How ASUU Strike turned many Students into Business Owners ahead of Graduation in Nigeria
The education sector and the tertiary institutions, in Nigeria, have witnessed in recent time incessant closures due to industrial actions by the academic and non-academic staff unions, academic staff unions particularly. The effect of these repeated closures of schools and academic programs on students’ learning effectiveness can better be imagined than described. Tertiary education in Nigeria has thus suffered tremendous setbacks as a result of industrial actions by both the academic (ASUU) and the non-academic staff. This has always subjected the students to pitiable conditions, disrupting academic programs, giving students undeserved extension in their study years, poor students concentration on academic programs and poor lecturer-student relationships amongst others. Consequently, many students, in a bid to salvage their time and their lives, have resorted to various alternative activities in other not to be rendered totally useless with the passing of time. The incessant strike actions that have caused frequent closure of schools has birthed a number of social evils that are not so obvious and do not really look/sound harmful, unless a critical attention is applied.
As a result of this strike, most students have secured jobs or other means of generating money and do not wish the strike to be called off soon. Some have even planned not returning to the classroom as the salary they now receive is large and they do not want to take the risk of leaving the job because they are not sure of getting such job offers after school. Some students are wishing the strike continues so they can make more money.
Most parents and students have lost interest in the educational system in Nigeria, as 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. Some parents who have provided the basic amenities for their kids on campus will go through the stress of re-providing, as most students have consumed their resources, while some other perishables will perish as a result of the extension. Failure to re-provide on the part of the parents will result in the kids suffering during the remaining period of the semester should the strike be called off.
It has been proven that students perform less in examinations after returning from a strike period. Most students do not read during strike periods, while others tend to forget key points from lectures as a result of the long wait between lectures and examinations.
One major fear that has been expressed by many concerned persons is that the incessant closure of schools due to strike actions has the potential of putting the rich kids ahead of the poor kids, by default. The rich who can afford private universities send their kids there, where their academic calendar is largely unaffected by the incessant strike actions that have plagued public universities, and the poor who cannot afford private a university tends to spend more number of years than is necessary to complete the same level of education (for those that ever get to complete it), as a result of the strike. This makes the rich kids graduate before the poor kids and as a result of this, are ahead of the latter in significant ways in life.
The prolonged strike is said to be responsible for the rising cases of vices in the society, in addition to the hardship brought about by the shutting down of the economy during the COVID-19 lockdown. The strike action has caused many students to become unavoidably idle, and like the popular saying goes: “an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.” As a result of this, many students have engaged in many social vices that could have been avoided. Some of the students while at home doing nothing get engaged in things other than academics. In some cases, they are easy recruits for criminal activities, such as armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape. The pregnancy rate, as well as the abortion rate among students, has increased significantly. Many students still around campus vicinity are now living “couples’ life” with the opposite sex in this period of no academic activities.
Currently, the protracted ASUU strike has forced many students to go into the business ahead of graduation – I’d rather say prematurely. For instance, a Nigerian student, Oluwasegun, decided to take his destiny into his hands as he managed to carve out a living for himself since the ASUU strike has become prolonged and seemingly unending. Oluwasegun has turned into a rice seller in Lagos and when his post went viral on Twitter about what he does, many people offered support to his new business. Oluwasegun has been thinking of what he could do to maximize his time and life following the ongoing industrial strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that has been a thing of frustration to many students. Before the strike began, Oluwasegun was nearing the completion of his bachelor’s degree at the Olabisi Onabanjo University. Oluwasegun eventually resorted to selling bags of rice at a Market in Mushin-Lagos. In the same vein, some students used the opportunity to acquire new skills and engage in some personal development activities. Some selected students were interviewed THISDAY and here are some of the responses from those students.
A 400-level student of Linguistics Study at the University of Benin, Anthony Ositadimma said: “By the plans, I had at the beginning of the year, I should have graduated at this time. I was very concerned about the strike about three months into it, but now, I honestly could care less. I have moved on with my life. I certainly can’t put my life on hold for FG and ASUU. I set up a small business to keep busy during the strike”. Another 200-level Mass Communication student of the University of Lagos said: “The effect of this strike as regarding my education has brought about a huge halt to me progressing to my next required level which is 300. That is the only reason I am bored. No one wants to spend extra years in school and especially a country like Nigeria where one has to hustle for their daily bread even if they are a graduate with a second class upper or even a first-class. Everyone just wants to graduate and know where they fit in society and how they can make income.
“To keep me busy this period I’ve been taking courses on the Coursera App. I’ve been learning Spanish, reading more on business strategies, working out, improving my skills and talents in various things I’m personally interested in like acting, importing household items and female wears so I can sell. And since we can’t continue being idle since the federal government and the union don’t want us back to the classroom, I have ventured into a small-scale business which generates small funds for my upkeep.” Another 400-level student of Industrial Chemistry at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Oluwakemi Amos said: “The ongoing strike has really affected me a whole lot, staying at home for a long period of time without doing much is not healthy for the mind. I am currently into sales of hair to keep myself busy till the strike is being called off”. Another student said: “It has been both a blessing and a curse. I have been able to enroll in online courses, complete them, and get certifications. I wouldn’t be able to do that with my regular school workload. I also watch a lot of series and read novels too.” A parent, who identified herself as simply as Mrs. Janet said the lingering strike will widen the gap between students and graduates of public universities in the country and their counterparts in private universities. “I wonder why the federal government always allows ASUU to go on strike before something is done. The universities are not properly funded, the structures and equipment are in bad shape. If the government can no longer fund these public universities, they should allow the private sector to take over. I feel bad when I see my child at home, having to spend an extra year in the university because of the prolonged strike. I wish I have the resources to send her to a private university”.
Another parent said even if the strike is called off anytime soon, the universities may not reopen in a hurry because measures have not been put in place to observe COVID-19 protocols in the universities. “Going by the overpopulated state of the universities and government’s unwillingness to fund them properly, are there adequate facilities to ensure social distancing in the lecture halls and the hostels and how will the COVID-19 protocols be observed? The government needs to be more committed to the upkeep of the universities, as well as the well-being of lecturers and students”.
Putting all these together, and honestly between you and me, I think it is high time the Nigerian government makes education the topmost priority, they must understand that for us to have a great future as a nation, we need to educate our youths; not just educate them, but give them the best quality education they can get.
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