwhile, students affected by the strike in public universities have also continued to lament the unending industrial action by the lecturers and deadlock in talks with government.
Olaseun Ajiboye,100 level Mass Communication, University of Lagos (UNILAG), said he barely started her first year in school when the disruption started.
He said it was not a good feeling, being at home without knowing when they would resume.
Ajiboye said that he waited for two years before getting the admission and ASUU and federal government decided to add more to the years of waiting.
“This isn’t the best position to be in at all, because, no classes or school activities, and I feel like I’m missing out on university life,” he said.
Olalekan Amusan, 400 level student of Mechanical Engineering, Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH),Ogbomoso, appealed to ASUU to reconsider the students’ delay in education advancements.
“My friends in private universities have left me behind ,we might even stay longer in schooI because we do not know when the strike will be over,” he said
Adedoyin Ishola, 400 level student of Philosophy,Federal University of Technology Akure(FUTA) said the indefinite ASUU strike was depressing.
Ishola said that she was in her final year, about to defend her project, when the union announced the strike.
“ASUU turned my four years to seven years, when I’m not studying medicine; I am currently learning graphics designing.
“I pray God will touch both ASUU and Federal Government’s hearts,” she said.(NAN)