How ASUU strike slows graduates’ readiness for jobs

The incessant industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is having jaded effects on the quality and readiness of Nigerian fresh graduates in grabbing job opportunities in the labour markets.

As it said, facts speak for themselves; ASUU’s huge timeline of strikes for more than two decades speaks for itself.

In 1999 ASUU was on strike for 150 days, and 2001 for 90 days, 2002 for 14 days.

In 2003 the union went on strike for 180 days that ended in 2004, 2005 witnessed just a 3days strike, and 2006 was 7 days.

However, in 2007, ASUU had 90 days of strikes, 2008-7days and 2009 were 120days. 2010 had 157 days of the academic session wasted on strike, while in 2011 ASUU had 90 days of strike that started in December and ended in 2012.

2013 had 150 days spent on strike, 2014 and 2015 witnessed zero strike actions; only for this ugly monster to resurface in 2016 with 7 days of strike, and 2017 had 35days of ASUU strike.

In 2018, ASUU downed tools for 19 days and this continued till February 8, 2019.

2020 witnessed a whopping 9 months of ASUU strike following its disagreement with the federal government over the funding of the universities and implementation of the payment system.

Many public universities were still struggling to come of the ugly situation of a distorted academic calendar caused by the ASUU strikes and COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the ivory tower umpires declared another strike on February 14, 2022, which is now on its 6th month and still counting.

ASUU strike no doubt gives rise to a learning crisis at the tertiary education level and prolongs students’ years of graduation. Invariably, this means that students are exposed to a distorted learning atmosphere that does not allow for ideal knowledge impartation, and at the same time leads to prolonged academic years.

Olamide Adeyeye, a human resource expert with Jobberman told BusinessDay that the incessant ASUU strikes have huge negative effects on students, part of which is that it leaves them with low competitive advantages in the labour market.

“Over 80percent of graduates are from public universities, and the strike makes them lose time without getting any job while at home; and because of the uncertainty over when the strike will end, students are left in a dilemma on what to do even if they have the opportunity of getting a job.

“Demographically, young people are preferred by labour market. Fresh graduates above 26 years are in the disadvantaged cadre, and most times this is as a result of industrial actions and the academic elongations that come with it,” he said.

Besides, Adeyeye reiterated that beyond getting jobs, the strike actions have a way of breeding apathy to education among the students, and this according to him reflects in the low level of human capital development which gives rise to brain drain.

“It erodes the value of education, perceptions, and uptake among the youths. Education that should be the pathway out of poverty for the common man is made to deepen inequality leading to insecurity.

“Psychologically, students are not happy in the face of the strike, and this makes them lose trust in the education system, the government, and the society at large, breeding negative effects in the ecosystem. This is so because education seems to have less meaning and value to them, hence, they engage in vices,” he noted.

Read also: Pro-ASUU protest songs of disappointment against PMB

Recall that in June it was reported by Vanguard on June 26, 2022 how idle university students take to betting, internet fraud, and prostitution, among others due to the ASUU strike.

The strike obviously has caused students to move from the sublime to the ridiculous as some students are now engaged in various activities to while away the time.

Similarly, Chinonso Diala, human resource personnel at Transom Capitals disclosed to BusinessDay that most firms in Nigeria would prefer to employ fresh graduates between the ages of 23 to 26 which narrow the job opportunities available.

For Friday Erhabor, a public affairs analyst, “The wishy-washy manners in which lectures are conducted after these strikes means students will learn little and not be able to fit in the workplace. This means in the future the country’s productivity will be very low because education is key to the development of the country.”

And going by President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments in his opening remarks at a presidential summit on education in November 2017, when he noted that it is those who acquire the most qualitative education are equipped with requisite skills, training and empowered with practical know-how that are leading others.

Nigerian students, especially those in public tertiary institutions that are most affected by the strikes are left with limited learning time which does not allow them to acquire the most qualitative education that equips them to lead others in the labour market.

An expert in human resources in a multimedia firm revealed that companies are generally interested in the age gap of the new intakes, which according to her ASUU strike tends to hinder by prolonging students’ stay in school.

“For instance, if a student enters university at the age of 20 for a course of 5 years, and ends up spending 7 years with the one-year compulsory service, he would be entering the labour market at a disadvantaged age,” she said.

Besides, she pointed out that it is easier to manage staff at a younger age because they are flexible to learn and adaptable, especially with tech skills which is one of the essential qualities for the contemporary workplace.

She went further to explain that some of these students during the strike period tend to vie off their careers, some would embark on acquiring tech skills while some others are carried away with youthful exuberant which exposes them to vices to the detriment of their education.

“The 21st-century education is no doubt competence-based, where students learn to master their chosen careers through learning by practice system,” she said.

According to The Economist, a British Newspaper, in Britain, for instance, the number of young people studying computer science rose by almost 50 percent between 2011 and 2020, to over 30,000. More than 31,000 took up an engineering course in 2020, up by 21percent from 2011.

That is a pointer to how imperative Information Technology (IT) teaching and learning approach is needed to groom graduates that will fit into the global labour market.

Ironically, this is one of the reasons ASUU is having an impasse with the federal government. The upgrading of learning facilities in public universities should be a concern to stakeholders and shareholders at all levels of the education sector.

There cannot be a competent education system without augmenting teaching aids, libraries, and laboratories to facilitate teaching and learning practices.

This is in line with the views of Aliko Dangote, the managing director, and chief executive officer of Dangote Groups who in a 2019 survey by PwC 97percent of African chief executives said that lack of skills was affecting their organisations’ growth and profitability.

“We believe Africa will drive the future of the global economy, but if our youth do not have the skills, then how can they do so?” he asked.

According to Dangote bridging the gap requires spending extra time, effort, and financing on training and upskilling staff among others.

In Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index, which polled more than 30,000 workers in 31 countries in January and February, more than half of Gen­z hybrid workers said they were relocating thanks to remote work, compared with 38percent of people overall. The option to work remotely is increasingly non-negotiable.

Workers aged 18 to 34 are nearly 60percent more willing to quit than their older peers if the choice is taken away, according to research by McKinsey, a consultancy. They are also more likely to engage with job listings that mention flexibility.

This trend calls for an aggressive education approach to imparting knowledge that does not give room for indulging in industrial actions every now and then rampant among lecturers in Nigeria.

Research indicates that more fresh graduates from private universities tend to get jobs easier than their counterparts from public institutions simply because the former graduate on time and are exposed to better learning experiences.

Most private universities tailor their education system to encourage students to learn and develop transferable skills. This, they bear in mind that the intellectual quotient system of education is outdated.

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