The President commended private university owners.
President Goodluck Jonathan, while commissioning the Engineering College of Afe Babalola University (ABUA), a private institution in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, on Saturday, appealed to striking public university lecturers to call off their four-month old industrial action and resume classes.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have been on strike since July 1following the failure of Federal Government to fulfill agreements reached with the lecturers in 2009.
The President, who was the guest of honour at ABUA’s first convocation ceremony, urged the Union to reconsider their stand, pointing out that if all labour unions/groups embarked on industrial action as a way of getting their demands met, the country would be grounded.
He also stated that he understood the issues raised by ASUU over the state of the country’s universities. “They are being fixed but they cannot be fixed over night,” he noted.
”Even in the developed world, there are still labour issues and the struggle is fought with compassion. If the military, the air force and every other labour group in the country embarked on strike to demand solution to problems, then we would not have the Nigeria of our dreams.
”I appeal and I appeal again and again that ASUU should go back to the classroom and not jeopardise the lives of our children,” the president said.
Mr. Jonathan, who noted that ABUA’s first convocation ceremony was coming just three and a half years after the school opened, stated that this was possible because the private institution had designed a model which compressed its academic calendar, including summer classes that allowed students to conclude four to five year courses in less than three years.
”Some students are finishing their degrees in three and a half years while some are locked out of classrooms for almost a semester and would be spending over five years to get the same degree,” lamented the President in condemnation of the striking lecturers
Cutting the tape to commission ABUA’s Engineering complex, Mr. Jonathan, who was once a lecturer at a public institution, appealed to the best graduating students, to quickly get their PhD and join the academia, joking, ”I hope you won’t be going on strike.”
He urged the 103 graduates to embody character with the degree they have earned.
Mr. Jonathan thanked ABUA’s founder, Afe Babalola, for establishing the private university, saying, ”I commend Aare Babalola and others for establishing private universities in Nigeria, because they have helped the nation’s educational system.”
As the President moved from the podium where he delivered his speech to the Engineering complex, the event compere called out, “We advise the President to inform his cabinet that the school’s (ABUA) admission process is still open for all entry students.”
ABUA is one of dozens of private universities across Nigeria whose tuition fees cannot be afforded by a majority of Nigerians.