ASUU strike: The untold new media story By ’Sola Fagorusi

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike for 56 days. It translates that public universities students across the country have had to put the noble quest for knowledge within the four walls of a university on hold. As an undergraduate, I once had a rare privilege to be at one of ASUU’s meetings and what I took away from the experience was the quality blend of arguments and counter arguments on the issues discussed.

It’s safe to say that the body had rightly put the issues that triggered her latest strike under a high resolution intellectual microscope before instructing her membership to embark on strike when it did on 1st of July this year. What is largely missing is the fulsome information about the details of the strike on the website of the body.

Like a few others, I have tried engaging a number of students who are the victims-in-chief of the on-going strike on what the bone of contentions are; the offers and explanations are varied. I am not sure of why the website of the body has been on break in the midst of an on-going strike with several meetings, discussions and decision being made. I am certain that whoever monitors the back end of that site would have noticed a rise in the volume of hits on the site. And this is for a single reason – people are hungry for information.

In a new media age, it is assumed that a Google search or a simple search on a site like ASUU’s would give all the necessary information and timeline of this present strike and other strikes since this is not the first time that ASUU would be embarking on a strike on similar grounds. Like other Nigerians, what I have heard repeatedly is that this strike is about a renege on the 2009 agreement. No social media class or discussion would leave out the fact that information sharing and detailing is easier at this time given the diverse platforms allowing for same.

Unlike what one would have expected, especially since ASUU’s demand is also about demand for infrastructural upgrade in the universities, there has been apathy on the part of students to dutifully engage the public and government in support of a request which will majorly benefit them. But this will not happen when the information is scanty and the issues seem esoteric. Thanks to the traditional press coverage, those who seek to know find what they can.

The existence of a website by the body at www.asuunigeria.org is commendable. It however leaves much to be desired when the latest information on the site is about the 2011 strike which ASUU embarked on following a meeting from Tuesday November 29, to Thursday December 1, 2011 at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

ASUU’s Facebook page (if it’s the official one) however appears to have more on it that the site though there is no plug-in to it from the official website address. With a 20,476 following on its Facebook page, the site seems pretty active even if the last update was on the July 27, saying,  “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our students of tomorrow. We must move forward.” Its post on July 1, when the strike was declared,  got the kind of attention one would expect on such page with 260 likes, 579 comments and 547 shares.

As lecturers to students who practically breathe social media, it is perhaps high time ASUU also took its social media engagements serious. Compared to its Anglophone neighbour, Ghana’s University Teachers’ Association of Ghana. ASUU’s effort is a giant leap. The Ghanaian umbrella body for academics in public universities also embarked on a strike on August 1st. With no website of social media presence to show for it, anyone attempting a chronology or analysis will solely have to depend on newspaper sources for information.

 The Ministry of Education,  which is responsible in Nigeria for formulating a national policy on education and also with a mandate to collect and collate data for purposes of educational planning and financing also has no website — except for a link on the official government’s site,  detailing the curriculum vitae of the Minister of Education, Professor Rukkayat Rufai,  and the minister of State, Barrister Wike Nyesom.

For a ministry with 21 agencies and departments under it, it should offer more than this. It is on platforms like theirs that researchers should find information about the number of students in public and private Nigerian universities. It is on their sites that opportunities for Nigerian students, including scholarships,  should be readily accessible. It is on their site that outstanding thesis abstracts should be found and also the allocations and budget of such a key ministry.

But then, the students’ umbrella body, the National Association of Nigerian Students, which one would have expected to be a good example in social media deployment for educational use,  is a far departure. The official site of the group at www.nans.edu.ng has had its hosting suspended. The Facebook page also has a paltry 4137 likes,  with the last post being that of September 5, 2011.  But then, this is not the NANS of Segun Okeowo, Olusegun Mayeigun, Lanre Arogundade, Chima Ubani and other principled comrades. The last time NANS had a semblance of decency was possibly when Daniel Onjeh was president. One can only imagine the mobilisation that a group like NANS under these previous leaderships would have robustly deployed social media for in the face of the present strike.

The welfare of students would have been a concern. In an age where several internship opportunities and vocational skills now abound, NANS would have put up information on how students across the country can link up with various platforms, including non-profits, to explore them, rather than risiking the attendant consequence of being idle.

There would also be great understanding of the issues behind the strike with the use of infographs on ASUU’s site and other social media space. Infograhics are a quick solution to enable data visualisation and possibly also a solution to the information overload coming from the knowledge that there has been various ASUU strikes. It is also more engaging and people love to share it. This is what ASUU also do asides its justified demand of billions of earned, merited allowances and infrastructure upgrade. It owes the public this responsibility.

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In the beginning...Let there be Light http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japheth_J._Omojuwa

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