ASUU strikes: Nigerians tired, frustrated youths loosing interest in education – NAN survey

The statistics are frightening ! In the last two decades or so, University teachers have gone on nationwide strikes 16 times covering a cumulative period of 51 months.

Local chapters of their umbrella body, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have also declared strikes in their respective institutions over local disputes, some of them dragging through several months.

On February 14, ASUU embarked on yet another strike, this time a warning one that carries a stiffer penalty of “total shut down” if the demands are not met.

As the one month expires with anxious students and their parents waiting for the next action, a nationwide survey carried out by the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) has shown that Nigerians are generally tired of the incessant strikes while many young people are feeling frustrated and loosing interest in education.

While some respondents begged government to strive toward a truce with the lecturers, others say that ASUU should consider other ways of dealing with the situation as the strikes had not solved their concerns.

Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy National President, National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), for instance, believes that ASUU and the employers could sort out their differences without making the student the victim.

“The strikes are becoming too worrisome. The development does not portray the country in good light before the international community.

“The strikes are making the youth to lose faith in education and consequently take to negative vices that may compromise their future. This development is dangerous to us as a nation.

“It does not speak well of us as a nation that truly desires accelerated development and transformation.

“Government should tackle this issue. It must go down to work, and quickly too, to revisit whatever demands the lecturers are making.

“I understand that government is saying that it cannot afford to meet the demands of the 2009 agreement entered into, by the then government, with ASUU. But in seeking to revisit the agreement, there must be genuine commitment toward ensuring a lasting solution.”

He also appealed to ASUU not to shun the meetings called by government as “this will not lead us to anywhere”.

“All parties should be committed to finding a common ground to the issues so that we can get the children back to the classrooms because it is the parents that bear the brunt of the impasse,” he noted.

For Prof. Rahamon Bello, the immediate past Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, the strikes are “a dangerous trend that has consistently weakened the fulfillment of the hopes, aspiration and dreams of the country’s youth”.

According to him, the development is impacting negatively on every aspect of the country’s economy.

“The rate of any nation’s development is measured by the level of education of its citizens; government must make it a priority.

“We cannot be going back and forth on this issue that has been lingering for several years. It is bastardizing education in the country.

“It is the reason why some of our children are seeking higher education elsewhere. The crisis between Ukraine and Russia has let us into knowing how many of our children are pursuing their studies there.

“You can see how many of our youth have left this country in search of quality education and stable academic calendar. Nothing says we cannot achieve that,” he stated.

He said, however, that aggrieved labour unions could go on strike as there could be the need to sanitise the system to create room for better conditions of service.

The don explained that what the lecturers were agitating for had remained the same except for the salary platform that had to do with IPPIS and the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

“ASUU may have its own extremity but it means well for the nation. So, we don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. There is the need to look critically into their demands.”

Prof. Oluwole Familoni, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic and Research, University of Lagos, told NAN that the development would heighten the crave for a short cut to success by the country’s youth.

“The dangers inherent in keeping youth at home, who ordinary should be in school, cannot be over emphasised.

“Again, seeking education outside the shores of the country goes along with foreign exchange, such trend may not be healthy for country’s economy.

“If we fail to fix our system here, we drive these youth outside and this may lead us to loosing some of our best brains to these foreign countries. Besides, our youths may end up with foreign cultures.

“Let government go back to the drawing board and do the needful to save our system. It must also ensure it promises only what it can comfortably fulfill.

“It must show sincerely of purpose by ensuring that its words are its bond. Reneging in agreement is disturbing and portray the country in bad light. The international people we are collaborating with us may no longer have faith in us and you know the implications of such.

“Currently, I know there is a move to revisit the issue, but I think there must be an acceptable bargain so that we do not fight and run away,” the deputy vice chancellor stated.

Also speaking, the Principal, King’s College, Lagos, Mr Andrew Agada, expressed fear that the strikes could plunge the country into further immorality and crimes such as Internet fraud, ritual killings and other vices.

According to him, they will also lead to poor academic achievement that will produce half-baked graduates while dropout rates will continue to rise.

Stakeholders in the South-East of the country have also expressed deep concern over the debilitating effect of ASUU strikes on education and quality of graduates from the system.

A cross-section of respondents in that geopolitical zone was unanimous that a permanent solution should be found by all the interest groups to ensure a stable system that would produce qquality graduates from the nation’s universities.

In Abia, a lecturer at the Abia State University, Uturu, Mr Destiny Isiguzo, said the frequent strikes by the university teachers not only halt the academic calendar but threaten the future of the undergraduates.

Isiguzo, a lecturer in the Department of English Language, said the impact of strikes could be appreciated when it is realised that students, who ought to graduate and proceed for the one-year national youth service, were usually delayed.

He said the development was also affecting the students in terms of job opportunities.

According to him, the delays have continued to elongate students’ years of stay in the institution beyond their possible year of graduation.

He said the implication was that some of them end up exceeding the 30-year ceiling for the national youth service.

“By extension, some of them also exceed certain age limit for employment, especially in the private sector.

“It is also affecting us as lecturers because apart from making us idle, it is affecting us psychologically.

“Don’t forget that some of us are also Ph.D students in other universities, so strikes are also delaying our programmes,” Isiguzo said.

A student at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Miss Jennifer Okafor, said the frequent strikes had caused her so much pain.

Okafor recalled how she lost a session due to last year’s strike, and had almost given up on education.

“I’m supposed to be in my 400-level but I’m still in 300-level.

We just started our first semester examination when this warning strike started and now I don’t know my fate,” she lamented.

A parent, Mrs Chinyere Uchendu, decried the situation and appealed to the Federal Government and ASUU to resolve the crisis for the future of the children and education in the country.

“Three of my children are in the university but are now back home doing nothing.

“If this situation is not properly handled, most students could lose focus in life and made to indulge in social vices, such as internet fraud, armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping, amongst others,” she cautioned.

DISCLAIMER

The OPINION / COLUMN is authored by independent contributors to the National Accord Newspaper. While contributors adhere to our editorial guidelines, they are not employed by the National Accord Newspaper. The perspectives and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of the National Accord Newspaper or its staff.

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