University teachers in Nigeria are on strike over demands for better pay and work conditions. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the strike typifies growing disenchantment within the Nigerian education system.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, also known as ASUU, says the Nigerian government has failed to implement an accord reached with the union in 2001.

The union says it is protesting the poor state of the education system, which has compelled many university teachers to leave for better opportunities.

The strike was called days after talks with the government broke down.

The protesting teachers say they may consider resuming talks provided the government is willing to discuss proposals submitted by ASUU.

Abdullahi Sule-Kano, is president of ASUU. "Our national executive council met and decided to declare a strike, and of course write to the government team that if it is sincere and they want a resolution of this problem, let them give an offer," he said. 

"Let them respond to our proposals, that we are going to do this and this to address the problem of brain drain, we are going to do this and this to address the problem of rot in the system, we will come back to the negotiating table," he added.

Nigeria's universities, like most public institutions in Nigeria, have suffered from years of neglect.

Class sizes are often in the hundreds even in the face of a dwindling teaching staff. Motivation is low, as many students say they believe only those who can afford to pay bribes to teachers end up with high marks.

Okey Ikechukwu, a senior official at the education ministry, says the government is keen to resume discussions on chronic problems in the sector with the striking teachers.

"There will have to be a breakthrough," he said. "This is about the children of Nigeria, it is about their future. There will be a resolution, no question about that. Discussions are going on at informal levels between the two bodies."

There are more than 40 universities in Nigeria, owned by federal and state governments.