ASUU strikes: Nigerians tired, frustrated youths loosing interest in education — Survey

By Ephraims Sheyin

The statistics are frightening! In the last two decades or so, university teachers have gone on nationwide strikes 16 times covering a cumulative period of 51 months.

Local chapters of their umbrella body, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have also declared strikes in their respective institutions over local disputes, some of them dragging through several months.

On February 14, ASUU embarked on yet another strike, this time a warning one that carries a stiffer penalty of “total shut down” if the demands are not met.

As the one month expires with anxious students and their parents waiting for the next action, a nationwide survey carried out by the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) has shown that Nigerians are generally tired of the incessant strikes, while many young people are feeling frustrated and loosing interest in education.

While some respondents begged government to strive toward a truce with the lecturers, others say that ASUU should consider other ways of dealing with the situation as the strikes had not solved their concerns.

Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy National President, National Parents-Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), for instance, believes that ASUU and the employers could sort out their differences without making the student the victim.

“The strikes are becoming too worrisome. The development does not portray the country in good light before the international community.

“The strikes are making the youth to lose faith in education and consequently take to negative vices that may compromise their future. This development is dangerous to us as a nation.

“It does not speak well of us as a nation that truly desires accelerated development and transformation.

“Government should tackle this issue. It must go down to work, and quickly too, to revisit whatever demands the lecturers are making.

“I understand that government is saying that it cannot afford to meet the demands of the 2009 agreement entered into, by the then government, with ASUU. But in seeking to revisit the agreement, there must be genuine commitment toward ensuring a lasting solution.”

He also appealed to ASUU not to shun the meetings called by government as “this will not lead us to anywhere”.

“All parties should be committed to finding a common ground to the issues so that we can get the children back to the classrooms because it is the parents that bear the brunt of the impasse,” he noted.

For Prof. Rahamon Bello, the immediate past Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, the strikes are “a dangerous trend that has consistently weakened the fulfillment of the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the country’s youth”.

According to him, the development is impacting negatively on every aspect of the country’s economy.

“The rate of any nation’s development is measured by the level of education of its citizens; government must make it a priority.

“We cannot be going back and forth on this issue that has been lingering for several years. It is bastardizing education in the country.

“It is the reason why some of our children are seeking higher education elsewhere. The crisis between Ukraine and Russia has let us into knowing how many of our children are pursuing their studies there.

“You can see how many of our youth have left this country in search of quality education and stable academic calendar. Nothing says we cannot achieve that,” he stated.

He said, however, that aggrieved labour unions could go on strike as there could be the need to sanitise the system to create room for better conditions of service.

The don explained that what the lecturers were agitating for had remained the same except for the salary platform that had to do with IPPIS and the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

“ASUU may have its own extremity but it means well for the nation. So, we don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. There is the need to look critically into their demands.”

Prof. Oluwole Familoni, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic and Research, University of Lagos, told NAN that the development would heighten the crave for a short cut to success by the country’s youth.

“The dangers inherent in keeping youth at home, who ordinary should be in school, cannot be overemphasised.

“Again, seeking education outside the shores of the country goes along with foreign exchange, such trend may not be healthy for the country’s economy.

“If we fail to fix our system here, we drive these youths outside and this may lead us to loosing some of our best brains to these foreign countries. Besides, our youths may end up with foreign cultures.

“Let government go back to the drawing board and do the needful to save our system. It must also ensure it promises only what it can comfortably fulfill.

“It must show sincerely of purpose by ensuring that its words are its bond. Reneging in agreement is disturbing and portray the country in bad light. The international people we are collaborating with may no longer have faith in us and you know the implications of such.

“Currently, I know there is a move to revisit the issue, but I think there must be an acceptable bargain so that we do not fight and run away,” the deputy vice chancellor stated.

Also speaking, the Principal, King’s College, Lagos, Mr Andrew Agada, expressed fear that the strikes could plunge the country into further immorality and crimes such as Internet fraud, ritual killings and other vices.

According to him, they will also lead to poor academic achievement that will produce half-baked graduates while dropout rates will continue to rise.

Stakeholders in the South-East of the country have also expressed deep concern over the debilitating effect of ASUU strikes on education and quality of graduates from the system.

A cross-section of respondents in that geopolitical zone was unanimous that a permanent solution should be found by all the interest groups to ensure a stable system that would produce quality graduates from the nation’s universities.

In Abia, a lecturer at the Abia State University, Uturu, Mr Destiny Isiguzo, said the frequent strikes by the university teachers not only halt the academic calendar but threaten the future of the undergraduates.

Isiguzo, a lecturer in the Department of English Language, said the impact of strikes could be appreciated when it is realised that students, who ought to graduate and proceed for the one-year national youth service, were usually delayed.

He said the development was also affecting the students in terms of job opportunities.

According to him, the delays have continued to elongate students’ years of stay in the institution beyond their possible year of graduation.

He said the implication was that some of them end up exceeding the 30-year ceiling for the national youth service.

“By extension, some of them also exceed certain age limit for employment, especially in the private sector.

“It is also affecting us as lecturers because apart from making us idle, it is affecting us psychologically.

“Don’t forget that some of us are also Ph.D students in other universities, so strikes are also delaying our programmes,” Isiguzo said.

A student at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Miss Jennifer Okafor, said the frequent strikes had caused her so much pain.

Okafor recalled how she lost a session due to last year’s strike, and had almost given up on education.

“I’m supposed to be in my 400-level but I’m still in 300-level.

We just started our first semester examination when this warning strike started and now I don’t know my fate,” she lamented.

A parent, Mrs Chinyere Uchendu, decried the situation and appealed to the Federal Government and ASUU to resolve the crisis for the future of the children and education in the country.

“Three of my children are in the university but are now back home doing nothing.

“If this situation is not properly handled, most students could lose focus in life and made to indulge in social vices, such as internet fraud, armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping, amongst others,” she cautioned.

In Imo, some respondents blamed the incessant industrial actions by ASUU on poor funding of the universities in the country.

The Chairman, Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) chapter of ASUU, Mr Chinedu Ihejirika, said that strikes were tools in the hand of the union to press home its demands from the relevant authorities.

Ihejirika said the Federal Government’s inability to keep to  agreements with the union was largely to blame for the incessant strikes.

A parent, Mrs Patricia Chibuike, lamented the negative socio-economic and educational impact of persistent strikes by tertiary institutions on students.

Chibuike said that strikes usually affected the academic performances and educational foundation of students.

She wondered how the country could produce top-notch graduates that would proffer solutions to the nation’s multi-faceted challenges with such poor and unstable educational background.

She appealed to ASUU to put the plight of parents and guardians into consideration and work out a modality to ameliorate the sufferings parents go through to train their children in school.

On his part, Mr Philip Nnanna, the immediate past President, Student Union Government, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, near Owerri, urged ASUU to collaborate with student unions to proffer lasting solutions to the incessant strikes.

According to him, this will not only make the students better informed, but elicit students’ understanding and actions that could aid ASUU’s negotiation with the government.

Prof. Dennis Aribodor, a Professor of Public Health Parasitology and former ASUU Chairman, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, described the effect of strikes on the nation as numerous.

Aribodor said that aside from the nation losing its prime manpower to brain drain, it had also lost substantial international research funding.

“The country also loses foreign exchange and experiences naira devaluation due to the chase for foreign currency to pay fees and services abroad.

“The morale of lecturers in service delivery is weakened due to the lack of confidence in the system,” he said.

Aribodor further said that students lost time and opportunities to advance themselves side-by-side their mates outside Nigeria.

He said that many students are forced by strikes to remain in school and eventually go above the national youth service 30-year age limit, making them to miss the opportunity and experience from the service.

He said that Nigeria had also lost patronage from foreign students that had wished to study in the country.

Aribodor said that on the economic side, strikes paralyse commercial activities on the campuses.

According to him, food sellers, hawkers, local transporters, business centre operators are all forced to shut down during strikes.

“The youths also lose confidence in the system and engage in crime and social vices due to idleness,” he noted, adding that the situation further vitiates patriotic zeal in them.

Aribodor said that lecturers try to keep themselves productive during strikes, including looking elsewhere for greener pastures.

“Some have even quit teaching for better jobs,” he said, adding that many lecturers lack job satisfaction due to alleged government’s poor attitude to the nation’s education.

Dr Henry Duru, a lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, UNIZIK, said that strikes not only disrupt the normal academic calendar but distort family plans.

He said that he always used the periods of strikes to do some of his non-teaching activities, such as research and writing of academic papers.

Meanwhile, the Acting Chairman of ASUU in Ebonyi State University (EBSU), Dr Ikechuku Igwenyi, has rejected suggestions that ASUU was insensitive to the impact of their action on students.

“It will amount to historical irresponsibility on our part to sit and watch, while the gains of our heroes past are being destroyed,” Igwenyi said.

On his part, Mr Ewa Chukwumaijem, the Coordinator, Zone F of NANS, comprising AEFUNAI and EBSU, called for an end to the warning strike to pave the way for dialogue.

Chukwumaijem said that incessant strikes in public universities were affecting the future of the students.

He described strikes as ill-wind that blows no one good, adding that students, parents and guardians bear the brunt of ASUU strikes.

He expressed worry that when eventually ASUU would settle its differences with the federal government, students, along with parents and guardians, would be left to lick their wounds.

According to Chukwumaijem, students will end up paying house rent for another session because they pay per session.

“When you pay per session and the strike takes up the session, there is no way the landlord will allow you to stay in his property without paying again.

“Again, those of us that are about 30 years may not be mobilised for the national youth service.

“It is very painful that a four or five-year course would linger from seven to eight years. There is no how we can benefit from the strike.

“ASUU should devise better ways to fight for its right while federal government should also learn to honour agreements in the overall interest of the innocent students,” Chukwumaijem said.

In Enugu, Dr Sam Ugwu, a lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), said that lecturers suffered the great impact of ASUU strikes as they were left doing nothing.

According to Ugwu, lecturers are not happy seeing students roaming about simply because government failed to fulfill its agreements with ASUU.

Nigerians resident in the North-West have equally expressed concern over the incessant ASUU strikes with many urging the federal government and ASUU to strive to end the impasse in the interest of the innocent students, their parents and the nation’s future.

They voiced their concerns in a vox pop conducted by NAN in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States,

Mrs Temitope Faseyitan, a resident of Kano, said that the frequency of  ASUU strikes was frustrating both parents and students.

She said that strikes had made many parents and students to lose confidence in public universities.

“During such actions, students become idle, making some of them to indulge in all sorts of criminal activities,” she said.

A student, Yazid Tanko, said that strikes  always constitute setbacks to educational pursuit.

“A student who is supposed to graduate in four years, will have to spend six years because of strike; we are saddened by such developments,” he said.

The ASUU Chairman, Bayero University, Kano chapter, Mr Haruna Musa, said the only solution to the recurring problem is for government to always honour agreements it entered into with the union.

While agreeing that such disputes had negative consequences on tertiary education, the story would have been different but for such industrial actions.

“It is evidently clear that ASUU strike have impacted positively towards the revitalisation and improvement of infrastructure in the universities.

“This has consequently assisted in producing graduates that have the required expertise and skills to contribute towards national  development.

“Nigerians should remember that it was the 1992 ASUU strike that brought the Education Trust Fund (ETF);  it is purely a brain-child of ASUU, which subsequently metamorphosed to Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund).

“It is the major educational intervention agency in Nigeria,” he said.

The Chairman also said that during strikes, lecturers engage in both individual and group research as part of their contributions towards national development.

“During the 2020 strike, ASUU members in BUK developed an automatic ventilator machine and produced hand sanitizers for our local communities to help in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic,” he claimed.

In Zamfara, parents are urging government and ASUU to consider the plight of parents and students and resolve their differences through dialogue.

They told NAN in Gusau that they were fed up with the recurring impasse between ASUU and government.

Alhaji Abba Abubakar, a parent, regretted that wards were being made to bear the consequences of strike actions, noting that most government officials and political office holders had options of sending their wards to study abroad.

In his contribution, the Director, Quality Assurance, Zamfara Ministry of Education, Kabiru Magami, said that ASUU strikes were always a serious set back to education.

“The matter is beyond the Federal Government and ASUU;  everyone must put hands on deck towards resolving the issues as the consequences can affect the unity, peace and security of the nation,” he said.

Mikailu Abdullah, a final year student in the Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University, Gusau, also expressed concern over the strikes that were “stagnating our future”.

“COVID-19 and previous industrial actions by the union set us back as we were supposed to complete our four years degree programme last year.

“Now, with this strike again, no one knows when we shall graduate,” he lamented.

In Kaduna, some lecturers opined that the ongoing industrial action was the only option left toward forcing government to fulfill its pledges.

Mr Peter Adamu, Chairman of ASUU, Kaduna State University (KASU) chapter, said the union had exhausted  all other options before deciding to use the strike action.

“Nigeria is blessed with quality lecturers, but the facilities are not available which affects us negatively,” he said.

According to him, lecturers engage in three activities, namely teaching, research and community service, adding that the strike action will affect the teaching job only.

In Sokoto State, parents say the frequent strikes have placed additional burden on them and heightened the challenges of insecurity in the country.

Malam Muhammadu Shehu, a farmer, described the situation as a ‘disaster’, as idle students could take to all sorts of unwholesome activities.

Also speaking to NAN, Malam Saidu Mainasara, a primary school teacher, said that the strikes had continued to discourage both the students and their parents.

“On the part of the students, the action taken by ASUU encourages the production of half-baked graduates that are not qualified to handle tasks assigned to them.

“On the part of parents, we are not getting any younger and our financial capacity to handle payment of fees is gradually diminishing,” he said.

Students of University of Jos also appealed to the federal government and ASUU to find a common ground toward ending the incessant strikes in the universities.

They made the appeal while reacting to the ongoing strike embarked upon by their teachers.

The students urged the duo to return to the negotiating table with a view to finding a lasting solution to the issues.

Miss Edlyn Pam, a 400-level student of Mass Communication, decried the incessant strikes, saying that they had constituted a stumbling block to her academic journey.

She regretted that the strikes had delayed her graduation, noting that academic calendars in public universities were no longer predictable.

“I have spent six years pursuing a course I should have completed in four years; I’m not even sure when I’m going to graduate.

“By the time I will graduate, I may be above 30 years old and will not be eligible for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

“So, I’m pleading with the government and ASUU to reach a sincere agreement so as to save the future of university education in the country,” she appealed.

Another student, Kwaptoe Fred, said that both ASUU and the federal government should be sensitive to the plights of students.

He called on both parties to sheathe their swords in the interest of future generations whose fate is currently bleak because of frequent strikes by lecturers.

“To me, the demands of ASUU are genuine, but their approach to the whole thing sometimes looks wrong.

“They say that when two elephants fight, the grass becomes the victims; the students in this case are the victims.

“So, we are appealing to both the ASUU and the federal government to return to the negotiating table and find a common ground for the sake of future generation,” Fred appealed.

But the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University (IBBU) branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Lapai, Niger, has said that the series of nationwide strikes by the union would bring about qualitative tertiary education for the country.

Dr Kudu Dangana, Chairman, ASUU, IBBU, Lapai, told NAN that the situation might have some negative effects on the students, but not going on strike might be worse for them.

“If we don’t act, government will completely abandon its responsibility of funding tertiary education.

“The situation in tertiary schools will be like what we have in public primary and secondary schools in the country,” he said.

The public perception of the strikes is the same in the South-South of the country with residents regretting the negative effects on all strata of the society.

Mr Patrick Titus, a parent, said that ASUU’s strikes were largely to blame for the myriad of vices commited by idle youths.

He said that strikes also hurt parents economically as they were forced to pay double school and accommodation fees.

“As a parent, if your son is to do a four-year course, you budget for the period.

“But with the incessant strikes, there is no guarantee that a four years programme will not extend to six years with the attendant consequences,” he said.

The President, Students Union Government (SUG), University of Uyo, Mr Wisdom Emmanuel, said that incessant strikes by members of ASUU over the years had crippled educational system in the country.

Emmanuel said that because of strikes, students are no longer sure of the duration of their academic programmes.

He said the menace had pushed some students into crimes and made some others loose interest in education, opting to pursue other forms of trade for quick money.

“As you know, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. During strike, students use the opportunity to engage on things they shouldn’t do,” he said.

A 300 level student of English and Literature at the University of Benin, El Shaddai Chinedu, said that ASUU strikes were lowering the quality of graduates.

“The school has just resumed and the course outlines have not been released. When we are eventually called back, everything will be rushed and we will be under undue pressure,” he fumed.

UNIBEN SUG President, Foster Amadin, said many students would find it difficult to easily settle for academic activities when the strike is eventually called off.

“We don’t need more frustrations. We are tired of being frustrated. We are only begging; let’s go back to our classes and resume lectures.”

A lecturer at the University of Abuja, Mr Tobechukwu Ogueze, regretted that ASUU strikes had promoted the establishment of expensive private institutions of learning across the country.

“The effect is that standards will fall because some of these private universities are not properly regulated.

“Many Nigerian students are held up in war-thorn Ukraine. Most of them have made their ways to Hungary, Poland and other European countries.

“Some of them don’t want to come back to Nigeria because it is ASUU strikes that will welcome them,” he said.

A civil servant and parent in Asaba, Mr Ilevare Akhimie, said that frequent strikes by ASUU had devastating effect on the nation’s educational sector.

“The effect of strike is manifested in the work place; graduates employed into the public and private sectors are unable to defend their certificates.

“Many lecturers are engaged in teaching in private universities, while others are engaged in other form of business to get the family going.

“Unending strikes have made our students and young generation lose hope in our educational sector, unlike in some Africa countries,” he said.

Miss Ijeoma Ebiti, a computer scientist in Festus Ajuru University, said that education is the engine that drives economic and technological development of any nation, and should not be allowed to suffer.

“Our leaders should give education its pride of place in order to move this country forward,” he said.

Bunmi Harry, a final year student of the Department of Economics, Rivers State University, urged the federal government to resolve its issues with ASUU to enable the striking lecturers to return to class.

According to her, the frequent strikes have made many students lose interest in pursuing their studies.

On his part, Dr Williams Wodi, a lecturer and member of ASUU in UNIPORT, said the negative effect of the strikes was that more Nigerians would continue to send their children to study in foreign countries.

Wodi disclosed that data made available by the government in 2017 showed that parents spent about N82 billion to educate their children in Ghanaian universities alone.

“This excludes the several other countries where Nigerian students go to study.

“The quality of education in those nations may not even be as good as it is in Nigeria, but the signal this creates to the international community is that our education system is inferior,” he said.

Stakeholders in the North-East have also expressed disdain over incessant ASUU strikes and described the situation as a major set back in Nigeria’s quest for development.

Some of them told NAN in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe States that the trend was “disturbing,” as it exposes students to examination malpractice, drug abuse, crimes and social vices.

Usman Ibrahim, a student in Maiduguri, said the nagging industrial action deny education to the youths and exposes them to poverty and vices.

Mercy Yohanna and Abdulrasheed Musa, also students, said the incessant strikes often result to poor quality of graduates being produced by the universities.

Similarly, Usman Wali, President, Students Union Government, Yobe State University, said that strikes were “responsible for sadness, frustration and hopelessness, especially among final year students”.

“The state of despair and idleness caused by frequent strikes always tempt students to engage in drug abuse with the hope of forgetting about their predicament.

“It is a common knowledge that crime rate among students increases during strike because of prolong idleness and peer influence.”

Wali noted that apart from delaying graduation of students, frequent strikes undermine quality of degrees as students are rushed through lectures to meet deadlines each time the action is called off.

On his part, Dr Aliyu Tilde, Bauchi State Commissioner for Education, has dismissed the strike as unnecessary considering its negative consequences on students and delivery of quality education.

He said that strikes retard the progress of education, research and scholarship in the country.

Nigerians resident in the South-West have also decried the incessant strikes by university teachers, and declared the trend as “quite negative”.

One such resident is the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Prof. Abayomi Fasina, who warned that incessant strikes by ASUU were destroying standard of education.

Fasina urged ASUU and the federal government to engage in peaceful dialogue on how to avert strikes, in the overall interest of the country’s image and future of students.

He noted that FUOYE had an academic calendar to ensure that students finished their course work and graduate as scheduled.

“But with the current strike, the free flow of academic activities has been altered.

“Honestly, strike is not good for the future of the children and the university system itself, because it will have adverse effects on the standard of education and delay the academics of the students.

“In private univeristies, there is nothing like strike; the students enjoy free flow of academic activities and will all graduate in record time without having to wait for their colleagues in public universities.

“In developed countries, there is nothing like strike, this has really promoted their education sector to enviable heights. Their students enjoy steady academic activities without delay or break, but in Nigeria, the reverse is the case.”

Prof. Femi Omotosho, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Ekiti State University (EKSU), opined that it was high time for ASUU members to devise other means, rather than industrial action, to press home their demands for improved welfare package from government.

“If you deployed a system to get result for a very long time, and it does not seem to be working, courtesy demands that you restrategise, go back to the  drawing board and explore other means

“In this circumstance, the system adopted by ASUU overtime is not working and negatively impacting on the system as well as future of our country,” he said.

While acknowledging that the welfare and wellbeing of workers remained paramount, he said that achieving that objective should not be to the detriment of the system itself.

“There is need to evolve a new effective model of promoting workers’ interests without necessarily disrupting totally the productive sector of the economy or paralyse the activities of the institutions,” he said.

Mr Adedapo Julius, a civil servant, said that parents were the most affected when lecturers abandon the classes.

“When strikes start, our plans for the future of our children are literally being shattered.

“When these children are at home, you can see that they are not happy, it saddens the heart to see your children unhappy.

“It is during this time that some youths venture into some other businesses and eventually dump their academic pursuit because they found a faster way to secure a better future,” he said.

In Ibadan, Oyo State, Ms Delayo Ojo, a student of the University of Ibadan, said that strikes in the sector only add to the number of years scheduled for students to complete their studies.

“You can’t say you have a plan for education in Nigeria, especially when you enroll for a four-year course in tertiary institutions, most likely, you will use like five to six years.

“I had no carry over, yet I used almost six years for a four-year course, just because of ASUU strike.

“I also used three years for my Master Programme, instead of 18 months, owing to ASUU strike,” she said.

Ojo said that many students had dropped out of school, especially those on study leave granted them by their employers.

“When the time granted them is up and they are yet to conclude their programmes due to strike, they will have to return to their offices.

“Most often, some just forget it or postpone the studies indefinitely,” he said.

But Mr Akin Aboluwade, a parent in Ibadan, has blamed the incessant strikes on “ASUU’s selfishness”.

Aboluwade opined that not all issues should end up in strikes. (NAN)