The statistics are frightening! In the last two decades or so, university teachers have gone on nationwide strikes 16 times covering a cumulative period of 51 months.
On February 14, ASUU embarked on yet another strike, this time a one-month warning closure that carries a stiffer penalty of “total shut down” if the demands are not met.
As the one month expires and anxious students and their parents await the next action, a nationwide survey carried out by the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) has shown that Nigerians are generally tired of the incessant strikes, while many young people are feeling frustrated and losing interest in education.
A student at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Miss Jennifer Okafor, said the frequent strikes had caused her so much pain.
Okafor recalled how she lost a session due to last year’s strike and had almost given up on education.
“I’m supposed to be in my 400-level but I’m still in 300-level.
We just started our first semester examination when this warning strike started and now I don’t know my fate,” she lamented.
On his part, Mr Philip Nnanna, the immediate past President, Student Union Government, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, near Owerri, urged ASUU to collaborate with student unions to proffer lasting solutions to the incessant strikes.
According to him, this will not only make the students better informed, but elicit students’ understanding and actions that could aid ASUU’s negotiation with the government.
Mikailu Abdullah, a final year student in the Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University, Gusau, also expressed concern over the strikes that were “stagnating our future”.
“COVID-19 and previous industrial actions by the union set us back as we were supposed to complete our four years degree programme last year.
“Now, with this strike again, no one knows when we shall graduate,” he lamented.
Students of University of Jos also appealed to the federal government and ASUU to find a common ground toward ending the incessant strikes in the universities.
They made the appeal while reacting to the ongoing strike embarked upon by their teachers.
The students urged the duo to return to the negotiating table with a view to finding a lasting solution to the issues.
Miss Edlyn Pam, a 400-level student of Mass Communication, decried the incessant strikes, saying that they had constituted a stumbling block to her academic journey.
She regretted that the strikes had delayed her graduation, noting that academic calendars in public universities were no longer predictable.
“I have spent six years pursuing a course I should have completed in four years; I’m not even sure when I’m going to graduate.
“By the time I will graduate, I may be above 30 years old and will not be eligible for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
“So, I’m pleading with the government and ASUU to reach a sincere agreement so as to save the future of university education in the country,” she appealed.
Another student, Kwaptoe Fred, said that both ASUU and the federal government should be sensitive to the plights of students.
He called on both parties to sheathe their swords in the interest of future generations whose fate is currently bleak because of frequent strikes by lecturers.
“To me, the demands of ASUU are genuine, but their approach to the whole thing sometimes looks wrong.
“They say that when two elephants fight, the grass becomes the victims; the students in this case are the victims.
“So, we are appealing to both the ASUU and the federal government to return to the negotiating table and find a common ground for the sake of future generation,” Fred appealed.
The President, Students Union Government (SUG), University of Uyo, Mr Wisdom Emmanuel, said that incessant strikes by members of ASUU over the years had crippled the educational system in the country.
Emmanuel said that because of strikes, students are no longer sure of the duration of their academic programmes.
He said the menace had pushed some students into crimes and made some others loose interest in education, opting to pursue other forms of trade for quick money.
“As you know, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. During the strike, students use the opportunity to engage on things they shouldn’t do,” he said.
A 300 level student of English and Literature at the University of Benin, El Shaddai Chinedu, said that ASUU strikes were lowering the quality of graduates.
“The school has just resumed and the course outlines have not been released. When we are eventually called back, everything will be rushed and we will be under undue pressure,” he fumed.
UNIBEN SUG President, Foster Amadin, said many students would find it difficult to easily settle for academic activities when the strike is eventually called off.
“We don’t need more frustrations. We are tired of being frustrated. We are only begging; let’s go back to our classes and resume lectures.”
A lecturer at the University of Abuja, Mr Tobechukwu Ogueze, regretted that ASUU strikes had promoted the establishment of expensive private institutions of learning across the country.
“The effect is that standards will fall because some of these private universities are not properly regulated.
“Many Nigerian students are held up in war-torn Ukraine. Most of them have made their way to Hungary, Poland, and other European countries.
“Some of them don’t want to come back to Nigeria because it is ASUU strikes that will welcome them,” he said.
Usman Ibrahim, a student in Maiduguri, said the nagging industrial action denies education to the youths and exposes them to poverty and vices.
Mercy Yohanna and Abdulrasheed Musa, also students, said the incessant strikes often result to poor quality of graduates being produced by the universities.
Similarly, Usman Wali, President, Students Union Government, Yobe State University, said that strikes were “responsible for sadness, frustration and hopelessness, especially among final year students”.
“The state of despair and idleness caused by frequent strikes always tempt students to engage in drug abuse with the hope of forgetting about their predicament.
“It is a common knowledge that crime rate among students increases during the strike because of prolonged idleness and peer influence.”
Wali noted that apart from delaying the graduation of students, frequent strikes undermine the quality of degrees as students are rushed through lectures to meet deadlines each time the action is called off.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, Ms Delayo Ojo, a student of the University of Ibadan, said that strikes in the sector only add to the number of years scheduled for students to complete their studies.
“You can’t say you have a plan for education in Nigeria, especially when you enroll for a four-year course in tertiary institutions, most likely, you will use like five to six years.
“I had no carryover, yet I used almost six years for a four-year course, just because of the ASUU strike.
“I also used three years for my Master Programme, instead of 18 months, owing to the ASUU strike,” she said.
Ojo said that many students had dropped out of school, especially those on study leave granted them by their employers.
“When the time granted them is up and they are yet to conclude their programmes due to strike, they will have to return to their offices.
“Most often, some just forget it or postpone the studies indefinitely,” he said.
But Mr Akin Aboluwade, a parent in Ibadan, has blamed the incessant strikes on “ASUU’s selfishness”.
Aboluwade opined that not all issues should end up in strikes. (NAN)
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