By Adesina Wahab, Education Editor

Since February 14 this year, students in public universities have been at home, as academic activities have been put on hold following the strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. Other staff unions in the university sector have also joined the wagon of embarking on industrial action.

The unions are demanding better welfare packages, more funds to run the universities, a stop to the indiscriminate setting up of new universities, the discontinuation of the use of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, as the payment platform in the university system among others. Though a series of meetings have held between the government and the unions, so far nothing tangible has come out of those meetings.

However, from the sublime to the ridiculous, the idle students are now engaged in various activities to while away the time.

Read Also: ASUU strike gangrene

If you hear them saying they want to cruise, they are not going for a boat/ship ride, but to indulge in drinking, betting, social media activities including internet fraud etc. That is mainly done by the boys.

Their female counterparts are not fishermen, but when they talk about hook up, they are not trying to take a hook to catch a fish, but to find a man to spend the night with for an agreed fee. 

Some are, however, engaged in farming, teaching, learning a trade, or just sleeping and waking and putting pressure on the food items in the family’s store. 

Education Minister, Adamu Adamu

Sunday Vanguard went to town to sample opinions of some of these young men and women, the answers are very revealing.

I am doing nothing — Erhimena

Agofure Erhimena, a student of one of the federal universities, resident in Delta State, said: “As a student and a youth in Nigeria, having an efficient plan laid out for your youthful years is as important as living itself, but due to the recurrence of strikes by the controlling body of universities in Nigeria, ASUU, the timeline does not check out anymore.

“The time wasted has put me behind schedule in everything. Trying to secure a job entails a degree at the very least which is not available yet, not to talk of rolling over the strike for 12 more weeks makes it totally unbearable.

“It gives a sensation of no bearing just having to stay around every day doing absolutely nothing and, if this goes on, it endangers the future of the youths of this country who are not privileged enough to have other things to go into aside school.”

Gambling away with Yahoo Boys – Itse

A student of the University of Port Harcourt living in Warri, Delta State, who identified himself simply as Itse, said: “I have not really been able to do anything serious with myself during this strike period because they gave the impression like it would be called off soon.

“Like others, I have been rolling with Yahoo Boys in the hood. We just party weekends, catch fun and cruise. I cannot think of any skill I can learn other than deepening my knowledge of the computer. And I get this from my Yahoo friends.

“I had my first experience when a foreign friend transferred $30 dollars into my account, it was small money but it was fun. I bought airtime with the bulk of the money. I am sick at home already.

“I want this strike to be called off.  I will not want my name in full for this chat because I have been honest with you with information. And I do not want it to be used against me later”.

Indoors, no employment — Patience

An undergraduate in Cross River State, who only introduced herself as Patience, said: “First and foremost, this strike period is boring in the sense that there are no jobs in Calabar.

“No companies or factories to create employment opportunities for students who do not have any source of survival or entrepreneurial skills.

“For me, I am always indoors taking care of my siblings, but deep down I want to learn a skill, tailoring to be precise or get a job to while away time till the strike is called off, but due to the socio-economic status of the country,  things are hard. 

“If there is any job opportunity, it is negotiated by the elite and most times nepotism sets in.

“I feel so wasted and trapped at this point in time. I have come to the realization that it was school that kept me occupied”.

I am learning on job — Uffi, UNICAL student

Itoro Uffi, a final year student of tourism studies, University of Calabar, UNICAL, said: “This is not the first time ASUU is embarking on this, so I will say it is so shameful that our government cannot put a stop to this problem that has been lingering for years, thus bringing students backward instead of pushing them forward.

“I am an entrepreneur, so, I use this time for my business, putting more effort in growing it even though business does not move well here when university students are not on campus, but I am learning on the job”.

I am undertaking online course— Ojong, UNICAL student

Agbor Ojong, President, Faculty of Social Sciences, UNICAL, said: “I am utterly disillusioned as a person with the idiosyncrasies of the Nigerian government and general modus operandi of the leadership of the academic staff union of varsities.

“I mean, how do we explain to the world and the coming generations that, since 1960 till the current dispensation, we have not achieved even a modicum of success in the educational sector?

“I am seriously not happy being at home and pretty sure no well-meaning Nigerian student will be having a great time staying at home.

“I am also doing some online courses so as to add more value to myself just in case our government decides to meet the demands of ASUU”.

Sanitizing Calabar — Omini, UNICAL student

Victoria Omini, a student of management studies, University of Calabar, Cross River State, asserted: “I am leading a group of young people to clean Calabar with the aim of maintaining environmental sanitation and hygienic environment,  particularly within and around secondary schools in the city.

“The project is geared towards protecting the environment, cleaning the streets and maintaining the beauty of the state capital which Calabar is known for.

“We are using schools because we want to inculcate in the children the habit of personal hygiene, love for the environment and promoting tree planting culture in them”.

I am a bar attendant — Dickson, CRUTECH student

Goodness Dickson, a final year student of biochemistry, Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), stated: “I am self –sponsored, so I do a lot of work to earn money to meet my needs and pay school fees.

“But for the strike I would have graduated by now. I work as a bar attendant at a night club around Diamond Hill. I resume work at about 6. 00 pm and close around 4.00 am or 5.00 am.

“When I get to the house, I sleep for four hours and, at, I sell female wears around the streets.

“I sell skirts and slippers but with many female students out of the city, sales are low.

“I have to keep pushing. I cannot think of returning to my village in Akwa Ibom because there is nothing there for me to go to do, so I stay here in Calabar and hustle”.

Making head-gear — Owei-tongu, Federal University, Otuoke student

Pere Owei-tongu, a 400- level student of the Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, said: “Though the lingering strike has disrupted our studies, I am nonetheless using the opportunity to further improve myself by enrolling in a skill acquisition training programme with specialty in ‘gele –tying’ (head gear). “This trade is a money spinning venture in this part of the country.

“I also use my spare time to engage in buying and selling male and female T-shirts to complement my family income and save something for myself until the strike is called off”.

I am into catering — Aghemen, UNIBEN student

Miss Omonye Aghemhen, a University of Benin, UNIBEN, student,  said: “This strike action embarked upon by ASUU has made me to attend a three- month short term course in a catering school where I now study catering management, food and beverages, preparation of local and continental dishes,  financial accounts, among others.

“At the end of this course, within the next two months, I will be able to stand on my own and assist my parents in the education of my younger ones. Indeed, my time is not wasted but fully utilized”.

Just at home — Oshodin, UNIBEN student

For Ewere Oshodin of the Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, UNIBEN, “the strike is so bad because it is a waste of time, waste of knowledge and unnecessary delays”.

He added, “I have not achieved anything because I was thinking they will call off the strike so that we will go back to reading and I will not be caught off guard.

“I thought they will not extend it again but we are just home.”

Involved in agric projects — Osas, UNIBEN student

Jennifer Osas, a student of the Faculty of Agriculture, UNIBEN, explained: “I feel the strike issue is very frustrating because we have lost academic activities and we have lost track of what we are supposed to learn as it is not everybody that can grasp things for a long time. The Federal Government and ASUU should look into the issues.”

“I still have some agricultural projects that I am looking towards, so I am using this time to put more focus on them.

“So the strike is a bit advantageous to me, but the strike should not continue because I still need my certificate to do many other things.”

Involved in online crypto class — Alphonsus, UNIPORT student

Josephmary Alphonsus, a 200- level student of the Department of Foreign Languages & Literature, University of Port Harcourt, UNIPORT, Rivers State, said: “When ASUU embarked on the strike the first time, I did not engage in any menial job due to the fact that some companies did not employ students because they believe that they will just work for a couple of weeks and go, so I got myself engaged in an online crypto class.

“But it seems without capital I am lagging behind.

“Now, with the additional 12 weeks, which is probably three months, I just do not want to waste it again doing nothing with the hope that school will resume soon.

“Now I am desperately looking for a part-time job now”.

I study at home — Malachi, UNIUYO student

Aniekeme Malachi, a 300-level student of Department of Communication Arts, 

University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Akwa Ibom State, said: “I discovered that it is not good for me to be idle. So I keep reading my books and praying that the strike will be called off soon.

“I also read other books apart from academic books. I do not like staying idle.”

I am passing time in court —UNIUYO law student

A 300-level student of the Faculty of Law, UNIUYO, who spoke anonymously, said, “I go to court to watch proceedings, and what I have learnt so far going from court proceedings have been very rewarding to me.

“Since ASUU embarked on the strike, there is no day I do not go to court.

“And as I do this, I do not notice that we are on strike. The only thing I regret about the strike is that it has affected the period of time I am supposed to graduate”.

It is like being held captive — Tijjani, MAU, Yola student

A chemical engineering student of the Moddibbo Adama University, (MAU) Yola, Jaffar Tijjani, called on students nationwide to mobilize in peaceful protest and stop the upcoming primaries of the political parties if government failed to resolve the rift with ASUU. 

He said this should be the reaction of students as politicians are toying with the future of students.

Tijjani regretted that he, along with many of his colleagues, has been held in campus for close to seven years for a five-year degree programme.

He called on the Federal Government and the university teachers to stop strikes in public universities.

Students forced into social vices — Maryam, ASU, Mubi student

Malama  Maryam Zubairu, a 400-level student of mass communications at Adamawa State University, (ASU) Mubi, regretted that incessant strikes in the university have forced many students into anti-social vices.

She said ASUU strikes have discouraged many of her mates and friends from going to university and other higher institutions.

Maryam noted with concern that many of her friends in private universities who began studies with her have graduated and have undergone the mandatory National Youth Service program.

We have become redundant — Musa, Usmanu Danfodiyo University student

A 400-level student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Muhammad Musa, said the strike action by ASUU has made many undergraduates redundant before he ventured into the business of buying and selling perfumes and cosmetics.

“As you can see me now, I buy perfume from Sokoto Central Market and sell to friends and civil servants just to keep myself busy and also get something that will not make me over dependent on my parents”, he said.

“Sometimes in a day I can make N5, 000 to N6, 000 depending on the caliber of the persons buying the products and availability of the items in the market.

“Some people think I have graduated with the way they see me fully engaged in business activities daily.

‘I appreciate what I am doing and I am optimistic even after graduation that I can hold on to my business venture whether I get a government or private sector job.”

I am into ICT— Duru, civil engineering student

“Amid the ongoing ASUU strike, students like me have to think of lucrative ideas to avoid this strike being a pointless session in our lives.

“The norm in the country has always been enrolling in tailoring classes, electronic handwork, arts and craft etc. “But given that we live in the age of GSM and worldwide connectivity, I decided to try my hands in other methods of cashing-in what could easily be learnt with just a smart phone or PC.

“My first step was signing up for coretal discovery training which goes beyond the typical ICT training program.

“But I still prefer to spread my tentacles wide and I’m doing just that at the moment.

“It has not been easy during this period of strike but I believe that it’s also not necessarily all negative for us if you are creative enough”.

Affiliate marketing is it — Onyewuchi, plant science and biotechnology student

Onyewuchi, who simply said he is plant and biotechnology student without mentioning his university, said: “It’s a dreadful fact that we’ve been out of school for the past three months and something has to be urgently done about it.

“But over the past few weeks, I’ve been able to follow some online classes which have helped me to broaden my knowledge in the field of affiliate marketing which, as a science student, has been really interesting for me as no knowledge is wasted.

“I also ventured into tailoring business during the 2020 ASUU strike which lasted about nine months.

“But in all of this, I still keep in mind that I am a student and I have to use this as an opportunity to read and cover up the vast amount of things I have to learn before full school activities resume.”

I now teach —Senewo, political science student

Another, Senewo, who claimed to be a political science student, said:

“I have moved on beyond the pains of being stagnated by the incessant strike and Nigerian educational system at large.

“As an entrepreneur, I engage myself in a lucrative business that keeps me busy and probably meets my immediate needs.

“Also with great pleasure I am now a school teacher in one of the best schools in Makurdi, the Benue State capital.

“Until the strike is called off or suspended, I shall always keep my soul busy with this passion of mine.”

We now farm, hustle — Taraba University students

Some students of Taraba State University, Jalingo said they have resorted to farming and other ventures to keep themselves busy.

According to them, they could not remain idle, hence their decision to become part-time farmers.

One of the students, Precious Okechukwu, said he has adopted farming as her means of survival.

When Sunday Vanguard spoke to her, she was working on a cassava farm where she spent most of her time.

“I cannot keep sleeping at home when government is not ready to listen to the striking workers”, she said.

“I have to find a way to keep myself busy till when we are called back to school.

“I am not happy about the delay but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Another student, Peace Jewah, said she was searching for another side hustle because farm work is tedious.

“I just left my mother’s farm. It’s not easy, you can see my hands. I am currently looking for a temporary job not as tedious as farm work till this three months extension would be over”, she said.

“I am currently in my final year and with the way this strike is going, we might not go for NYSC as we have planned.”

Temidayo Akinwumi, who said she was working as a graphics designer in Jalingo, on her part, said she was considering switching from regular programme to distant learning.

“I find this work interesting and I think I want to change to distance learning”, she told Sunday Vanguard.

“I am making money with my skill and I need a flexible school schedule which my regular programme would not afford. “I have done my findings and I am resolute about switching to distance learning so that I can do my work and also study at the same time.”

How students spendtime in Katsina

Two categories of students spoken to by Sunday Vanguard are either doing menial jobs or on Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES).

Daniel Danladi, a final year student in Geography Department at the Federal University, Dutsinma, said he was assisting his father in his aluminium glass window shop and also busy in his church music department.

Danladi said: “Primarily, I go to shop to assist my father whenever there is work to do.

“I also participate actively in the music department of my church.”

Similarly, Musa Abubakar, a 200 Level student of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University in the state, said he was learning to barb hair at a salon near his house, while playing football in the evening.

Another student in the Animal Science Department of the Federal University Dutsinma, who simply identified herself as Zainab, said: “I go to where I am doing my industrial attachment from 9am – 4pm daily with the exception of weekends.

“So, I am not really feeling the impact of the strike as it coincides with my SIWES programme. Then I use weekends to do my laundry and assist with other house chores.”

“What I find very sad about the strike is the fact that it has been so entrenched in our academic system that we have grown accustomed to it.

“As a fresher I remember filling a form with a space provided for ‘expected date of graduation’ (which was 2022); and, sincerely, while filling it out, the first uncertainty as to the year of my graduation was the strike.

“It’s a very pathetic and frustrating situation because we end up spending more time than we ought to in school.”

Na’anyit Puntum of the Mass Communication Department at the University of Jos said, “The strike has stopped me from doing a lot of things. “It has made me remain in one place, my set target has been tampered with because I cannot complete my programme and move on.

“I had to look for a place to keep myself busy. That is why I am teaching in a private school to help myself with resources and stay busy.”

 Mildred Christopher, studying biochemistry at the Plateau State University, Bokkos, lamented that she had spent almost six years on a four-year course.

According to her, “The strike is affecting me negatively because I am in my final year but everything is just at a standstill. I have spent almost six years now.

“I have been praying that I should be out of school but I don’t know when that will be because of the strike.

“Right now I am working in a printing press to keep myself busy even though the pay is not much. I pray the strike is called off so I can go back to school.”

Mujahideen Adamu, a 400L student of Mass Communication, University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), also lamented, saying, “As a student during this strike, the experience isn’t funny at all.

“Initially, I was calculating just three weeks for me to leave school but I am stuck right here. 

“If not for the little tailoring skills that I learnt a long time ago, I guess depression could have been my condition for the past three months”.

Faith Oiganji of the Archaeology Department at the university, on her part, stated, “I started my programme with so much enthusiasm thinking I will be done on time.

“Even yesterday, I was thinking about school. I was thinking about my mates in private universities, how far they have gone while I am here stranded, waiting for the strike to end.

“The setback is huge but I am keeping myself busy, teaching in a private school.

“I am giving my best on the job to drive idleness and boredom but if the strike persists, I am going to learn a trade.”

Mark Ajijelek, a 100L student of Archaeology also at UNIMAID, told Sunday Vanguard, “I am learning computer applications to keep myself busy, but the delay caused by this strike is making us lose the zeal to study.

“I should have been in second semester but because of the strike, we are yet to write our first semester examination.”

Oluwatobi Adejobi, studying social studies education at the university, on her part, noted, “This strike is a sad situation. I am assisting someone to run a POS shop for a token.

“This is keeping me busy but I really want to go back to school and complete my studies. I pray this ends soon.”

Additional reports by Emma Amaize, Dayo Johnson, Rotimi Ojomoyela, Shina Abubarkar, James Ogunnaike, Sam Oyadongha, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Gabriel Enogholase, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emmanuel Unah, Ike Uchechukwu, Chioma Onuegbu, Emem Idio Ozioruva Aliu, Umar Yusuf, Peter Duru, Marie-Therese Nanlong, Joseph Erunke, Femi Bolaji, Ogalah Ibrahim and Chinoso Alozie

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