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The Effect of Academic Strike on Education in Nigeria

by Modupeoluwa Ayangbenro

The academic activities of the students in Nigeria have being experiencing a lot of backwardness due to strike actions in all institutions. This is so sadden and heartbreaking because the students education have been tampered with, causing a great effect in their lives. The students in Nigeria are now losing interest in education because they see it as a waste of time and energy, due to a lot strike actions that have emerged in the country.

These strike actions are common among universities and polytechnics across the nation. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria embarked on a nine-month-old strike action last year, 2020, and they are still planning to go on another one this year. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP), who just completed a sixty-five days strike action, has promised the government they will continue after three months, if their petitions to the government are not met.

These strike actions are becoming more rampant among institutions in Nigeria, and it has caused a lot of slow down in the academic calendar. Going through the academic calendar of The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun State that was published in January, 2021, it showed that their first semester was meant to end by 13th of June, 2021; but due to the ASUP strike, their first semester exam will be ending by August. The locked down period caused by the Covid19 virus took away eight months out of the students academic time, after which ASUU took another three months for the completion of its nine-month-old strike action. Recently, polytechnics across the nation, completed a sixty-five days strike actions with a promise to continue after three months if their requests are not granted. All these has caused delay for the students. You can imagine, a student who had planned three years for his academic pursue is now spending five years.

The minister of education in Nigeria, Adamu Adamu noted at the inauguration ceremony for the reconstituted federal government team for the renegotiation of the 2009 agreements with ASUU on December 2020 that the government is also worried about the vicious cycle over the years of the myriad of industrial actions of university unions. Adamu said: “As you are quite aware, the federal government and relevant stakeholders, in the past months, have been neck-deep in several meetings with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and others to resolve the outstanding issues that led to the current industrial action in public universities.” Adamu made this statement last year, but they are yet to fulfill this because ASUU are planning to embark on another strike action.

Meanwhile, the reason for these strike actions by the institutions are very reasonable. Let’s take for instance, the recent strike action of polytechnics across the country was based on discrimination between polytechnic students and university students. ASUP President, Anderson Ezeibe, while accusing successive governments of neglecting polytechnic education, he said education policies are discriminatory against polytechnics, their teachers as well as their products. To address this, the ASUP chief said the government must ensure proper funding; supervision and regulation of standards for polytechnic education while also removing discriminatory policies against the sub-sector.

Another reason for the strike action was picked-point in the statement of the ASUP President during his speech, he stated that, “In Kano, the government has also agreed to implement the 65-year retirement age for its members. However, despite signing up to release N15billion for infrastructural development, the government is yet to release the funds. The same goes for payment of arrears of minimum wage owed members as contained in the signed agreement.

The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Ogun state, who is known for its uninterrupted calendar and always opting out of strikes, also took part in the sixty-five days strike action. According to a source, FPI wanted to opt out of the strike before its ended, but the ASUP chairman of the institution convinced the management by stating the reasons behind the strike, in which the institution will not benefit from the results if its opt out.

But, we cannot deny the fact that this strike action has affected the educational standard of the country. Ajayi Beatrice, an HND 2 student of business Administration and Management, expressed her sadness about the strike action, that it has affected her plans and missions. She stated this during an interview with her. She said her plan was to start a business by November but she cannot accomplish it because, by that time, she is yet to finish her studies. Adebayo Christiana, HND 2 Marketing student said that, the strike has stopped her from getting married this year, and turn her to lord of the rings, since she has been engaged over a year now but can not proceed to getting married because of the strike. Even ChukumaEzediogu, a civil engineering student expressed his unhappy state as to the strike, that he can not enjoy his service year as a Cooper, because his age has exceeded the service requirement since he has clocked his thirty years.

While interviewing Mrs. FunkeOlalere, a food seller in the campus premises of FPI, she complained about how the strike hindered her from making sales. She said, her major customers are the students; when there is no students around, she has to lock up her shop within that period, and she has to survive on the little money she had saved. Mr. Okeze, an okada rider in Ilaro said that, when the institution, The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro is not in session, he is always sad because the students patronize him more than the villagers. And, as the man of his family, when the students are not around, he returns back to his farm in the village.

Even the lecturers are not left out, while interrogating a lecture, Dr. Olushola Ojo, a lecturer in Urban and Town Planning department of The Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, claimed that, the strike also affect the lecturers too, leading to overload of works for them which are meant to be accomplished within a short period of time. And those time they declare to be on strike, they still attend meetings frequently, that means, instead of resting like the students, they are moving from one meeting to another.

With all these, it is clear that; although strike is one of the means to gain the attention of the governments in the country, it has caused more harm than good. One of the effect of these strike actions are depression, psychological and emotional trauma, fear of not knowing what next, and other psychological problems in students. This may leads to low self-esteem sometimes when they see their counterparts in private institutions graduating and moving on with their lives while they are stuck in one class for over two years. This may also lead to depression and causes some students to start abusing drugs in order to forget their woes about how the educational system has failed those who cannot afford to attend private institutions.

The disruption in the academic calendar has also been seen to have caused increase in the rate of cybercrime, drug addiction, gambling, cultism, and other immoral acts since students have been at home. A famous proverb says ‘the idle hand is the devil’s workshop’. As a result of the strike action, many university and polytechnic students have resorted to engaging in these nefarious activities. Since they have a lot of free time on their hands with nothing to do to while away the time, unproductive activities have caught their eyes. These activities affect students’ academics since they is no time for them to read unlike when school is in session. Its then affect their performances thereby leading to production of half-baked graduates from the educational sector.

Presently, all public institutions academic calendar has been disrupted and this leads to an inability to cover course outlines before exams are written. As a result of this, Nigerian graduates who travel abroad to further their studies sometimes have issues with catching up with their foreign counterparts on topics that they were not properly taught during their undergraduate years. Due to the time wasted, students get rushed through the curriculum without attention being paid to whether the concepts taught are understood or not. This leads to a drop in academic performance and low motivation towards excellence.

One other significant effect that strike actions have caused is to incur more costs for the students. Considering the fact that, the rent fee for the rooms or the self-contained rooms that these students are staying is for a stipulated period of time, if the period elapses; for them to continue staying there, they will have to renew the rent. Imagine if a student has already paid for a year or for 6 months and then in the process, strike comes in and then no academic activity for a number of months while the rent fee is counting, by the time the rent expires, the students will likely have to renew the rent and pay money even when academic activities for which reason he/she has rented the room or place has not been on.

However, there are some positive side to this strike action, one of which, within the few months of strike, some serious students make use of this opportunity to learn a trade or acquire a skill. They learn fashion designing, photography, hairdressing, soap making, shoe making and so on. Some students even get a degree online by applying for an online course, with that, they will have more than one skill or degree. In this contemporary world, where unemployment is one of problem in Nigeria, they can make use of the skill or degree they have acquired to sustain themselves, if their academic degree is yet to be accepted by the labour market.

Moreover, if the proposed funds are released, it will be helpful in the renovation and construction of new infrastructure in public institutions in order to meet up with the global standards. More lecture halls and residential halls can be built to add to the existing ones; this will make studying easier for students. Libraries will also be built and stocked with modern books, standard laboratories, and internet access will be available for all students.

If all earned allowances and withheld salaries are paid off, lecturers will be more than willing to carry out their responsibilities. The zeal for teaching will be there and they can retire feeling happy with joy of impacting lives while enjoying the process. If institutions are funded and world-class laboratories are available, award-winning researches can be engaged that will put the institutions and the country at large in the spotlight of international community.

But, the negative effects of these strike actions are more alarming than its positive effects, because even the positive effects are based on probability. And the fact that university and polytechnic bodies seem to see ASUU and ASUP strike actions as a major way of getting what they want is something of concern, may be if they seek out other measures that could be more effective and student-friendly, probably they might come up with new means of demanding their rights, but if strike is often the answer when issues are to be thrashed, then that means strikes will continue to happen. If universities and polytechnics go on strike not considering well, whether it will affect the students or not, then this might be showing that the students are not the primary interest of the universities and polytechnics and that they are not as careful of students as much as they are concerned of the workers. It should rather be balanced. As much as these institutions are concerned about the welfare of their workers, they are supposed to be very much concerned about the welfare of the students also, because if the students are not there then the lecturers will not have students to lecture, it should be a balanced thing. They should look for a way to make sure that both the workers and the students are favorably treated.

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