Students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, and their counterparts at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, yesterday took to the highways, stopping vehicular movements in protest against the protracted strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
While the OAU students barricaded the Ife-Ibadan expressway, students of the University of Nigeria, shutdown the Nsukka-Opi-Enugu.
Consequently, travellers remained stranded as the blockade caused traffic snarls.
The OAU students, who converged on their campus gate very early yesterday morning, marched down to the major highway, which connects commuters travelling from Ife to Ibadan and vice versa.
The students, who converged under the aegis of Fund Education Coalition, vowed to continue the protests till their demand of addressing issues raised by ASUU and reopening universities was met by the Federal Government.
The students held placards bearing inscriptions such “Fund Education Now”, “Education is not a Scam” among others, as they chanted “End ASUU Strike.”
They equally proceeded to a major roundabout, the popular OUI roundabout at Oduduwa University, Ipetumodu.
The students were joined by some concerned members of the public.
In Enugu, students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, and officials of NANS, shutdown Nsukka-Opi-Enugu Road demanding immediate end to the strike embarked upon by ASUU.
The visibly angry students, who turned out in their hundreds, accused the Federal Government and ASUU of toying with their future, threatening that they would cripple economic and political activities nationwide, if the strike was not called off.
The students, who said they were tired of staying idle at home, urged politicians to inject the huge sums of money used in purchasing nomination forms into resolving the impasse between ASUU and Federal Government.
They said that the national chairman of NANS, Sunday Asefon, had given a directive, which authorised the student body to block all major South-East roads from next week.
Speaking during the protest, which took off from UNN main gate, National Director of Contact and Mobilisation, NANS, Ben Okana, said: “Our message is very clear. Let the Federal Government reach an agreement with ASUU.
‘’We are going to shutdown the entire nation if the ASUU strike is not called off. Our next target is Aso Rock. We will make sure Aso Rock is crippled so that the President himself will feel the impact of what we are doing on the streets,” he said.
Consider students’ plight, call off strike, Buhari begs ASUU
But reacting to the strike, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the ASUU to consider the plight of students and call off the ongoing strike.
The president also urged students in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as the government strives to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.
He made the appeal at the 19th National Productivity Day and the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, for their high productivity, hard work, and excellence.
This was contained in a statement by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, entitled, ‘At National Productivity Day Awards, President Buhari appeals to ASUU to call off strike’.
Buhari recalled that he had earlier directed the Chief of Staff, Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and, in fact all other university-based labour unions.
On the theme of this year’s celebration, “Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System,” the President pledged that the Federal Government would continue to do everything possible to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country.
He added that his administration recognised that the future of any nation was contingent on the standard of its educational system.
“Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority.,’’ he said.
Highlighting notable achievements in the education sector, including the drastic reduction of the number of out-of-school children from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, automatic employment for graduates of education, review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, among others, the President said more still needed to be done.
He said: “Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens. Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.
“It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.
“Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system.’