It is six months now since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike to protest Federal Government’s failure to implement the agreement it reached with the union.
University campuses have been deserted, as government and aggrieved union leaders fail to agree on the vexed issues of implementation of the 2009 pact and Memorandum of Agreement bordering on welfare, improved funding to universities, the proliferation of universities, discontinuation of the controversial Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) for University Transparency and Accountability Payment System (UTAS), among others.
Though a series of meetings have been held between the government and the union, both parties are yet to agree on the issues, while lecturers have continued to shun the classroom.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) have staged protests at different times, asking the government and ASUU to find a common ground and reopen universities.
The Guardian spoke recently with some students across various universities to find out what they have been doing with their time.
While many are acquiring new skills, others have started petty trading to keep body and soul together while a few are at home, undecided on the next line of action.
For instance, Michael Akpan of Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Anambra State, said he has started learning web designing and will continue even when the strike is suspended so as to make extra income.
For Fatimah Ajibola, who is a final year student at the University of Ilorin, said since it started, she has been learning skills. “I am learning hair-making and graphic designing. I was hoping to graduate (this year) and then get engaged with other meaningful things. With hair making, if I learn it very well, I can open my shop and be getting money from it daily, while I do other things.”
On her part, Esther Paul of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said she has taken the opportunity provided by the strike to do digital courses, something away from the traditional classroom programme. Paul said she is improving herself through various training programmes
For Precious Adeola of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, the period is boring as there are no jobs. “I am always indoors taking care of my siblings, but deep down, I want to learn a skill, tailoring to be precise, or get a job to keep myself busy until it is called off. I feel so useless doing nothing, it is really frustrating.”
Moses Elegbede of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, expressed frustration over incessant strikes by university teachers and the government’s failure to address the problems.
Elegbede, however, said he has commenced online courses to add value to himself pending the suspension of the strike.
On his part, Chinedu Dickson of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said he is currently working as a bar attendant at a nightclub in the town. “I resume work at 6. 00 pm and close around 4.00 am or 5.00 am. I also sell female wear and slippers around the streets too. I have to keep pushing. I cannot think of returning to my village in Enugu because there is nothing there for me to do, so, I stay here and hustle.
Jennifer Ndukwe, a 300- level student of the University of Ibadan, has enrolled for skill acquisition training with a speciality in tying headgear and make-up.
“This trade is a money-spinning venture in this part of the country. I also use my spare time to engage in buying and selling male and female T-shirts to save something for myself until the strike is called off,” she said.
Bolashade Omoniyun, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said she has enrolled for a short-term course in a catering school, where she is studying catering management, food and beverages, as well as preparation of local and continental dishes, among others.
She expressed hope that at the end of the course, she would be able to make extra income and assist her parents in the education of her siblings. “Indeed, my time is not wasted, but fully utilised.”
Omolola Ololade of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, lamented that the strike is a waste of time, waste of knowledge and unnecessary delay, as she has not achieved anything.
Somto Osas of the University of Benin said she is engaged in an online crypto class and hopes to learn tailoring if the strike continues.
Alice Ogunyemi of the University of Ibadan expressed concern that incessant strikes have forced many into anti-social vices. For instance, she said some of her mates are discouraged and have decided to get married, while some are pregnant, without even being married.
“Most of my friends in private universities, who began studies at the same time as me have graduated and have undergone the mandatory National Youth Service programme (NYSC).
“I have ventured into the business of buying and selling perfumes and cosmetics. I buy perfumes from Alesinloye Market and sell them to friends and civil servants just to keep myself busy and also get something that will not make me over-dependent on my parents. Sometimes, in a day, I make between N5, 000 to N6, 000, depending on clients and the availability of products in the market. I appreciate what I am doing. I am optimistic even after graduation that I can hold on to my business, whether I get a government or private sector job,” she noted.