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Strike within strike, the dilemma of OAU, Ile-Ife students

Even before ASUU national warning strike started, lecturers under the auspices of the union at the Obafemi Awolowo had declared an indefinite strike over Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) which they disagreed to share with members of Congress of University Academics (CONUA) who had refused to go on strike. This has led to a situation where some faculties till date enjoy academic progress while others under ASUU shut down all teachings. Students are at a dilemma what their fate will be at the end of this fight of giants

ASUU STRIKE IN OAU

Long before the nationwide declaration of a one-month warning strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14, 2022, there had been an ongoing indefinite strike by the Union’s chapter at the Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU), which started on January 30 and has now spanned for over a month, affecting only students and faculties/departments whose lecturers are under ASUU. Interestingly however, the cause of strike for ASUU OAU, differs from that of the general ASUU body. The main purpose of this article is to discuss the cause of strike as well as its effects on the affected OAU students.

In OAU, there are two academic associations which lecturers may choose to belong to, namely; ASUU and the Congress of University Academics(CONUA), which is a faction that broke out from ASUU some years ago. While ASUU lecturers are known for their combative methods of making their demands, lecturers who belong to the CONUA faction have always been more considerate of the students’ plight and are therefore usually available to hold lectures.

As has been the norm for ASUU when their demands are delayed or not met, the OAU ASUU faction equally followed suit and issued a circular on January 31st 2022, declaring an indefinite strike over the unpaid allowance by the university authority. Following the release, ASUU lecturers in the University have gone on protest walks, singing songs of protest to express their agitation against the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, and have ultimately stopped holding lectures in their faculties and departments. 

Furthermore, ASUU’s National President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, insisted that the primary reason for the indefinite and total strike of the OAU ASUU branch, is over the management’s failure to follow laid down template for the disbursement of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA). He went on to blame the Vice Chancellor for the strike, stating that the declaration of strike due to the unpaid EAA was caused by the VC, and not the Federal Government. According to Osodeke, only lecturers who have done excess work are entitled to EAA and they are paid based on the volume of work done, thus, the VC’s decision to involve CONUA which he summarily described as an “illegal trade union”, in the disbursement of the EAA funds, is tantamount to proposing a fresh template to calculate the allowance each lecturer should get, therefore unacceptable. 

Despite the Union’s stance, the University management led by the VC, has failed to acknowledge the strike, as is evident from a statement released by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the University, Abiodun Olanrewaju, where he urged parents not to panic over the action, saying that it was taken by only a section of the lecturers. The statement read: 

“The attention of the Management of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, has been drawn to a circular issued by a section of the academic staff, ASUU, calling on its members to go on strike, beginning from Monday, January 31, 2022. The University management is using this medium to inform the general public, particularly our students, their parents or guardians, that the overwhelming majority of the academic staff in OAU are not on strike nor do they have the intention of going on any strike action. Lectures are ongoing and students are being attended to by lecturers in their respective departments. Given the foregoing, parents, guardians, alumni and friends of the University are assured of an uninterrupted academic calendar, as our students are advised to go about their normal academic activities because there is no cause for concern or alarm…”

The implication of this scenario, is that since the ASUU strike began officially in OAU, there has been a division into departments where lecturers have been holding classes, faculties/departments where lecturers haven’t been holding lectures, and those that have a combination of both.

To a large extent, students in Science related departments like Microbiology, Pharmacy and Biochemistry, have been having their classes as normal, owing to the fact that the lecturers in their departments are under CONUA, and are therefore not on strike. However, other departments like Accounting, Chemical Engineering and especially the Faculty of Law, have barely held any classes since the indefinite strike began. The situation has been so serious in the Faculty of Law, that even the Dean of the faculty, Prof. Adedeji reportedly stated that the ‘he is on strike, just like majority of the lecturers in the faculty of Law, and that even though the Calendar is running, it will be adjusted because there cannot be exams without 13 weeks of lectures, according to the OAU rules/constitution.”

Based on the present circumstances, students on OAU campus have indirectly been divided into three categories; the ‘Active, the Non-Active and the Semi-Active”, based on the activeness or otherwise of the lecturers in their departments and faculties. For most students who fall under the “non-active” category, the state of things has been very confusing, as they have mostly been unsure of how the strike would affect them and if the school’s calendar would be prolonged in order to enable them actually be able to have classes with their lecturers, like their fellow students in departments whose lecturers have been holding classes, regardless of the Strike; it is even worse that the school management has remained mute and not yet deemed it fit to properly address this crucial situation. 

Thus, while other students in active departments and faculties have been having their classes run smoothly and have even started their tests, the “non-active” students have been forced to rely on and teach themselves the courses for the semester, owing to the fact that there still hasn’t been a clear indication or statement from the school management to confirm that the semester’s calendar would be extended in order to make up for the lost lecture periods, and they definitely would not want to be caught unprepared for their exams. 

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