Why we embarked on strike during coronavirus crisis – ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities says it ordered its members, who are lecturers across universities, to embark on strike during the coronavirus pandemic because there would never be a time approved for such an action.

The President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, on Tuesday, also inaugurated ASUU COVID-19 intervention in an effort to sensitise the public and check the spread of the dreaded virus at the University of Ibadan.

The intervention materials, produced by the UI branch of ASUU, comprised about 1,000 100ml of hand sanitisers. The programme included sensitisation campaign, via jingles in Pidgin and English languages; posters in three languages and hand gloves.

Ogunyemi, who was represented on the occasion by the coordinator of ASUU,  UI zone, Prof. Ade Adejumo, said, “We cannot confront the challenge by bemoaning our fate. What is expected is that we join forces to do what China and other well-organised societies have done to flatten the curve.

“ASUU acknowledges that public information, education and communication are key. To demonstrate our concerns for the welfare and well-being of the Nigerian people, ASUU members nationwide shall be willing to work with medical and paramedical workers as volunteers in their public enlightenment and professional intervention initiatives.

“All branches shall explore areas of strategic collaboration with federal, state and local governments to provide support in terms of information and expert skills drawn from our members across the nation. For us in ASUU, this is not an occasion for blame game or buck passing. However, it calls for sober reflection on what we need to do differently with our health and education.”

Ogunyemi said the coronavirus crisis had exposed the country’s “naked and empty teaching hospitals” which justified its industrial action to demand revitalisation funds for public universities.

He, however, said the union would be willing to serve as volunteers nationwide in the coronavirus crisis to work with the medical and paramedical workers involved in tackling the scourge.

He said, “With qualitative and accessible university education, we can guarantee a storehouse of knowledge in scientists, doctors, nurses, laboratory technologists and other medical and paramedical personnel for coping with a global pandemic such as COVID-19. But it appears our universities have no place in the current efforts of government.

“See, for instance, how naked and empty our teaching hospitals turned out to be when threatened by the early wave of COVID-19. Yet, these are laboratories established to produce medical and paramedical personnel for our country.”

The Chairman, ASUU, UI, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, said despite being owed two months’ salary, the union would not abandon its people.

He said the intervention materials would be distributed to the University College Hospital, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the university health centre and the Oyo State Ministry of Health.

Akinwole said, “It is not surprising that our health facilities were not equipped and staffed to respond to emergencies such as the Coronavirus pandemic. All kits donated by Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma Foundation, must be distributed to medical centres to conduct more tests.

“ASUU has always argued against the underfunding of education and health. Nigerians should demand that government must release funds to public hospitals to scale up their response to the disease. This can be done through provision of funding for laboratories in Nigerian universities to mass-produce hand sanitisers, face masks and oxygen plants.”

<<Punch>>