By Emma Amaize, Editor, South-South, Ike Uchechukwu (Calabar), Harry-Okon Emmanuel, Chioma Onuegbu (Uyo) Emem Idio (Yenagoa), Ochuko Akuopha (Oleh), Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin City), Peter Duru, (Makurdi), Wole Mosadomi(Minna), Charles Agwam (Bauchi), David Odama (Lafia), Bashir Bello (Katsina) and Femi Bolaji (Jalingo)
UNDERGRADUATES across universities in the country have condemned the never-ending strikes by their lecturers under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, saying it not only dislocates the academic calendar and causes brain drain in the institutions, it is also gradually killing the university system.
National Deputy President, NANS Senate, Pedro Obi, said: “The National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, no doubt, frowns at the now quarterly ritual of ASUU strike, which has led to brain drain in our campuses across the country”.
He, however, said: “We have no choice but to align with the yearnings and aspirations of our lecturers based union, ASUU, even though events of past years have indicated that ASUU has never been on the side of student leaders cum NANS in fighting for a better learning and democratic environment concerning managements’ autocratic handling of students’ issues.”
Obi called on the President Muhammadu Buhari – led Federal Government to honour the agreement reached with ASUU without further delay as “the continued silence and intimidation of ASUU leaders across the country by the Federal Government and security agencies has made Nigerian a laughing stock in the comity of nations”.
The student leader went on: “The government of President Buhari, four years ago, promised change, but it is rather unfortunate that nothing has changed across the different sectors of the Nigerian economy, especially in the education sector which, in fact, has degenerated from bad to worse.
“Also there is an urgent need to end the yearly occurrence of this shameful ritual; it is killing our university system and education sector in general. We, therefore, call on ASUU and the Federal Government to get NANS involved in future negotiations, as we remain critical stakeholders in the Nigerian education project”.
Bay Nyakno Udo, a final year student of communication arts, University of Uyo, UNIUYO, pointed out: “It is appalling that lecturers and the Federal Government have allowed whatever disagreement to degenerate into an industrial action. I think ASUU should look for other ways of expressing their grievances rather than resorting to strike action because it is not good for our educational sector.”
Saying his project had been stalled by the strike and the development will affect the completion of his academic programme, Udo stated, “I want to passionately appeal to ASUU and the federal authorities to go back to the negotiation table and resolve their differences so that students can go back to the classroom to face their studies”.
Victory Ikpaikpia, a 100- level student at the Dept of Guidance and Counselling, Niger Delta University, NDU, asserted: “As a fresher, I am very disappointed that it is when I am about to begin my tertiary institution journey that ASUU has chosen to embark on strike. In fact, it has demoralized me because I was very enthusiastic having secured admission. So, I want to plead with government to give ASUU their entitlements so that they can go back to work. I cannot wait to get started as an undergraduate.”
Also speaking, Ernest Augustine, an NDU 300- level political science student, said: “In all sincerity, the persistent strike in our varsities is worrisome and it is high time our leaders sit down with ASUU to resolve the issue once and for all.”
Wisdom Obadiah, a final year student of business administration in Abia State University, ABSU, Uturu, stated: “I am utterly disappointed that this strike is coming at this time when I am about rounding off my academic programme. I am currently working on my project and would have gone for National Youth Service like my mates in polytechnics and private universities.
“I think government is not doing enough because the ASUU demands have been there before now and government did not deem it necessary to look into the issues, they allowed the matter to get to this point. Government I can say is nonchalant. But be that as it may, I want to strongly appeal to both parties to reconsider their stand for our sake.”
Students idling away
Idighekere Macaulay, a 400 – level student at the Dept of Agricultural Economics, Akwa Ibom State University, AKSU, on his part, said: “The strike is a setback for me because I was supposed to have gone for my one year Industrial Training, IT, programme, but I have to wait. I am idling away at home as a result. My appeal to ASUU is to consider the plight of students and call off the strike action without further delay”.
Toro-obong , a 200- level student in the Department of Business Administration, University of Port Hacourt, UNIPORT, said, “I hate staying at home when I am supposed to be in school. Besides, the strike will not only disrupt my academic programme, it will also affect my graduation year if it prolongs. My reading habit has been affected already. As it is, I would have been happy if I can be engaged meaningful in any productive venture.
“But so far, there is none and so I am home doing nothing, which is not the best. I want to plead with ASUU and the Federal Government to resolve the impasse amicably and allow us to go back to school to face our studies”.
John Okuenbor, a nursing graduate of Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Ekpoma, Edo State, said he was lucky to have defended his project before the strike commenced and is home to stay with his parents while waiting for ASUU and government to finish their war.
But it is not so for Alenkhe Gracious, a final year student of theatre arts, University of Benin (UNIBEN). She said, “It is going to stop me from my project defence and graduating on time. I was talking to somebody today and he was like ‘you are not yet a graduate because you have not defended your project.’
“I am supposed to defend my project on the 22nd of this month, which was what they told us before the strike. Thereafter, we can now go and bind our project, but now that the strike is on, we do not know when it will be called off and we do not know when we will defend our project”.
Students at the receiving end
At AKSU, Innocent Afangide, a 400-level student of the Mass Communication Department, posited: “I am worried that the ASUU strike is going to affect the period I will stay in school. In fact, because of strike actions, a course you are supposed to spend four years studying, you will end up staying five years or more.
“That is why I appeal to the Federal Government to look into this issue critically in order to come up with a lasting solution and ensure that ASUU demands are met so that lecturers can return to the classroom. I am not happy because the strike is not encouraging us students. Sadly the way things are going, I feel the prospect of the strike lingering beckons. And that will not be good for Nigerian students”.
Precious Umana, a 100- level student of the university, said: “I do not wish to stay more than four years in school, but if the strike lingers, it is definitely going to affect me and I do not feel happy about that. So I am pleading with the Federal Government to listen to ASUU. ASUU and the Federal Government should work things out so that we can go back to the classroom.
“The lecturers should consider us students; they should make sure that the strike did not last long because some of us do not enjoy staying at home when we are supposed to be in school studying. I am praying that the strike does not last beyond this week”.
Sylvester Lazarus, a final year student of civil engineering, UNIUYO lamented: “University of Uyo was in full session when ASUU went on strike. Strike actions do not only affect the number of years we stay in school, they have also caused many of our youths not to be passionate about studying and even taking their academic pursuit seriously.
“That is why I said strike actions contribute to poor performance of Nigerian undergraduates. Many students have lost focus on our education, especially those of us that are working to fund our education. By the time ASUU goes on strike, we lose interest in academic. Some students have left school to look for other ways to make a living because they are fed up with ASUU strikes and see education as a waste of time”.
Not in support of strike but…
Thomas Asu, a final year student of mass communication at Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), said he was not so happy with the strike but if it is the only way ASUU demands can be met, it should continue.
“Our schools are in bad shape, no infrastructural development .The laboratories, studios are not well equipped .Promotion arrears are not paid. If this is the only way the Federal Government will listen, then let ASUU stand its ground”, he said.
“If they cannot not get their demands now that we are about to go to the polls, then they might never get it until a new government comes. The government has the capacity to pay that money and meet other demands but they are not willing”.
Another student of CRUTECH,James Obaji, said, “It (strike) has definitely altered the school calendar, a lot of us who were supposed to graduate this year may no longer graduate until 2019. But be that as it may, it is for the good of the country .The Federal Government should wake up and live up to its responsibilities.
“We don’t have enough classrooms, buildings and other valuable infrastructures are almost gone, funding of universities which is supposed to be paramount to every government is now treated with levity, leading to many students heading to small countries like Ghana,Mali and South –Africa in pursuit of university education.
“ASUU should continue the strike until their demands are met but they should be diplomatic about it by shifting grounds so that students will not suffer too much but I know that if this current APC administration is serious about implementing 25% allocation of the budget to education, they will start by meeting ASUU demands”.
Call off strike
On her part, Beatrice Enya, a- 400 hundred level student of University of Calabar, UNICAL, stressed: “ASUU should call of the strike and go back to negotiation table with the Federal Government. My friends who went to Benin,Togo and Ghana have all graduated and I am still in school. Lecturers should consider the plight of students and have a change of mind.
“We know the universities need to be properly funded but it should not be done at the detriment of students, we are the ones who suffer the pain the most .We also know that a lot of the people in government are not interested in finding a lasting solution but they are after their pockets and interest while the poor bear the brunt”.
Ayo Ofor, another student of UNICAL, said most of the people involved in the ASUU/government negotiations have all their children schooling abroad while children of poor Nigerians are stranded at home due to the strike.
“I do not subscribe to the strike. It has kept me in school for too long. I am studying a six year course, but now it is running into seven years because of the unwillingness of government and greed on the part of officials. They should call of the strike and negotiate”.
‘Our rent problem’
Steven Adoga, a 300-level student of English Language at Benue State University (BSU), said, “The strike has affected me adversely because it has distorted my programme. Staying at home is not what we bargained for this time. My plea is that the strike should be called off. Government should go into full negotiation with ASUU and have the issues resolved so that we can go back to school. I would also advise that the strike should be called off while negotiation is going on.
“We should not allow our education to die because incessant strikes would lead to a gradual death of university education in this country. Government should take action to save the sector”.
Murphy Igbubu, a 200-level in the Mathematics/Computer Science Dept, on her part, said: “I am not happy with what is going on in our university system. Why must we always go through this process every other year? “The strike is affecting me negatively. For instance, I just paid my house rent outside the campus. With this strike, I have moved out of the house but the rent is running. The implication is that I am paying rent for a house that I will not be using until the strike is called off. Besides I will not be graduating at the right time.
“In fact, this is the second time I am experiencing ASUU strike since gaining admission into the university which is not too good for an undergraduate.
“To have the matter resolved I urge the Federal Government to immediately commence dialogue with ASUU to save us this anguish of staying at home”.
Aoundaseer Terfa John, a 200-level Computer Science student of BSU, had this to say: “The strike would have been averted if the Federal Government had been sincere in implementing its numerous agreements with ASUU.
“We are not happy with the development because we are all idle and you know what that means for young men. So many now roam the streets doing nothing.
Government should make efforts to commence negotiation with ASUU while ASUU leadership should be magnanimous by calling off the strike while the negotiation is ongoing so that we can continue our education. We are tired of this unending face off”.
Chiahemba Benjamin, a 200-level microbiology student at BSU, also spoke. His words: “The strike has created problems for us students. Apart from delaying our graduation, those of us who rented houses outside the campus will have to forgo our rent which means our parents would have to cough out another money for our rent. I am now at home doing nothing when I’m supposed to be in school.
“Sadly we don’t hear or see this kind of thing happening in small countries of Africa, it is a shame. Regrettably our leaders don’t care because most of them have their children schooling outside this country. Nobody cares about the children of the poor in this country because we are the ones who study in the country.
“I am pleading with ASUU to pity students and call off the strike while negotiation is going on. We all know that they are fighting a just cause but we want to go back to school while negotiation is ongoing.
“I also advise the Federal Government to put in place the template that would ensure smooth implemention of the agreement it has entered into with ASUU”.
A 500-level student of computer science education at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, ATBU, Bauchi, Sirajedeen Bala Gassol, expressed frustration over the strike and called on the Federal Government and ASUU to resolve the issues to enable finish his examinations.
“I am frustrated. Were it not for the strike, I would have been defending my project now. I understand the grievances of ASUU, but they should be considerate; we are just emerging from recession.
“And the Federal Government should negotiate with them so that we can return to complete our examinations”, Gassol said.
Another student of the institution, a 200-level student of electrical/electronics’ engineering, Sunday Emeka, said he was fine with the strike if it will produce better learning conditions for his university.
“Initially, I didn’t support the strike. But we were later informed that at the centre of the strike is the demand from the Federal Government for better learning conditions.
“We do not have enough lecture halls; we even, sometimes, have to sit on the floor to receive lectures, while others sit on the windows. I am all for the strike if it will improve our learning conditions”, Emeka said.
In her reaction, a final year law student of University of Calabar who resides with her parents in Lafia, Nasarawa State, Gift Odama, lamented that she would have been doing her project now, but she is at home as a result of what she described as government’s disinterest in the education sector in the country.
“Government should be realistic in her promises and make the educational sector more functional and improve on the welfare of the teachers”, she said.
“We are suffering. This is the reason Nigerian universities turn in half baked graduates year in year out”.
Also speaking, a student of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Francis Bulus, regretted that government is hesitant in implementing the agreement it reached with ASUU.
‘Strike slowing us down’
A large number of students of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, UMYU, Katsina are not finding the ASUU strike funny as they said the strike has badly affected their studies particularly as they were to commence their semester examination on Monday, November 19.
Muhd Mubarak, a final year student, complained bitterly that he was lagging behind owing to incessant strikes embarked upon by ASUU.
Umar Sunusi, a 100-level student, who said they were at the receiving end as the future of students were being toyed with.
A lecturer in the institution, Prof. Abdulkareem Babangida, said they were unhappy with the decision of the Federal Government not to contact the umbrella body of ASUU after a week of embarking on nationwide strike.
A 300-level political science student at Taraba State University, Jalingo, Bitrus Rimamso, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard, explained that the strike had altered the institution’s academic calendar.
“I feel government is not proactive enough in repositioning the education sector and that is why they have remained mute on the ASUU strike”, he lamented.
“Since most of our leaders’ children are studying outside the country, we the children of the masses are meant to suffer more. “The strike has scattered the school’s academic calendar and we might end up spending more years in school if it persists. We want government to do something so that we can resume classes and finish in good time”.
A post graduate student of peace and conflict studies in the school, Oluwole Ayodele, on his part, noted that the striking lectures were only demanding their right following the breach of agreement on the part of government.
“I hope government calls them to the negotiation table to clarify all grey areas in the earlier agreement in order to resolve every issue surrounding their industrial action”, he added.
University lecturers have been reacting to the strike action called by their association, ASUU.
Professor Isah Kareem, of the Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, described the strike as unfortunate because it affects the academic session of the various universities in the country but blamed the Federal Government for allowing it.
He observed that no serious nation will toy with its education.
“There may be competing demands but government should give priority to education more than any other sector because it is the road to rapid and meaningful development,” he remarked.
Kareem called on government to sit down with ASUU and trash out the issues once and for all for the sake of the nation and our children.
In his own contribution, Dr. Alabi Thomas Omotayo said the disagreement between government and ASUU had lingered for so long, saying however that government seemed to be deceitful in dealing with the union because it failed to meet ASUU demands.
“It is not true that we are fighting for pay rise alone. My own son is in this university and it is affecting me too because I know how much it costs me to keep him at home doing nothing and this is one of the reasons we want the facilities therein to be upgraded in line with modern technology”, he said.
“Until government fulfils its promises, the strike will continue, even it is for months, but if government settles with us, today, we will go back to class tomorrow”.
Dr. Daudu Oladipo Yusuf of the Department of Plant Biology, on his part, said that, from what had been going on over the past years between ASUU and government, it seemed government was not serious about education in the country.
“Government and ASUU had signed Memoranda of Understanding, (MOU) severally and the latest was a Memorandum of Action but, unfortunately, no meaningful action has been taken to uplift education in the country”, Yusuf said.
According to him, of the three services in universities, which are lecturing, community service and research, lecturers had continued to carry out two – research and community service – leaving out lecturing.
He added that as soon as government showed total commitment to ending the strike, lecturing would resume.