It has now been six months since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike to protest the federal government’s failure to implement the agreement reached with the union.
University campuses were deserted as aggrieved government and labor leaders failed to agree on contentious issues of implementing the 2009 pact and memorandum of understanding on the border of welfare, improving university funding, university proliferation, discontinuation of the controversial Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) for the University Payroll Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS) , among others.
Although a series of meetings have taken place between the government and the union, the two sides have yet to agree on the issues, while teachers have continued to avoid the classroom.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has staged protests at different times, calling on the government and ASUU to find common ground and reopen the universities.
The Guardian recently spoke to students from various universities to find out what they have been doing with their time.
While many are picking up new skills, others have taken up small business to keep body and soul together while a few sit at home, undecided on the next course of action.
For example, Michael Akpan from Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Anambra State said that he started learning web design and will continue even when the strike is suspended in order to earn extra income .
For Fatimah Ajibola, who is a final year student at the University of Ilorin, said that from the beginning she is learning skills. “I’m learning hairdressing and graphic design. I was hoping to graduate (this year) and then engage in other meaningful things. With hairdressing, if I learn it very well, I can open my shop and make money from it every day, while I do other things.
For her part, Esther Paul from Uyo University, Akwa Ibom State, said she had taken the opportunity presented by the strike to take digital courses, something that moves away from the traditional classroom curriculum. Paul said she was improving through various training programs
For Precious Adeola of the Federal University of Technology Akure, the period is boring because there are no jobs. “I’m still inside looking after my siblings, but deep down inside I want to learn a skill, sewing to be precise, or get a job to keep myself busy until it be cancelled. I feel so useless doing nothing, it’s really frustrating.
Moses Elegbede of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, expressed his frustration with the incessant strikes by university professors and the government’s inability to address the issues.
Elegbede, however, said he had started online classes to boost himself while he waited for the strike to be suspended.
For his part, Chinedu Dickson from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said he is currently working as a bartender at a nightclub in the city. “I go back to work at 6 p.m. and close around 4 or 5 a.m. I also sell women’s clothes and slippers on the streets. I have to keep pushing. I can’t think of going back to my village in Enugu because I have nothing to do there, so I stay here and struggle.
Jennifer Ndukwe, a 300 level student at the University of Ibadan, enrolled in a skills acquisition course with a specialty in headwear tying and makeup.
“This trade is a profitable business in this part of the country. I also use my free time to buy and sell men’s and women’s t-shirts to save something for myself until the strike is called off,” she said.
Bolashade Omoniyun, a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said she enrolled in a short course at a hospitality school, where she studies restaurant management, food and beverage, as well as the preparation of local and continental dishes, among others.
She expressed the hope that at the end of the course she would be able to earn extra income and help her parents with the education of her siblings. “Indeed, my time is not wasted, but fully utilized.”
Omolola Ololade of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, lamented that the strike was a waste of time, waste of knowledge and unnecessary delay as she got nothing.
Somto Osas, from the University of Benin, said she was taking an online cryptography course and hoped to learn sewing if the strike continued.
Alice Ogunyemi from the University of Ibadan expressed concern that the incessant strikes have forced many people into anti-social vices. For example, she said that some of her friends are discouraged and have decided to get married, while others are pregnant without even being married.
“Most of my friends at private colleges, who started school at the same time as me, graduated and went through the mandatory National Youth Service (NYSC) program.
“I ventured into the business of buying and selling perfumes and cosmetics. I buy perfumes at the Alesinloye market and sell them to friends and officials just to keep myself busy and also to get something that won’t make me too dependent on my parents. Sometimes in a day I earn between N5,000 and N6,000 depending on the customers and the availability of the products in the market. I enjoy what I do. I am optimistic even after graduation that I can keep my business, whether I get a job in government or in the private sector,” she noted.