The statistics are frightening! Over the past two decades or so, university teachers have called 16 nationwide strikes spanning a cumulative period of 51 months.
Locals of their umbrella body, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have also declared strikes at their respective institutions over local disputes, some of which have been dragging on for several months.
On February 14, the ASUU embarked on yet another strike, this time a warning that carries a stiffer penalty of “total closure” if demands are not met.
As the month draws to a close with anxious students and their parents waiting for the next action, a nationwide survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) has shown that Nigerians are generally tired of the relentless strikes while many young people feel frustrated and disinterested in education.
While some respondents pleaded with the government to work for a truce with speakers, others say ASUU should consider other ways to deal with the situation as the strikes have not resolved their concerns.
Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, National Vice President of the National Parents Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), for example, believes that ASUU and employers could settle their differences without making the student the victim.
“The strikes are becoming too worrying. The development does not present the country in a good light in front of the international community.
“Strikes make young people lose faith in education and therefore indulge in negative vices that can jeopardize their future. This development is dangerous for us as a nation.
“It doesn’t speak well of us as a nation that really wants accelerated development and transformation.
“The government should tackle this problem. We must get to work, and quickly too, to review the demands of teachers.
“I understand that the government is saying it cannot afford to meet the demands of the 2009 agreement that the then government reached with ASUU. But in seeking to review the agreement, there must be a genuine commitment to securing a lasting solution.
He also called on ASUU not to avoid meetings called by the government because “it will get us nowhere.”
“All parties must commit to finding common ground on the issues so that we can get the children back into the classrooms, because it is the parents who bear the brunt of the impasse,” he said. he noted.
For Professor Rahamon Bello, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, the strikes are “a dangerous trend which has constantly weakened the realization of the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the country’s youth”.
According to him, development has a negative impact on all aspects of the country’s economy.
“The rate of development of a nation is measured by the level of education of its citizens; the government must make it a priority.
“We cannot go back and forth on this file, which has been dragging on for several years. It is bastardizing education in the country.
“That’s why some of our children seek higher education elsewhere. The crisis between Ukraine and Russia has allowed us to know how many of our children are studying there.
He said, however, that aggrieved unions could go on strike as there might be a need to clean up the system to create room for better terms of service.
The professor explained that what teachers were fussing over remained the same, except for the salary platform linked to IPPIS and the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“ASUU may have its own end, but it means good for the nation. So we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is necessary to critically examine their demands.
Professor Oluwole Familoni, deputy vice-chancellor for education and research at the University of Lagos, told NAN that the development would reinforce the urge for a shortcut to success among the country’s youth.
“The dangers inherent in keeping young people at home, who normally should be in school, cannot be overstated.
“Again, seeking education outside the country’s shores goes hand in hand with foreign currency, such a trend may not be healthy for the country’s economy.
“If we can’t fix our system here, we’re pushing these young people out and that can lead to us losing some of our best brains to these foreign countries. In addition, our young people can find themselves with foreign cultures.
“Let the government go back to the drawing board and do what is necessary to save our system. He also needs to make sure he only promises what he can comfortably deliver.
“He has to show sincerity of purpose by ensuring that his words are his bond. Abandoning the agreement is disturbing and gives a bad image of the country. The international people we work with may no longer trust us and you know the implications.
“Currently I know there is a movement to re-examine the issue, but I think there has to be an acceptable bargain so that we don’t fight and run,” the deputy vice-chancellor said.
Also speaking, the Principal of King’s College Lagos, Mr. Andrew Agada expressed fear that the strikes would plunge the country into immorality and crimes such as internet fraud, ritual killings and others vices.
According to him, they will also lead to poor academic performance that will produce half-baked graduates while dropout rates continue to rise.
Stakeholders in the southeast of the country have also expressed deep concern over the debilitating effect of the ASUU strikes on the education and quality of graduates in the system.
A cross-section of respondents from this geo-political zone were unanimous that a permanent solution should be found by all interest groups to ensure a stable system that would produce quality graduates from the country’s universities.
In Abia, a lecturer at Abia State University, Uturu, Mr. Destiny Isiguzo, said frequent strikes by university professors not only disrupt the academic calendar but threaten the future of undergraduate students. cycle.
Isiguzo, a lecturer in the Department of English Language, said the impact of the strikes could be appreciated when one realizes that students, who are expected to graduate and pursue the one-year national youth service, were generally delayed.
He said the development also affected students in terms of employment opportunities.
According to him, the delays have continued to lengthen students’ years of stay at the institution beyond their eventual graduation year.
He said the implication was that some of them end up over the 30-year cap for national youth service.
“By extension, some of them also exceed a certain age limit for employment, particularly in the private sector.
“It also affects us as speakers because apart from making us idle, it affects us psychologically.
“Remember that some of us are also PhD students at other universities, so the strikes are also delaying our programs,” Isiguzo said.
A student from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in 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 almost dropped out of education.
“I’m supposed to be in my 400 level but I’m still at the 300 level.
We just started our first half review when this warning strike started and now I don’t know my fate,” she lamented.
A parent, Mrs. Chinyere Uchendu, denounced the situation and called on the federal government and ASUU to resolve the crisis for the future of children and education in the country.
“Three of my children are at university but are now back home with nothing to do.
“If this situation is not handled properly, most students could lose their focus in life and indulge in social vices, such as internet fraud, armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping, among others,” she warned.