On the 23rd of March, 2020, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) declared a 2 weeks warning strike with the aim of airing their demands to the Federal Government, giving them an ultimatum to continue the strike if their demands aren’t met. The 2 weeks warning strike became 9 months as it was terminated on December 23rd, 2020.
Zaynab Oyedeji spoke with students in some schools under the academic union, they said that they were elated when the union declared the strike because to them, it was an opportunity to take a break from school activities.
In the words of Khadijah Abdul Awwal, a sophomore year student in the department of Sociology, University of Lagos, she said, “I was happy, because we were at that point of the semester where the work was getting voluminous. So, I saw it as a way to ease myself of the whole stress, like taking a break”.
“I was so happy, a lot of students needed that break because exam was fast approaching and we were not really prepared”, Shafii Bakare, a 300 level Mathematics student also from the same school agreed.
An English Language finalist of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Muhyideen Kolawole, however, held a different opinion on the strike. He said, “I wasn’t disappointed though since it’s a tradition for me to experience such since my 100 level”.
The Unexpected Crept In
The demands of the union weren’t met after the 2 weeks warning and it suddenly became an endless strike. The students received the news with mixed feelings. They became scared, frustrated, uncomfortable as the plan of returning back to school after 14 days changed to a date no one knows.
“A mixed reaction it was actually. While I am so happy that the time was so fruitful and eye-opening, it stroke my heart that it denied me many things I had planned”, Muhyideen said.
Bankole AbdurRaheem, a Mass communication fresher in UNILAG asserted that he felt bitter and betrayed by the attitude of the government towards education.
“After coming across an article which elaborated the past unfulfilled agreements between both parties, I felt bittered because of the levity at which the government took the case. I was betrayed by our own government’s attitude toward the education of we, the younger generation”.
To Olawuyi Barakah, a 100 level Chemical Engineering student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, the news of the endless strike spoilt her academic plan.
Was ASUU Strike In Favour of Students?
ASUU has been going on strikes since 1999. Between that year and now, the union had gone on strike for 44 months. When this happens, Nigeria’s tertiary education suffers.
The students shared their opinions on whether the incessant strikes have been in the best interests of the students and the Education sector at large, or for selfish interests of the union.
“I would say yes and no”, Shafii Bakare argued “for the yes, it was an opportunity for some students to finish their syllabi, work more on career paths, search for opportunities and many more. For no, some students would have forgotten what they were taught in school and would struggle when school resumes after strike”.
“It wasn’t in the best interest of the students. Students who went to work as employees were treated poorly, those who went to learn trades were always in doubt, whether to put it so much of their efforts or not since the strike can be called off anytime soon. Some students were misunderstood. I had an experience with an old woman in my street, who thought I was expelled and just kept lying about the ASUU strike especially when some schools resumed”, A sophomore year student in the University of Lagos, Uthman AbdulRafiu complained.
Khadijah opined that if the strike was in the best interest of the students, the union would have reached a reasonable conclusion with the Federal Government during the 14 days warning strike.
“As it stands, this year’s strike lasted for a whole academic year and most students would be affected by this. Some can’t still come to the reality that we (students) would have to spend extra year to fill in for the missed academic year”.
Impacts of the Strike on Students
“The strike has affected me positively and negatively. The positive way it has affected was that I have had more time for my family, and trust me, I learnt something new which fetches me digits. Negatively speaking, I abandoned my books for a long time, it made me doubt my interest in schooling”, Bankole AbdurRaheem said.
Uthman stated that he wasn’t able to make permanent decisions and was rejected in places he could learn and earn money because the employers knew that students don’t last.
The strike gave Khadijah Abdul Awwal the opportunity to work on her personal development. “I had more time to have a clear picture of where I am heading to. I learnt new skills and developed the ones I had learnt before. For the negative side, coming to terms that I would probably have to spend an extra year still bothers me”.
As a finalist in school, Muhyideen complained that he should have been a graduate serving his fatherland but he is still an undergraduate because of the strike.
Avoiding Further Actions by ASUU
In the words of Zainab Oladimeji, a year 2 Business Administration student in UNILAG, “I think the union should develop better ways of demonstrating their grudge, dialogue can be an option”.
According to Bankole AbdurRaheem, “The best way to end the frequent strike of the union is by allocating more percentage of the country’s total budget to education. It is too pathetic that just 6.7% of the total budget was what the federal government budgeted for the education sector of the whole nation. It’s unbelievable”.
Shafii suggested that the Federal Government needs to take education as a top priority because of its importance to the nation at large.
“I think the best way to end it would be by the federal government making plans and budget for the educational sector in Nigeria. Not only make the plans but also effectively execute it”, Khadijah explained.