By Our Reporters
By September 1, the face-off between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, will be exactly in its third month. Unlike previous strikes, this particular one is still in its infancy. Students have been known to do a four-year course in eight years.
While the warriors continue their fight in air-conditioned rooms with sumptuous meals, some students have gone to learn trades. A final year student of Lagos State University, LASU, seems to be honing her skill in comedy. She said “My friends outside Nigeria are asking me the meaning of ASUU. I tell them it’s a Federal Government-sponsored annual festival in Nigerian universities whereby students are not allowed to go to school!”
Schools have become soulless structures. Not entirely, though. Final year students still drag themselves around campuses with an effort, trying to complete their project works without supervisors. Lecture halls are under lock and key and the banking halls bereft of customers.
Mr. Jerry Adeyiwa and Mr. Olumide Aderigbigbe, both non-academic staff at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, said since the commencement of the strike, the campus has been boring as students and lecturers come in trickles.
They said “Though work still goes on as usual for non-academic staff, the campus is a shadow of itself, save for some lecturers who just breeze in and some students that come to read or write their projects.”
A visit round campuses revealed empty structures and a sort of emptiness in the students that spoke with Vanguard Learning.
Olaitan Olanrewaju and Jennifer Egwuogu are both final year students of UNILAG and UNN, respectively. They were in school trying to tidy up their projects.
Olanrewaju said “Because of the facilities in school, I can’t afford to go home. I plan to complete my project before the strike is called off. All I have to do is e-mail the project to my supervisor and pray she attends to it.”
Blessing and Priscilla, final year students of English Education, and Majekodunmi Ayo, Seun Lawal and Lanre Hasan, also final year students, all said they were in school because of their projects, which they prefer to work on now that there is some quiet in school.
Meanwhile, polytechnics are teeming with students who are excited to be back in school after the ASUP strike. Students of Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, had barely resumed from the strike when they were faced with the task of writing their first semester examinations.
The Student Union Government, SUG, President of the Polytechnic, Mr. Oluwasijibomi Owolade, a HND 2 student of Mathematics and Statistics, said; “After the strike, we were given barely two weeks to prepare for the examinations. We are rounding off examinations at the moment, and will begin the second semester by Monday.”
Although Owolade was an active supporter of the last strike, he says that he and many other students are not pleased with hints that ASUP might resume the strike next month. “I am still on the look out for that,” he says. “Although I was fully on board last time, I am not ready to go back to that position again. I was disappointed when ASUP called off the strike without its demands being met.”
Owolade is not the only one with this view. The SUG President, Federal Polytechnic Ede, Bashir Adewale, says he would “be a fool to support another ASUP strike. I have about two to three months until graduation, and I am tired of strike.
“I am a firm believer that we should do the right thing at the right time, and I think that ASUP should have waited till their demands were met before calling off the strike. But since the strike has been called off, I just want to graduate and carry on with my life.”
Moses Okenla, a final year Mechanical Engineering student at Yaba College of Technology, who prayed that ASUP should not resume the strike, said he hopes to graduate unhindered in the next few months.
The situation on campus is the same at the Lagos State Polytechnic as students are busy with their normal academic activities.
One thing is certain, ASUU, ASUP, and many other unions linked with the academia, see strike as a veritable weapon to get their needs met. Only one result is sure: a progressive fall in the value of the certificates students leave Nigerian schools with. The irony is amusing – hope blew through higher institutions when academic degrees-touting politicians took over few years ago.