By Jimoh Abdullahi
In August 2021, Kehinde, 27, an undergraduate thought he would see his name on his department’s graduating list, but unfortunately, he couldn’t find his name. He had a B grade in his final year project but he flunked the general course and a departmental course which must be passed before one is certified to be a graduate of his department. For that to be done he has to wait an extra year to re-take those courses he failed before he can be given a certificate. Kehinde became a spill-over student hoping to graduate the next year.
When the ASUU strike struck, his anxiety began to mount. “This strike really got me. There are a lot of things I want to lay my hands on, nah this school of a thing covers my face, if nah sey I don commot school ni… but God knows everything,” said Kehinde.
“I for don dey make something do in life nah but anytime I won do anything like this I for don dey reason this school matter”, he voiced out in a grey tone. His coursemates are about to complete their compulsory one-year public service but Kayode’s progress is hampered. “I don fed up, I won’t tell you a lie. That’s why I dey joke sometimes to hide my fraught feelings,” he continued in pidgin.
This Strike is a Stumbling Block
When the University of Ilorin joined other universities on February 14 to embark on a one-month warning strike, all academic activities were put on hold, though the school had just finished its second-semester examination. The final year students of the institution thought they would not be affected by the strike when it was declared — since only the final year project and other clearances are the core aspects left to keep them on Campus.
“My final year project has been on hold since February 15, the second day this ongoing industrial action was declared because there is no supervisor that will cross-check it. All our supervisors’ offices remain closed. I plan to focus on agro-business after the completion of my projects and give the business undivided attention pending the time of our convocation. But thinking that the strike will end soon delays my plan”, a final year student of the school who seeks anonymity told UCJ-UNILORIN.
“I don’t think I will go for NYSC anymore if this strike lasts longer than this”, Yusuf, a 300-level engineering student, uttered dejectedly. When he gained admission in 2019, he had calculated his age and the duration of his stay in the university based on his course but now that the strike has interrupted his program, he has lost hope for his youthful service. “The year I will graduate initially if there’s no strike is the last chance I have, as we all know that there is an age restriction for National Youth Services Corp; anything that makes it to exceed the time of graduation written on JAMB admission letter like this, I won’t have opportunity to go anymore”, he said.
His second fear is that the school management tends to draft academic calendars that make their lecturers speed academic activities and in turn shorten the necessary time a semester is supposed to run.
Emmanuel, 28, a postgraduate student at the University of Ibadan is yet to be employed since 2017 when he finished his first degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Thinking he could finish his master’s degree in a jiffy, he has lost focus since the ASUU strike crept in. “You know there is time for everything, and the chance of getting employed these days is becoming harder day by day. As you know there is an age limit for some work in the labor market. This strike is just wasting my time”.
Risk and Rent
According to reports, more than two University of Ilorin students were victims in an autocrash accident during the fuel hike while traveling back to their homes in Lagos as a result of the ASUU strike on February 20 this year. This is part of what frightens Habeeb, a 100-level Pharmacy student at Bayero University, Kano.
Habeeb is scared of traveling. A native of Oyo state who doesn’t go home during breaks — “If there is no strike I can decide not to travel home to avoid the risk of traveling”; but when ASUU declared a strike, he is forced to leave the school and would eventually go home when the management ordered them to vacate the campus. “As a student staying off-campus that just spent two to three months in the hostel, now that we are at home, the bill is counting without even staying there, and that will increase spendings,” he said gloomily.
The Stakeholders Turn Deaf
Prior to the time that the bomb of this protracted industrial action totally explode, ASUU had been ringing a bell of warning since 2021, but the people concerned remain unmoved by the sound of the bell. ASUU, in waiting for a response from the Federal Government implemented a lenient approach at first, thus, a one-month warning strike was called for on February 14, in anticipation of the federal government’s reaction.
The minister of labor and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and the minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu kept mute watching the union extend the warning strike to two months which has now been extended to 12 weeks on May 8 during ASUU’s national executive council meeting held in Abuja.
“This shows a disheartening level of how education is in Nigeria. The development of a nation is the function of the attention that it gives to its education, therefore every point in time a nation stands between education and its destruction and it is only teachers through quality teaching that can avert rapture. If the teachers are now being treated badly and resort to industrial action as we have right now, it simply means ‘It’s FINISHED’. This administration has failed us,” Mr. Fatai Adisa, a public affairs analyst in Abeokuta said.
Among the demands of the union are; fulfilling the 2009 agreement, providing revitalization funds for public universities, payment of the earned academic allowance, implementing the indigenous University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) for payment in replace of the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) which violates the 2003 university autonomy act. Ex-vice-chancellor of the University of Ilorin and JAMB registrar, Prof. Isiaq Oloyede said in a report that IPPIS is not okay for the university system. “I am not a fan of the union but here, ASUU has the right to fight for its payment platform,” he stated.
The Government gulled the union that UTAS would be deployed and that made both parties conditionally sign an agreement on December 23, 2020, a Memorandum of Action (MoA) which led to the suspension of the nine-month-old strike. Chris Ngige, in a report, accused ASUU’s homegrown payment platform (UTAS) that it failed the credibility and integrity test but passed the users’ acceptability test. After a dawdling process, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa explained the loophole in the platform built by the union. This issue of payment platforms seems to be a bone of contention in the last two years.
Lost Interest in Education
For Precious, a 300-level student of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, the industrial action had made him lose interest in education and caused him depression and trauma. “This strike makes me feel that education is no longer the way. Even the education I’ve had right from my tender age seems to be in vain and a waste of time. Anytime I see my friends that we got admitted together in the same year at private universities, they are now in the 400 level, and are about to graduate, but, I’m still battling the 300 level. It actually makes me feel as if there is no future again”.
“How can we be on strike since February 14, without it being resolved? There is no assurance that even if we resume tomorrow there won’t be a strike anytime soon. Don’t let me lie to you, this ASUU strike has made me feel like I should not go back to school again”. He said hopelessly.
Why Students Swung Into Action?
When the outcome of the meeting slated for Monday, April 11 by the Federal Government ended in deadlock without any agreement reached by both parties and after the warning strike had already been rolled over to another eight weeks, Chris Ngige bought a 100 million naira presidential form.
Meanwhile, in all public universities: both teaching and non-teaching workers have discontinued work.
In the early days of March, President Muhammadu Buhari donated 1 million dollars to the Humanitarian Trust Fund of Afghanistan. These among other things assert the government’s preposterous posture towards the plight of Nigerian students.
The first protest was first staged by the National Association of Nigerian Students on March 25 in Abuja under the leadership of Sunday Asefon. The University of Ibadan students also gathered at the school’s gate to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the protracted strike, carrying placards with the inscription of #EndASUUStrike. The students of the University of Benin and Ambrose Ali blocked one of the major roads at Ovonramwen square in Benin city.
Recently, the University of Ilorin students under the leadership of Waliu Opeyemi Omoluabi protested on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, following a tweet by the president concerning a peaceful demonstration at the school’s gate.
According to a press release, the University of Lagos has also joined the cause. Possibly, more schools are going to join in the near future.