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After strike: Universities battle to recover lost time

Nigerian universities are in a race to recover lost time owing to the prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which…

Nigerian universities are in a race to recover lost time owing to the prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which grounded academic activities for eight months Daily Trust Saturday reports.

The ASUU, on October 14, finally suspended the strike it embarked up on February 14 over government’s failure to implement its demands on salaries and allowances of lecturers, improved funding for universities, as well as the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), against the federal government’s preferred payment platform — Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

However, experts have expressed concerns that the strike will have dire consequences on the educational sector as public universities adjust their academic calendars to accommodate the lost time.

FUOYE to run two sessions simultaneously

The Senate of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), approved that two academic sessions – the second semester of the 2020/2021 academic session and the first semester of the 2021/2022 academic session – would run simultaneously, with a view to making up for the lost eight months due to the industrial action by the ASUU.

The institution, which has recalled its students, both returning and fresh, for the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 sessions to resume on October 17, resumed academic activities on her twin campuses of Ikole-Ekiti and Oye-Ekiti respectively.

According to a press release signed by Wole Balogun, the special adviser on media matters to the vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Abayomi Sunday Fasina, the 2020/2021 session will end in December 2022 while the 2021/2022 first semester will end in January 2023. A new session, 2022/2023, for which admission screening is currently ongoing, may kick off around June 2023.

“Lectures for fresh students will kick off on October 24, 2022, and on, October 27, 2022, registration for fresh students will end as the university holds the 2021/2022 matriculation ceremony for fresh students the following day, October 28, 2022,” he said.

Flooded NDU

OAU, UNIPORT, UNILAG, FUDMA adjust calendar

The authorities of the University of Port Harcourt said it they readjusted its academic calendar to suit the current situation on the ground.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that examinations will start next week, less than 10 days after ASUU suspended its strike. Before the suspension of the strike, students last received lectures in February.

“We are set to resume full academic session. Everything is in motion. We have drawn out an academic calendar, and by next week, we are starting exams,” the university’s public relations officer, Dr Sam Kpenu noted and called on students to brace up to the new challenges.

The chairman of UNIPORT ASUU, Dr Austen Sado, confirmed that lecturers would resume teaching before the commencement of examinations.

“As ASUU members we have no choice but to obey court orders. As a lecturer, I am right now in my office getting set to teach. We will comply with the court order. The university authority has to mark out ways to adjust to the new academic challenges,” he said.

The Rivers State-owned University of Science was not part of the strike.

At the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, our correspondent gathered that the 2021/2022 session would run from October 20 to May 27, 2023.

According to the breakdown of the calendar, the lecture period for the Harmattan Semester will be from October 20 to December 17, which is eight weeks and two days.

The lecture-free week will be from December 19 to December 23. The examination period will be between December 28 and January 18, 2023, covering three weeks. The semester break will be two weeks and two days from January 19 to February 3.

For the Rain Semester, the lecture period will be from February 6 to April 28, 2023, covering 12 weeks. Registration will be from January 30 to February 24, covering three weeks. The examination period will be between May 8 and May 27, covering three weeks.

Despite the university management directing students to return to halls of residence on Wednesday, Daily Trust on Saturday confirmed that lectures had not commenced as of Thursday, while the majority of the students were yet to resume.

At the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma (FUDMA) in Katsina State, lectures commenced on Thursday according to the school’s revised and recently released academic calendar.

The calendar intimated that lectures would commence from October 20 to November 23 as examinations are expected to start by November 24 to December 22.

In a post on the university’s website and social media platforms, the University of Lagos (UNILAG), which was recently ranked second among Nigerian universities in the 2023 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, slated October 24 for the resumption of lectures for the 2021/2022 academic session.

First-semester examinations are to be held between November 28 and December 10, 2022, across all levels and faculties, while the second semester for the 2021/2022 academic session would commence on January 9 and end on May 20, 2023.

UNIBEN, FUTO, UNIABUJA, others reopen

The University of Benin and the Edo State-owned institution, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, have reopened the school for the 2020/2021 academic session.

The UNIBEN vice-chancellor, Professor Lillian Salami, in a statement informed that the institution’s Senate approved October 23 for students to return to halls of residence.

She stated that lectures were expected to commence on October 24, while the semester would run till December 23.

The statement noted that online registration of new students admitted for 2021/2022 would begin on December 2. 

Also, lectures will commence at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), University of Abuja and the Sokoto State University on October 24.

The Federal University, Lafia said it would resume both academic and non-academic activities on October 30, while the Sule Lamido University, Karfin-Hausa, will open on October 31.

Ogun universities reopen amid dull moments

All three public universities in Ogun State have reopened following the suspension of the 8-month strike of the ASUU.

The Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, and the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, Ijebu-Ode, all reopened between last Friday and Tuesday this week for academic exercise.

However, our correspondent gathered that lectures and other academic activities have not been fully restored in the universities.

This, according to findings by Daily Trust Saturday, is because lecturers are not ready due to what many of them attributed to lack of payment of backlog of salaries.

Sources at the universities told our correspondent that gates had since been opened but the campuses were still scanty and classes empty.

Niger Delta University introduces virtual lectures as floods submerge campus

The management of the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University (NDU), Amassoma, has introduced online lectures for medical students in the 400, 500 and 600 levels of study due to the current flooding in the state, which hindered normal resumption.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the online lectures would help them in preparation for their professional examinations.

The institution’s registrar, Mr Benjamin Joffa, in a statement noted that this was the outcome of the Committee of the Provost and Deans (CPD) meeting, which considered the displacement and hardship occasioned by the ravaging floods across the country, especially in Bayelsa State.

He said, “A date for the full resumption of academic activities will be announced after the floodwaters recede.

“Medical students in the 400, 500 and 600 levels of study will, however, receive lectures online during this period in preparation for their professional examinations.

“Postgraduate students who were preparing for thesis/dissertation defence should conclude payments and registration.

“Newly admitted postgraduate students and others are advised to use the period to pay their fees and conclude registration (online) in anticipation of the full resumption of academic activities. We regret inconveniences these arrangements may cause and empathise with the need for safety at this time.”

Prof Bassey Eyo Bassey of the Department of Accounting, University of Calabar, told Daily Trust Saturday that they would complete the session within 12 weeks. He said this would have ordinarily taken 16 to 18 weeks to cover.

“As at today, no lecturer has been paid the accumulated salary of the 8 months strike.  They are working on empty stomachs.

“Heads of departments are busy struggling to implement the new academic calendar, as well as making sure that lecturers under them do their work,” he said.

Unpaid salaries threaten resumption

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that lecturers are aggrieved over the failure of the government to pay their withheld salaries despite the appeal by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

The federal government had said it would apply the no-work-no-pay rule for the period of the strike by the university lecturers.

The chairman of ASUU, FUNAAB branch, Dr Gbenga Adeleye, expressed dissatisfaction over the refusal of the federal government to meet the demands of the lecturers.

He said, “If the government thinks enslaving people to work is the way to go, let us see the generation of students or people that will be churned out of the university environment in the next few days, years or months and see what they will become.”

The chairman of ASUU at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Cyril Onogbosele, said lecturers had resumed but warned that the salary crisis in the institution had not been resolved. He claimed some staff had not been paid for 23 months.

Meanwhile, ASUU vice president, Chris Piwuna, has maintained that the union will never accept the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for the payment of lecturers’ entitlements. Piwuna, who spoke in a Twitter Spaces conversation organised by Premium Times, said the union would pursue the court case instituted against the union by the federal government.

“Our lawyers will continue to argue our case in court. We believe the continuation of the case in court is very important for the labour movement in this country,” he said.

Prolonged strike to affect students’ performance, burden lecturers

A psychologist at the Lagos State University (LASU), Dr Ajala Alimi, said research had shown that strikes could have adverse effects on those involved, especially the students.

He revealed that the psychological consequences of the prolonged ASUU strike on students, educators and parents were quite substantial.

He said most students had become frustrated and confuse,d with high level anxiety.

“They have unattainable targets. They had prepared their minds that within the next four to five years they should be out of the university, but now, they don’t have an idea when the programme they have entered for would come to an end. It is as bad as that. Their purpose in life is becoming defeated. To them, the future becomes uncertain, and we all know that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he said.

An educationist, Mrs Adejoke Dada, said the consequences of incessant ASUU strikes were enormous and a clog to the wheels of quality education.

“As learning is suspended for a long period, the students’ reading abilities fall. Even the knowledge acquired during the learning period is forgotten by some students. This mostly turns some students into certificate seekers rather than knowledge seekers.

“Graduates produced may not compete favourably with those from sane academic climes at global pedestal. Half-baked graduates are a burden to employers and the society. Such strike periods also have the tendency of leading undergraduates into some social vices, such as drug addiction, thuggery, robbery, cultism and illicit sex,” she said.

She added that lecturers would not be able to give their best because of the workload, while they would be demoralised over government’s failure to pay their salaries.

A 500-level Law student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Desmond Nwaumere, expressed sadness that students of public universities were adversely affected by the prolonged strike. He also said the strike had made many students lose interest and focus in education.

“I don’t like to read anymore because I don’t have the hope of going back to school?” he said.

Bello Blessing, a 400-level student of History and International Studies at the Ekiti State University, said she was highly disturbed during the strike.

She said, “I had just a semester left when the ASUU strike started. This has affected me psychologically because prior to the strike, I had planned to complete my studies and focus on other areas of my life, like going to a film school.”

A 200-level student of the OAU who did not want her name mentioned also lamented, “While Nigerian students continuously wallow in abject academic decadence, the wards of our governors, ministers and other political officers study abroad at the expense of taxpayers’ money.”

A student of the UNIBEN, Jennifer Efemonghe, said that by the revised calendar, students would have eight weeks to complete the first semester and rest for one week before starting a new session.

The 300-level Banking and Finance student said, “The workload would be too much on us because we have 8 weeks for lectures and examinations. It would be very difficult but we just have to work hard to pass the examinations. It will definitely have an effect on the performance of students; and we have to work very hard, reading both day and night to be able to pass our examinations.”

A lecturer in the university, Professor Eddy Erhagbe said, “It is going to be tense because of the long period without lectures. And lecturers not happy that they are still not paid.”

He said that for things to pick up, both students and lecturers are going to make some adjustments.

An academic expert, Dr John Micheal, said university authorities should adjust their academic calendar to suit the present challenges.

We’re ready to cover loss ground

A lecturer in the Faculty of Environmental Science (FUTO), told our correspondent on the condition of anonymity that lecturers were ready to work and recover lost grounds if given the opportunity.

“By opportunity I mean if we are paid our dues. Right now, we have not been paid. So how do we go back to work? We are ready to work and recover lost grounds by denying ourselves a lot of things like leave, putting extra hours and so on, but we need to put food on the table to do that,” he said.

The public relations officer of Imo State University (IMSU), Owerri, Ralph Njokuobi, told our correspondent that although the university had been on strike, other activities were not on hold.

“When you say recover lost grounds, it’s been misinterpreted. There are three components of the university system – teaching, research work and community service. Apart from teaching, the other two components were going on, and of course, students were receiving their lectures online,” he added

On whether the abridged calendar would not affect the students’ learning, FUDMA’s Director of Academic Planning, Professor Aminu Dalhat Kankia, told Daily Trust Saturday that the school had already covered a substantial part of the semester before the strike.

“There will not be any problem as we already spent most part of the semester before the strike. Lecturers are not going to start afresh. They will continue from where they stopped, along with some revisions to refresh what was already covered,” he said.

Asked about his opinion on the matter, a 200-level student of the institution who identified himself simply as Muhammad, said they would prefer to go as planned in accordance with the reviewed academic calendar.

“We will like it that way because we will close school by December, and by January next year, we will be in the next level. We have already wasted so much time at home,” he said.

Contributions from Raphael Ogbonnaiye, Ado-Ekiti; Hameed Oyegbade, Osogbo; Victor Edozie, Port Harcourt, Tijjani Ibrahim, Katsina; Peter Moses, Abeokuta; Usman A. Bello, Benin; Bassey Willie, Yenagoa; Jude Aguguo Owuamanam, Owerri & Eyo Charles Calabar.