Nigerian lecturer teaching in class before one of the latest asuu strikes
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‘It’s giving us the jitters as parents’: Nigerian public on incessant ASUU strikes

The LRF offered a platform for the Nigerian public to express their varied concerns over the unending problem of ASUU strikes. Here’s what they had to say.

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As part of a continued fight against inequalities in education, the Literary Renaissance Foundation hosted a concern-gathering event on Zoom, where members of the Nigerian public, critical stakeholders in the flailing educational system, logged on to share their various experiences on how the monstrosity that is relentless ASUU strikes impacts their lives – and their views on the key steps to ending it.

“By the time we resumed, we’d forgotten what we had learnt,” says Amos Akande, student from Abuja reflecting on his own experience. “And some of my mates were even thinking of backing out from the programme. Because of that strike, we couldn’t finish our exams on time. We couldn’t finish our course work on time. We’re still battling with our thesis. I’ve spent six years on my master’s programme. So things are hard as regards ASUU strikes.”

“It takes a huge chunk of the productive years of most young people,” says Olabisi Olasupo, a parent from Ibadan, “and I really hope we can get things right. It’s beginning to give us jitters as parents. No Nigerian parent is very comfortable with having children in public universities now. That’s why there is an upsurge of students in private universities. Their four years is four years.”

As for Bobai Kabonwok, an academic speaking from Kaduna, his perspective on the strikes has changed ever since he became a lecturer at a tertiary institution. “Now I am a lecturer, I understand what ASUU are fighting for,” he says. “As a student, my major concern with regard to the strikes was that I needed to leave university early so that I could get a good-paying job. But I am part of the struggle now.

He believes the fact that many ASUU members also have their children in public universities affected by the strikes is evidence that their reasons for striking are more than justifiable. “Some of these lecturers have their wards in these universities as well. So when people say the lecturers are insensitive or inhumane, are they trying to be wicked to themselves by stopping their wards from graduating? They might not even benefit from these things they are fighting for now. It is for posterity. Someday they will leave the university system, and the students they are grooming and training will be the ones to take over.”

According to Bobai, the state of facilities in universities is disgusting and unacceptable. Remuneration is shockingly low. Being an academic costs a lot of money, but the payment is so poor that lecturers are left wretched and unable to cope with the demands of their profession. As a result, many are forced to leave for better prospects abroad, which has led to a brain drain that is dragging the country down, says Barth Akpah, Nigerian writer, poet and lecturer, who himself is currently residing in Liberia. “A lot of lecturers are leaving the Nigerian academic sector in droves. The best hands are leaving the system, so I keep asking myself, who are those remaining?”

But the rot is trickling down, so that even students no longer see the value in education, says Chukwuma Adekunle from Enugu. “Everywhere you go, young people tell you that education is ‘a scam’.”

He also sees the country doing itself a great disservice if the university system is left degenerate. “Australia is now taxing universities from the income they generate from foreign students,” he explains. “Their government is making as much as $10 billion in taxes from three universities alone, from foreign students. If the money Nigerian students are paying to foreign universities is actually retained in the country, what will it not add to us?”

Discussing the actions we can take as individuals and as a nation to end these strikes and advance our educational system, Bobai believes that we must come together and pressure our governments to do their jobs. “Although we have our own responsibilities too, the bulk of the work is in the corridors of our leaders. So we as individuals and a community, we can insist, we can use the media and pressure groups, attend their plenary sessions in the houses of assembly both in our states and in Abuja, and swarm them.”

However, he also admits that a huge barrier to this is the ethno-religiously organised divide-and-rule system that politicians and successive governments have always employed to emasculate the power of the Nigerian masses. “Except we rise above our prejudices and ethnic bigotry, we will not get it right,” he says.

Olabisi agrees that the solution is our collective responsibility, that every Nigerian has something to give and a sacrifice to make, and that we all, including the students, must take a more active voice to pressure our government. “Our students should open their eyes to the power they have as youths and utilise that power,” she says, although she recognises that the drawback to that is police brutality and the fear of government retaliation through armed force, as witnessed in the Lekki massacre of October 2020.

However, Olabisi also believes that all of our problems equally stem from the erosion of our norms and values, which has proliferated corruption and made materialism the overall dictator of our actions, with this being seen for instance, she says, in the vague management of internally generated funds in public universities. “How well are these funds being managed? Our values are lost. You begin to get the sense that everyone is fighting for what they can personally gain, inasmuch as even the little that is being dropped is not reflecting. It is only when we imbibe the right sense of values that we will begin to get it right.”

You can watch the entire event on the LRF’s Facebook community page here. If you are interested in assisting the organisation’s drive for better educational prospects for all, you can join as a volunteer. You can also donate here.

Featured image credit: BBC News Pidgin


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