We’re negotiating with ASUU on reopening varsities ― FG

The Federal Government on Monday said it is in full negotiation with the striking members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other stakeholders ahead of plans to reopen universities and all other tertiary institutions in the country.

Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who made this known during the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing, however, said no specific date has been decided on the reopening of universities and strata of educational institutions in Nigeria.

ASUU had been on strike since March 2020 and most parents and students have expressed concern that even schools were reopened, the gates to the institutions might remain shut to students.

He said the Federal Government was already reviewing responses from universities, most of them private, on the level of their compliance to the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines to guarantee the safety of students when they eventually resume.

The Minister appealed to students, who are already being agitated by the prolonged stay at home, and their parents to be patient while modalities for the safe reopening of schools are being put in place by the respective institutions.

Nwajiuba said: “Really there’s been a lot of improvements. However, what we have done and pursuing reopening, we have presented to all the tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

“We are positive that the time is almost around the corner. But we don’t want to bandy around dates but we remain positive and the sooner you can get that the better.

“So I urge our students who have actually excised a lot of patience along with their parents because I know even my own children they are beginning to think they’ve had enough of me and I understand that.

“I urge you to just bear with us a little bit more. We are in full negotiation with ASUU and every player is engaged on how to reopen the schools,” he said.

“You just don’t only look at all the 200 or so universities and colleges of education, polytechnics and a lot of other colleges, Nursing, colleges of the agriculture, and several others nearly over 600 of them,” he said.

He said the government is taken time to scrutinize the preparations and to ensure that there is substantial compliance with the requirements and guidelines earlier issued to the educational institutions before reopening of the schools for all strata of students.

Nwajiuba disclosed that the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, himself, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echono met on Monday to review responses from about 78 universities already.

He said: “Most of them are private universities who are already insistent that they are ready to go and many public universities are not ready yet. From the states owned universities, we have 50/50 response and so we are walking to upscale that and make sure that everybody actually is ready to go.

“When all of this is put in context and back to PTF, with all these eggheads you see here from NCDC and all the various players in the PTF family will then review it so that we can give a go-ahead for reopening of tertiary institutions and other levels of education.”

Balogun Damilola