By Gabriel Dike, Bianca-Iboma Emefu, Lagos; Lateef Dada, Osogbo; Felix Ikem, Nsukka and Obinna Odogwu; Awka
The prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) entered its sixth month on Sunday, August 14, 2022, with no end in sight. ASUU on February 14, 2022, embarked on industrial action to press home the implementation of its demands by the Federal Government. Some of the contentious demands date back to 2009 agreement between government and the union.
The Nigerian University System (NUS) has been on the receiving end. Aside ASUU, three other sister unions are also on strike majorly on the same issues. Hard hit by the on going strike are final year students in public universities. They ought to be preparing for graduation or the one-year mandatory youth service with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
A 400 Level student, Department of Linguistics and African Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, Ridwan Ojetola, lamented: “There are travelling opportunities for some of us. But we are afraid of grabbing the opportunity because we don’t know when the strike will end.
“Some of us won’t be able to go fo NYSC again because of the age limit that has caught up with us. Many of us rent houses off campus and there is always duration of stay. We have to make payment for another rent now.”
Ebunoluwa Ewuola, final year student, Department of Zoology, OAU: “We finished the exam in November 2021 hoping to go for service in February. I’m done with my project but this ASUU strike is affecting my results, hence, my NYSC being delayed.”
Abah Gabriel, final year student, Department of Mass Communications, of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN): “ASUU strike should be added to academic curriculum because it has become a regular occurrence in public universities. Government appeared to be comfortable with the ugly trend.
“Since 2017, when I was admitted in this university I have been witnessing ASUU strike every academic year. In fact, I have witnessed five strikes in a course of four years and still counting. It is very bad and very disheartening especially to those of us in final year.
“As for my project, I am lucky because my supervisor is attending to me despite the strike. By the grace of God I am in chapter four and working hard to finish it up and submit it for final correction in coming weeks. The prolonged strike is taking a terrible toll on us.
“The implications of the strike are numerous. It is a bad omen to a developing country like Nigeria. Crime rate is on the highest. This is because most of these students who are supposed to be in the classroom are roaming the streets doing nothing. They are being exposed to societal ills.”
Chinwe Okenyi, final student, Theatre and Film Study, UNN: “The Federal Government allowed the strike to linger simply because it didn’t affect their children, who are schooling abroad or in private schools.
“It is unfortunate how pubic tertiary education system has deteriorated. Yet, government seems not to be worried about it. As students who ought to have graduated, you can imagine the trauma and the psychological effect it is having on us.
“My projects supervisor is an active member of ASUU, he never allowed the project to continue. It’s a terrible situation for us. I have resigned to fate. Losing another semester or a session is no longer a new thing.
“I gained admission in 2017. Had it been that the system was normal, I should have graduated and rounding up with my youth service. But look at where we are today.
“With the way things are, majority of my generation has lost hope in this present Federal Government. They don’t care about our future. They don’t see us as leaders of tomorrow. They are not interested in our well being. We are only surviving by the grace of God, not that the economy is good, not that there is employment opportunity out there even after school.”
Tajudeen Adisa, final year student, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said he was in chapter two when ASUU strike started: “Most of the final year students are stranded with their projects. As soon as the lecturers commenced their strike, they refused to attend us.”
Another final year student, Ngozi Ofogbu, Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo State: “My mates in private universities have graduated and even finished their NYSC. I am still struggling to finish with pending final year project.
“The prolonged strike has put final year students in a tight corner. The implication is that we will graduate behind schedule and incur additional finance to complete our courses.”
Justin Chukwdi, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, said: “It would have been great if I have completed my final year exams before the strike began. I have concluded chapters one and two but got only chapter one approved before the strike started.
“I have lost the interest to continue writing. My supervisor said he wouldn’t attend to it, until the strike is called off. I ought to have graduated since 2021. I already have an extra session and if the strike persists it will be till next year.
“Since he gained admission, ASUU had embarked on strike thrice. First on November 4, 2018, the union embarked on a three-month nationwide strike. It was suspended on February 7, 2019,after a lot of back and forth between the government and the union.
“The second one was in March 2020, when the union embarked on another strike. It lasted for nine months due to the Federal Government’s unresponsiveness and its inability to fulfil the agreement it reached with ASUU.
“The third one is the current strike. It has entered the sixth month. We don’t know when a settlement will be reached despite several interventions by pressure groups, protests by the students and ASUU.”
Timipre Osanebi, Rivers State University, Diobu, Port Harcourt, said: “The constant ASUU strike might deprive some students who have reached the age of 30. At the time they call off the strike, they may not have the opportunity toserve their fatherland.
“I am worried of the effect of the strike on my career growth and development. I lost many offers, which would have assisted me if my programme were completed at the expected time.
“It is sad that our government can spend huge amount of money on some frivolous expenses but have not been able to tackle the lingering academic problem. They don’t care because their kids are not involved, they are in good schools abroad and whatever ASUU demands is not important.”
Odinaka Okpala, final year student, Department of Educational Management and Policies,Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka: “ASUU strike is delaying people’s future. As for me, I am still an intern.
They are not even paying me. I started on May 7 and it is about three months now.
“We have not even selected project topics. Before we went on strike, they told us to select our project topics. We have not even been given supervisors. We were still at the selection process when they told us that they were going on strike.
“The way we are seeing this strike, it seems they want to use us for election. We are already in August. Even if they call off the strike now, we cannot just rush within three months and graduate like that.”