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Why Kwara, Osun varsities ‘thrive’ despite ASUU strike

As stakeholders continue to lament the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its negative impact on the education sector, state…

As stakeholders continue to lament the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its negative impact on the education sector, state universities in Kwara and Osun have continued to “thrive”, raising questions about how that has been made possible. Daily Trust on Sunday reports.

For many students and educationists who are not in sync with the decision of the ASUU to continue to use strike as a means of weapon against the federal government, the state universities of Kwara and Osun readily come as a reference point.

Despite the ASUU strike already entering the six month, after the lecturers downtooled in February, the two tertiary institutions have continued to run.

To keep the system afloat, the universities rely on subvention from the government, loans and other programmes and ventures to boost their internally generated revenues (IGR). 

However, Daily Trust on Sunday observed that the scenarios in the two institutions in terms of funding are quite different.

While some Nigerians have hailed the model adopted by the KWASU to sustain itself without subvention, the decision has been condemned by others for its negative impact on the quest for quality education in the country.

A student of Microbiology in KWASU, Prince Tobi Adenle, expressed mixed feelings over the situation. According to him, “I see it as a nice thing not to waste time at home and complete my course in time. But I also feel sad about my colleagues at home who are on strike. So, it’s mixed feelings for me,” he added. 

Speaking on the issue, the chairman of the KWASU chapter of ASUU, Dr Salu Shehu, said the present system is not sustainable and called on the government to reconsider the zero-allocation decision.

Dr Shehu, said the university just joined the mainstream of ASUU because the past administration failed to generate viable unionism on campus. 

“Now, 90 per cent of the structures we have on campus are from either Tetfund or Needs Assessment which are initiatives of ASUU and they must approve it. 

“Before the last VC left, the fund in this instance had accrued to N1.3bn and I had to sign before the money was released, which is being used for construction of structures on campus now since the state government is not forthcoming. We have a peculiar situation in KWASU and that is the issue of no subvention for years, we only survive on IGR. 

Kwasu entrance

 

KWASU’s self sustaining method

According to the ASUU chairman, “We have been surviving through the IGR and loan from banks with 2 digits interest rate. 

“During Prof Na’Allah’s administration, emphasis was on loan and each time we borrow N1bn, we pay N300m as interest. But this VC was able to negotiate it down and also got the assistance of the governor. This time around, when we borrow N1bn, we pay N120m interest.

“And beside that, we take up many other programmes just to keep the school afloat like “Top Up” and other ventures. I must tell you some lecturers work on Saturdays, because without such efforts, just the IGR won’t be able to pay our salaries. Everybody had to rise to the expectations and engage themselves in so many programmes of the university.

“No university can survive without subvention, why must universities survive on just loans. LAUTECH in Ogbomoso, one of our neighbours, gets N295m on a monthly basis from the government and they’re agitating for it to be raised to N410m. We discussed it during our last meeting.

“We are only pleading to the government to resume subvention, we’re not confrontational,” he added. 

He said without subvention, “We’ll keep compromising the standard of education in the universities and be forced to take more students in order to get more money without considering the quality of education.”

On his part, the acting chairperson of ASUU, University of Osun State (Uniosun), Dr Wende Olaosebikan, said the branch is not on strike because of the suspension from the national body which makes it ineligible to participate in any national activity declared by ASUU.  

Dr Wende said the body understands that the government is subventing the university monthly on a 60-40 formula in favour of the government which is not enough. 

“In fact, this is a very sad scenario. This is like sharing your responsibility with others which is not enough and the state government should increase and adequately fund the university which is located on six campuses across the state in different towns which make overhead cost very high. Uniosun should be adequately funded; that is the message of ASUU that governors should stop creating state universities as constituency projects without funding them.

On sources of funding, Dr Wende said “All Nigeria universities now rely on Tetfund and Needs Assessment which is the revitalisation fund ASUU is asking for to provide structures and run the universities.

“We don’t run programmes like Top Up here. The chunk of the fund is from the tetfund and needs assessment, then lecturers that attract grants.

Vice Chancellor of KWASU, Prof Mohammed Akanbi (SAN), and his Uniosun counterpart, Prof Clement Adebooye, refused to respond to text messages and calls seeking their responses on the issue.

The latter even requested our correspondent to send a text message but failed to reply to it before the filing of this report.

But KWASU management in a statement signed by the Registrar of the institution, Dr (Mrs) Wasilat Sallee, while reacting to the position of its ASUU chapter of funding, said “The university, since inception, has enjoyed the support and goodwill of its proprietor, the Kwara State Government, which has undertaken many capital projects.

“Recently, the government under the able leadership of Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq committed huge funds to the completion of the Osi and Ilesa Baruba campuses of the university. The university has also been assured of intervention funds once the dwindling finances of the government improves. The university appreciates all these gestures of the Kwara State government and will continue to support the efforts of the government in positioning it for local and international competitiveness,” the statement added.

A top member of Uniosun who preferred not to be named told Daily Trust on Sunday that “The university has always been receiving subvention and operates with three funding model initiated by the VC.

“There is a model that is solely operated by the university and 100 per cent funded. The second one is 50-50 with the state government while the third one 60-40 ratio.

“We also have our water factory, block making and bread industry and we are currently working on a new bakery. There are also proceeds from tuition among others.

“We also receive most of our funding through donors by sending proposal to series of people. Our Chancellor, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, for instance, is providing a facility that is worth millions of dollars and also our council chairman gave us a hostel in the campus. Da Rocha is part of our benefactors and he bequeathed over N58m to the university. There are series of people we also consult that are supporting us in addition to TETFUND,” the source added.

Efforts to speak with the Supervising Commissioner for Tertiary Education in Kwara State, Ibrahim Suleiman, and the State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs Funke Egbemode, on the issue were not successful as they failed to pick several calls made to them.