Against the backdrop of almost nine-month closure of public universities due to the indefinite nationwide strike declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) since March 22, Nigerian students have continued to count their losses and relive their experience.
The university lecturers’ union, which had over the years been at loggerheads with the Federal Government over non-implementation of the 2009 Agreement and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it entered into with the Federal Government, is yet to call off the strike, which for almost nine months paralysed academic and administrative activities in the universities.
ASUU is demanding, among others, the non-payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA); payment of revitalisation fund to the university system; setting up visitation panels to universities; and rejection of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS), resulting in the withholding of the lecturers’ salary by the Federal Government.
Worried by the protracted strike following the failure of the Federal Government and ASUU to reach a truce, and given the attendant implications on the future of the students and the over development of university education, Nigerian students calling on the union and government to resolve the crisis with a view to reopen their institutions with further delay.
A cross-section of the students, who spoke with New Telegraph on the unresolved crisis, vehemently condemned what they described as ‘the blame game and bulk passing” that have for the last few months characterised the resolution of the lingering strike. They, however, expressed apprehension over the continued face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU, which they claimed, is not only taking its toll on their education, but also
jeopardising their future. According to Emmanuel Benson, a student of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye in Ogun State, who expressed dismay over the logjam and the inability of the Federal Government and the Union to reach an agreement, their future should be paramount to the parties in the crisis.
Thus, he relieved his experience: “I go to bed every night with the hope that we will soon return to our campus, but that has not come to be. I am tired and confused.
The unending waiting for our institutions to reopen for academic activities is mentally exhausting and disturbing. The people do not care about us or think about how much time we have wasted by staying at home. I was supposed to spend four years for my course, but that has almost cost me eight years. This is absolutely unfair.
“My dream was that before I clock 24 years of age I should have obtained my B.Sc, but such a dream has been forlorn and appeared like a joke.” Also, Peace Etaooma, a sophomore at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) bemoaned what she is going through as a child of a single parent, explaining how she has been working at a restaurant to help her mother and to save a little money pending when the strike will be called off.
She stressed: “The fact that there is no hope when the strike will be suspended anytime soon is really heart wrenching. It is clear and not an understatement that neither the union nor the Federal Government cares for our future. I am scared for what the future holds for me with this unending strike.”
In his reaction, Okafor Dozie, a 300 level student of Political Science also at the Olabisi Onabajo University, pleaded with the government to have mercy on the generality of Nigerian students, whose future is being mortgaged to come to terms with ASUU so that the strike can be suspended and for the institutions to reopen over eight months of closure.
“After all, power lies with the government and it is better to appeal the Ministers to reach an agreement with the union.”
Piqued by the development, another 200-Level student of the University of Benin, who identified himself as Ayomide, a Mass Communication undergraduate, recounted the trends of ASUU’s strike since 1999, saying the union in 1999 embarked on five-month strike; in 2001 (three months strike); 2002 (two weeks strike); in 2003 another six-month strike; while in 2005 the union declared two weeks strike; and in 2006 ASUU embarked on a week strike; 2007 and 2008 a week strike each and in 2009, academic activities in the universities were put on hold for four-month due to ASUU’s strike.
Besides, Ayomide noted that in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2017 respectively, the system was shut down for several months, while this year alone the universities have been on strike for over eight months without any end in sight.
“The whole thing is like there is no end in sight in terms of strikes in the university system, as it has taken years of unresolved crisis and it has appeared to be a recurrence for ASUU to remind of Nigerians their presence and existence in the system, and the Federal Government has always digging their heel to also tell Nigerians who is in power.”
A parent, Mrs. Adijat Mojirayo, whose daughter is a student of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), who condemned the lingering crisis in the public university system, however, described it as “wasting of time, energy and resources going to Nigerian universities.
According to her, she had planned that her daughter would go abroad for her Law programme, but this is mere wasting of time going to higher institutions in this country.