By Patrick Obia
It is yet another resumption of the usual unpalatable Nigerian Strike League (NSL) between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) FC and the Federal Government of Nigeria (FG) FC. The annual or biannual strike event has become an interesting competition for ASUU and FG which both opponents play with so much enthusiasm leaving their spectators (students) in dilemma either to continue watching or blackout.
It would interest Nigerian students to note that, from available records, ASUU has embarked on either warning or indefinite strike for a total of 16 times in 23 years, spanning up to 51 months of industrial action should the current strike get up to 14 March 2022.
From 1999 to date, I’m sure it has been troubling many spectators like myself, who would have on many occasions been soliloquizing if the strike is part of the academic activities or calendar?
Since 1999, successive FG of Nigeria has struggled badly to meet the demands of the union of our future builders’ to strengthen the country’s delicate education system.
This represents about one-fifth, or 20 percent, of the number of years since the dawn of democracy in Nigeria (1999). This means that for every five years since 1999, Nigerian universities spent one on strike.
During the reign of President Olusegun Obasanjo, academic workers downed tools for a cumulative period of about 18 months, approximately 19 percent of his eight-year reign.
The Umaru Yar’Adua three-year term saw about four months and a week of the strike.
During Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the length of the strike in the universities had reached 13 months, which is 22 percent of his years in office.
So far, under Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian universities have been shut for not less than 12 months and counting (or 18 percent of his five-and-a-half-year tenure).
The bleeding statistics, therefore, question the fate of Nigerian students and the educational system in general.
For every cause, there is an effect. As a result of the incessant strike actions in our tertiary institutions, most students have resorted to secured jobs or other means of generating money and do not wish the strike to be called off soon, some have even planned not to return to the classroom as the stipends they now receive is large and they are not sure of getting such jobs after school.
Most parents and students have lost interest in the educational system in Nigeria. Those who can afford education outside the country have started making moves towards it. Some soon-to-be parents have vowed that their children will not school in this system that has become unpalatable.
Some parents who have provided the basic amenities for their wards on campus will go through the stress of re-providing, as most students have consumed their resources, while some other perishables are perishing and failure to re-provide on the part of the parents will result in the students suffering during the remaining period of the semester should the strike be called off.
Also, it has been proven that students perform less in examinations after returning from a strike not to talk of one that has become part of us and a scourge on us. Most students do not read during strike periods, while others tend to forget key points from lectures due to the long wait between lectures and examinations. This is coming when University of Calabar students were writing their first semester exams and had to pause due to the unexpected “lover’s day” package.
The time to end and relegate these repugnant holidays is now. ASUU and the Federal Government should know it is no more time for memorandum of understanding, memorandum of agreement, rather, it’s time for memorandum of implementation, it is action time, not coffee talks on funds that if added to the demands will make sense to the senseless.
Should a strike be part of the academic calendar, then there should be an extension of the benchmark for NYSC allowed age from 30 to 35 or more.
The Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu walking out of NANS delegates shows a high level of degradation and disrespect to our educational system by those who have their heads abroad and their anus at home.
On the other hand, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) should live up to its responsibility. NANS often does not see other issues when it comes to student welfare. For instance, the plights of students of the University of Calabar over fees and registrations increased by the management were never heard by NANS or NANS was silent. This scenario has repeated itself across the length and breadth of Nigerian universities, NANS seat up and rebrand to meet the realities of our time.
Dear Nigerian students, as you patiently await the bridegroom to return, make good use of the holiday and fix yourself somewhere, learn something, volunteer somewhere within your dream profession, this will later in the future reduce the ASUU FC and Federal Government FC high blood pressure from the strike league.
I repeat, make use of your smartphones in positive ways, engage in extracurricular activities, diversify and expand your networks, depend less on your parents; secure a job even before you graduate, and above all, solve societal problems even while in school.
Nelson Mandela once said, “education is a powerful tool that can be used to change the world,” but unfortunately, our leaders know this and refuse to equip the educational sector. We are still in the past, when will we come to the present and talk of the future?
Students, as you wait patiently like the patent dog to eat the fattest born from this Nigerian Strike League, think right, say no to crime, drugs and find your purpose.
Patrick Obia is a journalist and writes from Calabar, Cross River State.