The strike that was initiated by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14, 2022, has resulted in the indefinite closure of the country’s public universities over the course of the past five months.
Since 1999, the ASUU has gone on strike at least 15 times, which means that completing a four-year university programme might take as long as seven years. There are instances. where it took a student, Hannatu Kashim, 10 years to finish a course in microbiology at Ahmadu Bello University, ABU Zaria.
Parents advised that it is dangerous to allow ASUU to begin an indefinite strike due to the effect it will have on the future of the country and said their grievances should first be addressed, even though many said they are beginning to lose sight of what the grievances were.
Interest groups and labour unions alike are asking the government to find a long-term solution to the crisis.
Concerns for public universities
The prolonged conflict has raised concerns regarding the situation in public universities; the quality of teaching and learning; the welfare and mental health of teachers and students; and the government’s lack of attention to higher education policy.
Taking into consideration the backlog of students who were supposed to graduate within the past six months, the lengthy line of first-year students who have been placed on hold and, as a result, are unable to begin their studies, and the fact that final-year students who are about to be mobilised for NYSC are now out on the streets: all of these factors contribute to a “doom” scenario.
The association and the federal government have participated in a number of meetings, all of which have resulted in a stalemate.
On July 19, in Abuja, at a meeting that was organised by the union, ASUU pledged that they would not call off the strike until all of their grievances were addressed.
Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, the President of ASUU, bemoaned the inadequate funding of universities and the non-payment of salaries and allowances.
‘’We appreciate recent efforts to break the impasse and bring an end to the strike by important players from a variety of sectors of Nigerian society. The NLC’s and its affiliate unions’ activities deserve praise’’.
Professor Osodeke expressed the following sentiments: “It is our sincere hope and desire that the current groundswell of interest will result in a convergence of answers to this unnecessary situation for the general benefit of Nigeria. We will prevail if we work together.“
Femi Falana, a senior lawyer and advocate for human rights, had sent a proposal to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to present a supplementary budget that would allocate N200 billion to the renovation of federal universities.
According to Mr Falana, this would be a significant step toward ending the five-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, which began in February and has rendered public tertiary institutions inoperable since then.
The committee chaired by Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs was enlisted by the Ministry of Education to negotiate on its behalf with university-based unions, with the goal of producing an agreement among the parties involved.
Any resolution(s) reached by the parties, such as draft agreements, are to be ratified by the authorised signatories on behalf of the parties in order to accomplish the goal of obtaining a legally enforceable collective bargaining agreement.
Solidarity protests across the country
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and its affiliate unions encircled the National Assembly on Wednesday in a protest to register their disapproval of the ongoing ASUU strike and the need to bring an end to it. The protest was led by the president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Waba.
Protests were held in a number of cities.
Students have earlier in the year held protests at various times, demanding to return to school.
The ongoing strike is being roundly questioned by everyone, and industry analysts warn that it might bring the country’s economy to its knees if educational institutions continue to be shuttered.
Muhammad Wudil, the chairman of the House Committee on Labour, offered the union the guarantee that it would interface in disagreement with the federal government.
Effects of prolonged closure on Unis
The strike action results in an unpredictable academic calendar, a waste of valuable time, a delay in being mobilised for NYSC, a rush of academic activities, and spending more money on other unplanned expenses.
All of these issues appear to be more pronounced now that the reason for the strike is becoming less clear, and there is intense debate both for and against it.
However, all that students want is to finish school and start their lives.
While students don’t change, nor do they advance financially and academically over the course of many years, time continues to pass quickly.
It is time to look for less expensive and more sustainable alternatives to public universities.
It is time for Nigeria to start looking into online universities, many of which have a good reputation internationally.
Online universities are more affordable, require less time to complete, and meet worldwide education standards but Nigeria needs to start the process of accrediting them and acknowledging their certificate.
In the meantime, the federal government and ASUU should come up with an agreement that can be put into action, which would put a stop to the never-ending strike action.
Written by Adeniyi Bakare; Editing by Saadatu Albashir