The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on its 16th strike since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, shutting down academic activities in public universities for more than 4 years within 23 years – a duration that is sufficient to complete a whole four-year degree programme.
In 2020, ASUU went on a 9-month strike, which accounts for the longest since 1999, and about two years later, on February 14, 2022 went on a 4-week warning strike before it declared another eight weeks saying that it was giving “the government more time to attend to its need.”
Upon the expiration, it announced additional eight weeks. The union has now announced a 12-week roll-over strike action, with effect from Monday, 9th May 2022.
These constant disruptions of academic activities in the nation’s public universities come with serious impacts on the students, many of whom have been expressing their frustration on the painful inability of the federal government and the academic union to resolve their crises.
Daily Trust highlights some of the ways ASUU strike affects the students.
More years to graduate
It is usually difficult for undergraduates at the Nigerian public universities under ASUU to graduate within the four, five or six years they’re originally supposed to spend for their courses due to the disruptions in academic activities, leading to constant review of the academic calendars. Sometimes, a student studying for a four-year degree programme spends up to five or more years to graduate.
Ayinde David, a Twitter user with the handle @AyindeDavid6 wrote, “This strike is hazardous to students and the FG doesn’t even care. My School ID card says 2018-2022. It’s 2022 and I’m still in my penultimate year. We are tired and want to go back to the classroom.”
Toll on mental health
Many students have complained that while universities are on strike, they mostly remain bored and idle at home, while waiting for when schools will reopen. Such boredom and idleness can sometimes lead to mental health challenges which include depression and anxiety, thus taking tolls on the students’ mental health.
Abdullahi Ibrahim Jalo, a 500-level student of Pharmacy at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, while speaking to Daily Trust about his experience, said the strike has affected his mental health in some ways, particularly by inducing anxiety of whether the academic activities will resume or not, and when.
He said, “There has been that anxiety of when we are going to resume, if we are even going to resume, because I want to graduate in time to be able to apply for jobs that come with age limits. Many other life plans such as marriage, keep getting disrupted.”
Waning interest in educational system
With the many ways the constant strikes delay and frustrate students, some students have resorted to looking for opportunities to earn stipends. This situation makes education less interesting and sets them in a tight corner when classes resume from the industrial action.
On Twitter, @Maigari33 said, “We Nigerian students don’t actually care about education anymore, because already, the govt has convinced us that education is useless. We prefer to do EndSars and other protests than to do education protests.”
Waste of accommodation rent
Another serious effect of the strike is that many students who stay off-campus end up burning their rent since they can’t stay in the rented apartments during the shutdown.
A final year student of International Relations in ABU Zaria, Muhammad Maina, told Daily Trust that he fears the N180,000 he paid for his accommodation would waste before schools resume.
“This strike has been affecting me seriously, especially mentally. In fact I have paid N180,000 for my accommodation, so now if it persists I would end up having to repay,” he said.
Rushed academic calendar
Usually when the strike is called off, the management of various universities “rush” students to quickly cover the remaining academic workload to end the semester. This has therefore, in many ways affected the students’ chances of learning well and without the stress of having to quickly prepare for C.A. tests, exam, etc.
Godwin Jackson, a final year law student at the University of Abuja recalled how after the 9-month ASUU strike in 2020, students had to quickly cover up the curriculum and start exam in just five weeks.
“After that 2020 strike, when we resumed, our lecturers rushed us to cover the remaining lectures and do exam. It was really tough and stressful having to read for two or three tests in the night every day,” he lamented.