Educational instability is becoming a constant occasion in the Nigerian education system. The main factor behind this, as it is glaringly obvious to all, is the lack of consensus between the two major players, the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The union, claiming its rights in terms of a better working environment with access to benefits and rights, uses the strike – a industrial action that forces the cessation of educational activities in all public universities – to make demands of the government .
Although students are displaying their performative outrage both online with the hashtag #endasuustrike, and offline, through street protests. But it seems no amount of shouting from grieving students or student bodies like the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) can wake these deaf giants from their carefree slumber. The lamentation caused by frustration is tiring many students, and the fact that the national government is currently absorbed in preparing for another race on the leadership race track has heightened their Lakadaisic attitude towards education. By this, education becomes a secondary hustle – the things one does next to the main thing one does, however, the inversion should be.
Therefore, in the midst of the strike, students find other things to do and maximize their time.
During a discussion with Oyinda, a final year student in the Department of Zoology at the University of Ilorin. She expressed her grievance saying “all I want is for these people to let us graduate to go do other things that really matter in our lives.”
And that is the position of most of the other students in his place. Indeed, the current strike has left them “suspended”, unable to claim a diploma while at the same time, they have nothing special to do at school apart from filling out certain graduation documents. Hearing about the last 3-month rolling strike, she gloats, saying that at least she will have time to take jobs and put some money in safety.
One frustrating thing about strike action is that students won’t know when the resumption will take place. If we think it’s for three months, it can extend beyond that. This has made decision making for students about what to do with their lives during this time somewhat challenging. And some employers avoid hiring students due to the fact that their job retention is unreliable because after two weeks of occupation, ASUU may call off their strike and students should leave, and the employer should start looking for employees again.
Oyinda further informed that she could not get a few jobs due to this reason. Her employer would ask her, “are you a student” “…yes”, she would answer, and that would be the end of the conversation.
Another related challenge is the situation of Opeyemi, a 2nd year student in the English Education Department at the University of Ilorin. He was learning fashion styling during the ASUU strike period following the coronavirus in 2021. Then recovery halted training. When he returned to school, the school calendar did not make room for holidays and for this he could not resume learning in time which made him forget most of the things he learned. So at the start of the ASUU strike this year, he decided not to return to the training center because he thinks two weeks of strike warning won’t be enough for him to learn much. And then Strike goes on for over two months, and now the guy is frustrating. In our conversation, he says;
“I can’t go back to training now because after a week they (ASUU and FG) might come to an agreement, and I still have to leave. I’d rather find a job…”
The unpredictability of the next course of action involving ASUU and the federal government disrupted the plans of many students. But despite this, there are plenty of others who are busy earning money, learning new trades, and learning new skills. And when the ASUU calls off its strike, some quit work and go back to school, while some combine work and study, and some may lose interest in education. This is what this kind of interruption is capable of, especially in a country like Nigeria, where the future of education is not so bright.
For students taking professional courses, looking for internship opportunities in companies is the best solution. Because it will give them the opportunity to learn more practical work on their area of professional interest.
Olayide, a third-year student in the Department of Mass Communications at the University of Ilorin, is currently interning at The Guardian, a national media outlet.
Ridwan Jamiu, the penultimate law student of the University of Ilorin, like other of his colleagues, is currently undergoing an internship program with Harlem Solicitors, a law firm based in Oyo State.
Fatima, a final year student in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Ilorin is now in fashion design.
All in the name of not wasting time, and probably not getting bored. Because the negation between the FG and the Union is like a calabash on the ocean, tossed in no particular direction. Assuming an agreement is reached, the current strike is called off and the affected students return to school, how long will it last?
The implications of this strike are enormous and unfavorable. It affects the lives of students, Union staff, especially with the no work, no pay rule, and the government as well. Interest in education is declining among students. These days, many college students see campus primarily as a way to connect with other young minds and promote their individual businesses and careers, which in most cases has nothing to do with their curriculum.
The way 2020 has unfolded for Nigerian students is reason enough for the government to restrain any action that might again interrupt the flow of educational operations in the country. The coronavirus has forced everyone to stay at home. The frustration of that alone was overwhelming. The ASUU strike has made matters worse by denying students access to education programs by embarking on the strike which is recorded as the longest in the last ten years. All of this is playing with the mental health of many students. And in the long term, the results are seen in the performance of the students after a possible recovery.
For the development of every nation, education takes a very important part. And for Africa to achieve its many sustainable goals, African countries must do better in education. Nigeria, being a key player in African development schemes, should give more adequate attention to education and ensure the proper functioning of its administration. In the last four years of Nigeria’s history, there has not been a year without a break in the education system. It seems that the government’s objective is not really the improvement of the country, because if it is, a permanent solution should have been found for this recurring problem in the education sector. 395 days have been spent on strike in the last five years, which is more than a full calendar year.
The question now is, is there going to be a permanent fix or is the problem continuing as a tradition? The answers to this question have become something of a wacky thing because no one can honestly give an adequate one. The strike is a means used by the staff to claim their rights with the government, but it did not work, as it did, the points of this article will not be necessary. The government also seems to hear the requests with a deaf ear and does not care because it considers that these personnel are not worth much, neglecting the image that the country will have in the eyes of international observers who would be very amazed at the fate of a country which is the most blessed but at the same time the most miserable.
The bitter truth that is the most valid answer to the question posed above is that there is no likely solution to the current situation. Students understand this, therefore, they find other ways to accomplish their life goals. Some parents who are financially able, for this reason, have changed schools for their children, from public universities to private universities, or abroad, where the stability of the program is certain. Reality is dawning for everyone because despite tons of articles written, opinions tweeted and other reactions from the public, nothing seems to change.