Cosmas Omegoh, Henry Okonkwo, Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu, Paul Osuyi, Asaba, Obinna Odogwu, Awka, Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja, Rose Ejembi, Makurdi and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Hundreds of students in tertiary institutions across the country are currently seething with anger. Some are sulking in their respective closets, claiming they have genuine reasons to be sad – that they have been at home for a long while – some for an upward of four months simply idling away. Their nemeses are the ongoing strike embarked upon by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the vicious effects of the rampaging Coronavirus pandemic.
The students are vexed that they are tired of sitting at home. And there seems to be no hope of returning to their respective institutions to continue with life and their studies in the near future. They are unsure when the current wind of COVID-19 crisis will cease to blow. For them, this pandemic has come to stay. And the best thing now is to learn to live with it, while figuring out ingenious ways of moving on and sustaining the battle against the scourge.
In the light of the ongoing, a cross section of the students wants the Federal Government to settle its scores with ASUU. The students were emphatic that the Federal and state governments should re-open schools closed down in the early days when the COVID-19 pandemic swept down from hell. They want life on the campuses to begin to bubble again. In the interim, some wished they were engaged in virtual learning. But that seems like a pipe dream for now. Now, it is easy to understand why their anger is boiling over – why amid the raging COVID-19 crisis, they want to be back to school.
COVID-19/ASUU crises bad blow to our studies
In Anambra, students who spoke to Sunday Sun did not hide their displeasure following the disruption of the academic calendar and the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Master’s degree student in the Department of Political Science, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam campus, Mr Ndedigwe Chukwudum, said that the disruption of the academic calendar by COVID-19 pandemic and ASUU strike had impacted negatively on him.
“I don’t feel happy about the whole thing, especially the ASUU warning strike that started in the month of February which stretched to 24th of March.
“Within the same period, the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced. We couldn’t go back to school because everybody was told to stay back at home.
“I don’t feel happy at all as a student. We were about to start our first semester exam before the COVID-19 started.
A final year Law student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Chinasa Okpala, lamented: “We don’t even know when we are going to resume school. Whenever we hear that ASUU is going on strike, we have our hearts in our hands because we don’t know when they are going to call it off.
“I am in final year, but I cannot even say with certainty that I am going to graduate this year and go to law school next year. Nothing is clear any more. It is just like I am living in an empty state; I am not really sure of my future any more.”
In Delta State, the Senate President of the National Association of Delta State Students (NADESSTU, Mr Odogwu Hyascent Ugochi, a Political Science student of Ambrose Alli University (AAU) Ekpoma in Edo State, described the disruption of academic calendar as “a big blow to the sensibilities of every Nigerian student,” adding that the development was least expected.
“Students would be made to spend extra year in school because of this delay and disruption in the academic calendar.
“The implication of this is that, they will have to pay for extra year when they return to school. Final year students will no longer be graduating at the stipulated time.”
Odogwu recalled that AAU was about to commence its mid-semester examination when the disruption occurred, lamenting that “we have been home for more than two months now without any hope of resumption.”
Odogwu’s counterpart, Godwin Saturday, who is the president of NADESSTU, said he felt “very sad, depressed and apoplectic” since his colleagues at Cross River State University of Technology, Calabar, were about writing their first semester examination.
Also, Adama Sokoato Patience, of the Department of History, Benue State University, is livid that the disruption of academic calendar by the combined effects of ASUU strike and COVID-19 had not been helpful to many students, especially those who were about to start or had even started their examinations.
“I was left with three papers for my year second semester when we were asked to go home till further notice. Then we later were told that there would be lockdown in states because of the COVID-19.
“This has brought frustration to many students, especially me, I have to still be reading for my three papers left when I am supposed to be talking about going to the third year.”
Gideon Etere, a student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, described the ongoing disruption to their academic calendar as an unpleasant development, lamenting that he was yet to write his first semester examination when the disruption occurred.
He said, “the uncertainty of resumption has put students’ dreams and plans in confusion.”
In Kogi State, the story is not different. Speaking to our correspondent, Ojo Momodu, a 200- level student of the Department of Geography at the Federal University, Lokoja, lamented that the students were about to commence their first semester exams early in April when the school was closed down on March 27 due to COVID-19.
At Kogi State University, Ayingba, the students were said to be writing their semester tests in preparation for the first semester exams when the school was closed down.
From Enugu State, our correspondent reports that Igwe Faith Ifechukwu, a 300-level Medical Radiography and Radiological Sciences student of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) said that “the effect of the crises is really bad because it has disrupted the academic calendar.”
Another student of UNN, Amana Sharo Umola, also bared her mind on the matter, saying: “It’s been over 100 days since lectures ceased in institutions; I sincerely feel bad.”
Also in Enugu State, Agu Noble, a 100-level student of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), said: “The truth is that I feel very sad about the development because the school is not just only a place of learning, it is also a place to socialise. Staying at home also has had its own effect on us students because reading without direction and focus has a way of making one bored.”
Also expressing disappointment was Mpama Star Chioma, a final year Music student of UNN. She said: “I must say that the ASUU strike and COVID-19 have indeed brought nothing, but a huge disruption to our academic pursuit.
“I should have been talking about rounding off my university education in August/September. Now, due to what has happened, I don’t see that happening this year.
“This alone is a psychological issue that traumatizes everyone; when someone is not in a good state of mind academically, they will not be able to do their best educationally. I just hope that whatever is going on now comes to an end as soon as possible.”
We are tired of sitting at home
Speaking to our correspondent in Lokoja, Miss Theresa Ololade, a 300-level Mass Communication student of Kogi State University, said that the students are tired of staying at home following the closure of the schools by the government and ASUU. She said this had greatly increased the rate of prostitution and crime among students
Also, Gerald Oduigwe, a first year student of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) lamented that the shutdown of schools had been devastating. “We are already in June,” he said, “the challenge has disrupted our academic calendar life; for instance, now, we are supposed to be in our second semester, but because of the pandemic, we are at home; we have not even done anything in our first semester, let alone exams.”
According to Hannah Iroegbu, a Computer Science student of Abia State University (ABSU), staying away from school for too long could make students score poor grades when they return to school.
“I feel worried about our fate whenever school resumes. I fear we might be told to repeat our various classes, or we might be rushed into writing our exams even when we aren’t ready for it. Now, I feel that my intellect is really diminishing.”
But we have to be alive first
Oduigwe thinks life is worth more than gold, positing that it is more important by far. “With the report we are getting now, it is obvious COVID-19 infection numbers are spiraling. I think life is more precious. What is the essence of dying at?
“If it is not possible to reopen schools, let us remain at home till the pandemic is over,” he submitted
Re-open schools now
But contending that schools should be reopened, Ndedigwe said: “There is a need for the students to go back to school. Government should design guidelines and precautionary measures to be adopted ahead of schools reopening.
“In some countries where the COVID-19 wreaked more havoc, students have started school. So, there is a need for us to go back to school.”
Noble from Enugu stated that “the truth is that COVID-19 is not giving signs of ending soon; economic activities will not continue to be on lockdown; life must continue. We have to accept that COVID-19 has come to stay; it is better for schools to reopen than staying at home indefinitely.”
On his part, Odogwu said: “I think the government should put every measure in place to tackle these irregularities and abnormalities (ASUU/COVID-19 crises).
“Government should re-open schools because leaving them closed is just like playing with the future of our students and also the future of the country and society at large.
Similarly, Mr. Saturday urged the Federal Government re-open schools “and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs),” to the students, advocating that “hand washing materials and sanitisers should be made available at the entrance gates.”
Suggesting the way forward, both Momodu and Ololade in Kogi urged the Federal Government to re-open the schools and compel the authorities to follow the NCDC guidelines while issues with ASUU should be amicably resolved.
Adekoya Adegoke Afolabi, a 300-level Political Science student of Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State, equally wants the Federal Government to re-open schools.
He contended that “the global pandemic just like ASUU has come to stay; therefore, the government has to find a way of continuing the academic sector and not stagnate it. COVID-19 and ASUU strike should not bring the academic sector in Nigeria to an end.”
Mpama Chioma argued, “let the schools resume. We will take precautionary measures – get hand sanitisers, facemasks and observe other protocols; I want us to go back to school.”
Let’s have staggered resumption
Etere is advocating gradual resumption. He wants “online lessons for theoretical courses where materials are made available to the students and afterwards submitted for reviews.
“Also a fraction of the students should resume in batches to undertake practical classes as well as exams.
“Even if you say schools should start today, there will still be a lot of problems. The effect on students is really hard because most students in this situation will find it very difficult to read.
“Many students abandoned their books for farm work; some went into various businesses just to make ends meet because we know the effect the Coronavirus has on the economy.”
On her part, Faith lamented that her class was on its first semester hoping to begin exams about three weeks before the ASUU strike that initially forced them home before the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Students’ fears after resumption
Igwe Faith Ifechukwu is unsure of what might happen when schools eventually resume. Therefore, she called on the government and schools to find a way to take the advantage of online classes as the COVID-19 pandemic is not abating.
“Considering the country we are in, I don’t think our government has enough to offer for us to return to school.
“Even when schools resume, they cannot maintain social distancing; in my school for instance, we are about 245 in a classroom that is as small as anything, so I don’t think going back to school is an option now considering the reason that the virus is still here.”
Amana Sharo Umola said: “I feel really anxious about how it would be when we resume. We might go straight into exams.
“As long as the ASUU strike is still on, most lecturers would not attend to students, so the most important thing is for ASUU matter to be resolved. When that is done, online learning could be introduced in all tertiary institutions . But for now, the best way to stay safe from COVID-19 is to observe social distancing.”
ASUU deserves the best
Mpama Chioma believes that ASUU deserves to be treated with respect. She appealed to the Federal Government to reconsider the lecturers’ grouse. “Let the Federal Government do something for the lecturers to curb strikes.”
Let government encourage e-learning
“We want the Federal Government to encourage e-learning,” Mpama Chioma said, adding “if we can enhance our online learning, it would help out so that if this pandemic tarries, we can be at home and do our assignments. We can do what we need to do and still have lectures.”
Gains of crises
The ASUU and COVID-19 crises are not all about disappointments and lamentation as observed by Mpama Chioma. This is what she has to say: “I am actually trying to take advantage of every single opportunity I have at home now. I have been conducting research ahead of writing my project; I’m enhancing my career in sports; I am an athlete – a quarter miler.”
And for Chinasa Okpala, “I won’t really say that the ongoing ASUU and COVID-19 crises are all woeful.
“The better side of them is that I am with my family; I have been enjoying the love and warmth the family can provide. It is awesome.”
And while the crises persist, Hannah Iroegbu, a Computer Science student of Abia State University (ABSU) said that she had used the opportunity to enroll in online courses in Programming. “It has really been helping many of us to remain connected to our academic pursuits.
“The good thing is that these online courses are free; so we are gaining knowledge. “Also learning a skill during this period is another thing that should be encouraged among students; this will really help empower us so that in future, we wouldn’t depend solely on our certificates.”