The Academic Staff Union of Universities declared a comprehensive and total strike four months ago in order to compel the Federal Government to act on a variety of issues that have lingered between both parties for years.
Since the strike was declared in February, there has been little progress in the deliberations.
Instead, meetings continue to end in deadlocks; banquets, fanfare, party conventions, primary elections, and political campaigns are the order of the day, while the crumbling education sector continues to receive sparse attention.
The PUNCH spoke to some of these students who expressed their frustration with the Federal Government’s lackadaisical attitude to their plight.
A final year student of Bayero University, Kano, Zainab Olayinka, revealed that she has “locked away the student” in herself in order to avoid feeling depressed.
“I have been coping by not letting the thought of it cross my mind too often. It is like I have just locked away the student in me just so I don’t slip into depression,” she said.
Zainab has also taken to interning in an organisation that keeps her connected to her school studies. Additionally, she has ventured into ghostwriting in order to keep herself busy.
“The strike keeps making you alter several life plans. While I know plans are not static, the strike mostly puts me in a bad place in terms of missing out on opportunities just because there is a particular requirement and it is connected with my academic certificate.
It makes you grow older, and then when you are finally out of school they tell you, you need certain years of experience after delaying so much. It is so unfair,” she said.
Chinedu Chisom Uzochukwu a 300 Level student of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said he has “not been coping” well with the protracted strike which has also left him drained.
“It’s been hell in a way,” he said. “I mean, aside from missing school life, it’s been draining. I don’t even know if I’ve been coping mentally.”
Like Zainab, Chinedu has also started his interning with a law firm after boredom got the best of him while staying at home.
Speaking on the effects of the strike as regards his future plans, Chinedu confessed that while the consequences are not pressing in the short term, he feels a diversion of his interests in education to entrepreneurship is imminent.
An anonymous respondent who is currently in their penultimate year at Bayero University, Kano, agonised over the fact that their school ID card projects that they should be graduating this year.
The student said, “The fact that this (graduation) is not happening reveals how this affects every youth in a public university in Nigeria.
“The delay affects our long term future plans. It makes us sit and watch those from private universities grow and become who they want without much delay while we are being held at the mercies of ASUU and the Federal Government.”
A 300 Level Law student of the University of Ilorin who simply identifies as Subomi, said the announcement of the strike in February came at first as a welcome development.
This is because the previous school session had been rushed due to a previous strike that lasted nine months in 2020.
However, Subomi said when the present strike began to cross the thresholds of its first couple of months, she started feeling “depressed and down”
Subomi who has now ventured into trading, also empathised with her friends who neither have jobs or other things to keep them occupied, as the strike might have a worse effect on them.
She noted how it was the previous 2020 strike that ultimately drove her to start a business which now occupies most of her time.
The law student said, “The first strike we had during the pandemic affected me a lot. I was reluctant to do anything relating to school. I was just tired and I lost interest. Then I started my business around that time. I started seeing money, and consequently started seeing school as a by-the-way thing.
“With this present strike, I’m trying to make money and really focus on money. I’m not bothered about school. I know by the time we resume this will affect me a lot as I would have to try getting comfortable in the school environment again.”
To top it all, Subomi promises to ensure her child “does not attend a Federal University so that they don’t have to go through this.”
Conversely, for Oladipo, a 400 level student of the University of Lagos, the strike has been a blessing. According to him, he underwent a surgery last year and the break has given him time to properly heal.
While he has not been “feeling” empty as much, Oladipo confessed that sometimes he feels like honing his skills in Software Programming and Project Development but has not really been “gingered to do anything productive.”
Oladipo also expressed optimism about the strike saying he does not see it as a delay.
“I don’t think the strike will affect me as a youth. While people see strikes as a delay, I just see it as time to do other things that’ll be beneficial for me and my life. It gives me time to think about how life after school will be, because this is just a preview.
“If you have finished school, this is how life will be. You will just be home chilling, looking for how to break into the next stage of your life. If you can use the time allotted to you between strikes to do that, I don’t think your future will be very much affected. In my industry (Computer science), the degree honestly doesn’t mean that much, what matters more is experience,” he said.
The last development on the strike was another meeting which was held on Monday, in which negotiations by both the Federal Government and the Union led to no concrete conclusions.
ASUU has accused the Federal Government for failing to “satisfactorily” implement the Memorandum of Action it signed with the Union in December 2020, on funding for revitalisation of public universities (both Federal and states), renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ ASUU Agreement, and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution.
Other demands listed by the Union include Earned Academic Allowances, State Universities, promotion arrears, withheld salaries, and non-remittance of third-party deductions.