One of the problems of education in Nigeria is the incessant ASUU strike. The nine-month-old strike action which started as a warning strike on March 9th 2020 and began fully on March 23rd 2020 does seem like it’s coming to an end with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the government trying to reach an agreement. A person with no understanding of the genesis of the strike would be quick to blame ASUU for putting Nigerian students in this misery. However, the union is not just fighting for themselves but also Nigerian students and the educational sector in general.
The chairman of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi has maintained a firm stance that the union would not budge until their demands are met. Some of their demands include:
- Rejection of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as a payment platform of lecturers’ salaries. An alternative developed by ASUU itself; University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) has been proposed as their payment platform and it is already undergoing integrity tests.
- Universities’ funding.
- Payment of outstanding earned allowances; of which the amount is still under negotiation. The government proposed to pay N40 billion.
- Revitalization of education sector; the amount for this is also under negotiation. N30 billion was proposed by the government.
- Payment of withheld salaries to lecturers. Prof. Biodun asserted that “the first step to resolving the impasse is for the government to pay withheld salaries of our members. It is between four and eight months. You cannot tell a person whose salaries have been seized unjustifiably to go back to work. Moreover, these salaries must be paid through the normal channel.”
- Government fulfilling their part of the agreement made in 2013.
- Constitution of Visitation panels to Federal universities.
The effects of the long term strike action on Nigerian students and the education sector at large cannot be overemphasized. Right now, all public universities academic calendar has been disrupted and this leads to an inability to cover course outlines before exams are written.
As a result of this, Nigerian graduates who travel abroad to further their studies sometimes have issues with catching up with their foreign counterparts on topics that they were not properly taught during their undergraduate years.
Due to the time wasted, students get rushed through the curriculum without attention being paid to whether the concepts taught are understood or not. This leads to a drop in academic performance and low motivation towards excellence.
Presently in Nigeria, students in public universities who join in strike actions experience delays in their graduation time. Some spend seven years studying a course which is supposed to take four years.
A famous proverb says ‘the idle hand is the devil’s workshop’. As a result of the strike action, many university students have resorted to engaging in nefarious activities. Since they have a lot of free time on their hands with nothing to do to while away the time, unproductive activities have caught their eye.
Cybercrime, drug addiction, gambling, cultism, and other immoral acts have been on the rise since students have been at home. These activities draw students away from academics since they leave no time for them to read and then affect their performances thereby leading to yielding of half-baked graduates from the educational sector.
Disruption of academic activities has been seen to cause depression, psychological and emotional trauma, fear of not knowing what next, and other psychological problems in students. This may leads to low self-esteem sometimes when they see their counterparts in private universities graduating and moving on with their lives while they are stuck in one class for over two years. This may also lead to depression and causes some students to start abusing drugs to be able to forget their woes about how the educational system has failed those who cannot afford to attend private universities.
A lot of students have lost belief in education and the education sector as a result of the long-term strike action. Words like “who school help?” which undermines the usefulness of education have taken over social media as many students have been engaging in money-making activities, some legal while others are illegal. This has made some of them consider dropping out of school and face their money-making ventures. This shows the extent to which the young generation has lost belief in the educational system.
Although the aforementioned effects are negative in their impacts, there are also some positive outcomes that can be expected from the strike action. The revitalization funds if released will be helpful in the renovation and construction of new infrastructure in public universities to meet up with global standards. More lecture halls and residential halls can be built to add to existing ones and make studying easier for students. Libraries will also be built and stocked with modern books, standard laboratories, and internet access will be available for all students.
If all earned allowances and withheld salaries are paid off, lecturers will be more than willing to carry out their responsibilities. The zest for teaching will be there and they can retire happy with the joy of impacting lives while enjoying the process. If universities are funded and world-class laboratories are available, award-winning researches can be engaged that will put the universities and the country at large in the spotlight of international communities.
In order to curb the negative effects of strike actions and lessen the harm done to youths, the government should work on considering ASUU’s request and meeting up with their own part of the agreement. They should ensure institutes of higher learning in Nigeria are revitalized as ASUU demands and invest more in these universities so the academic environment can be conducive for learning and thoroughbred graduates will be produced. If laboratories and libraries are also up to standard, more research works with potentials of international recognition can be done. Lecturers should be paid their allowances and withheld salaries so they can be motivated to impact knowledge without harassing students for payment in any form. ASUU should also work on proper monitoring and assessment of lecturers to ensure they do their jobs, take lectures, and behave properly towards students. Implementing these will help revive the educational system in Nigeria.
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