-Hello Ngige for sending her children to Nigerian public schools.
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – The Union of Academic Staff of Universities, ASUU, has called on the National Assembly to enact a law that will require public office holders to send their children to public schools across the country.
ASUU also commended Minister of Labor and Employment Senator Chris Ngige for showing unusual faith in the university system by sending his children to public schools in Nigeria.
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Speaking at the resumed meeting with the Federal Government, conciliatory by the Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Ngige in Abuja, the President of ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke congratulated the Minister on his confidence in Nigerian public schools.
He said the minister’s commitment to the growth and development of the country’s education system should be emulated by other ministers.
According to him, “I hope that other ministers will follow the same approach as you. I think you are the only minister whose children are in the country. We see others alongside their children outside the country during graduation. But, we saw you standing next to one of your children who graduated in Lagos, proudly.
“We hope that everyone else will emulate you and that the government will make it mandatory that if you accept a government appointment, your children must attend universities across the country.
“The National Assembly must formulate a law according to which if you make an appointment, your children must study here. If you know your kids can’t be here, don’t make an appointment with the government.
Osodeke lamented the decline of public universities.
“When you hear members of the government who send their children to schools abroad say that the ASUU is on strike, they should know that the strike is not the problem. The problem is that the problems that plague universities; no one is interested in addressing them. Look at the budget that we have seen recently, it is the same thing that we have seen. Nothing has changed.
“And this country is paying a high price for neglecting education, the banditry you see, kidnappings and everything you have is because people are not being taken care of. This is why ASUU fought for Nigerian universities to be reorganized so that when our children come out to learn, other children from other countries will come here too and pay this country in hard currency.
Earlier in his remarks, Ngige assured that the federal government would not abandon public universities despite the dwindling resources and reiterated the government’s willingness to work with ASUU and others interested in overhauling the education system.
He said, “ASUU is not asking for impossible things. They don’t ask us to give them our heads or our blood. They want to obtain good working conditions for their members and for the public university system to be conducive to teaching and research.
Ngige said the government would be happy to focus its limited resources on areas that would produce good effects for the country.
“If the private sector can bring excellence to our universities, so can the government. So, working hand in hand with ASUU as we are doing now is a model that we must keep. We won’t go to war with ASUU all the time. We can make a constructive engagement. If there is something the government can do that says it can’t, I’m here to say no, you can because I’m aware of certain information.
“Thus, we will give pride of place to the public university system, so that in the next global assessment, we will have more Nigerian universities in the top 1000 in Africa.”
“I firmly believe in the public university system. That’s why my kids are here. I did not send them to private individuals. One graduated from Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Awka, and my daughter, from UNILAG. My third child may also be graduating from a public university next month.
“I don’t believe public universities are going to be abandoned. We cannot do it. If we abandon them, the children of not too privileged or not too rich will go nowhere and education is the civilization we need.
“If a group of civil servants or public officials sides with the public university system, I am number one. I also attended a public university. I attended the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). I did not go to the United States of America when my classmates were there. thus, the government will do its part, despite meager resources.
“Some of us are in government. We are not the ministers of education, but we can influence things. We sit on the same FEC. So I want to make sure you are in good hands. If we continue in this way, we will make further progress and restore confidence in the university system.
The meeting was in progress at the time of tabling of this report.