ASUU strike: The way forward for Nigerian students
The ongoing industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has undeniably affected many things positively and negatively, especially the Nigerian students. Since its commencement on February 14, it has led to the shutdown of most public universities in Nigeria, caused an unwanted break in academic activities, and left most students clueless about what to do next with little or no hope of resumption. This has been on for over seven months now.
Among the numerous reasons for the strike, the unfulfilled promises by the Federal Government have been the bane of the strike, which has also broken the trust system ASUU has in them. Also, the refusal of the Federal Government to pay the six-month salaries of the lecturers’ union has been adding more passion to the unyielding spirits of the union recently.
As one of these ‘Nigerian students’ who have been victimised by the industrial action, I would agree more that while some of us have found the strike interesting and helpful, most of us have also found it depressing, hard to cope with, and uninteresting. With the ample time the strike has afforded us in the last seven months, some of us have been able to maximise the time to acquire skills, network, make money, and intern.
On the contrary, some students have not been able to do the same as a result of their circumstances, low level of exposure, fear of resumption, and so on. For example, some of us have missed out on opportunities, particularly scholarships because the strike has hindered us from obtaining the required essentials such as our results.
It saddens my heart to know that some of us that are final-year law students in public universities will not be mobilised for the Nigerian Law School in 2022, mainly because of this ongoing strike. The affected students would have to wait till 2023 after spending not less than five years in their universities. While their counterparts from the private institutions would be accepted into the Law School, they would be at home at the mercies of either ASUU or the Federal Government.
Unfortunately, with the recent way the court has been adjourning the case between the Federal Government and ASUU (although the court ruled on Wednesday that ASUU should call off the strike), our situation could worsen as the reopening of public universities is far-fetched this year.
Those of us who can still afford to hope for resumption this year do so to the glory of the Lord. But as far as I can think of this annoying situation, to be frank, the hope for resumption this year is implausible. It would take divine intervention for the two parties to reach an agreement that would birth resumption, this year. I hope that divine intervention would be the court.
Waiting until 2023 will be tiring if the two parties do not reach a consensus. I cannot imagine how staying at home would be till 2023, or till another administration takes over from the current administration in May 2023, when staying at home for over seven months without a way forward has already been depressing for us.
It is saddening to think about. Hopefully, with the way things are going between the Federal Government and ASUU in court, the National Association of Nigerian Students’ protests, and the intervention of the House of Representatives, the public universities will be reopened as soon as possible.
But what if resumption will not take place this year? What if there would be no divine intervention? What if the court keeps adjourning? What if Federal Government refuses to pay the salaries of ASUU?
What if we would have to wait even longer? In the meantime, what is the way forward for us when the resumption still tarries? When the two parties do not reach a consensus on their differences, what should we do? I am not a pessimist, and I want to resume more than anything as a student.
As a student, I have thought about the foregoing questions many times. The thought of them alone weighs me down. However, I have been able to come up with some way forward.
According to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), which is the body representing Nigerian students, the way forward seems to be protesting. In a letter the students’ body released on September 19 and signed by the NANS president (Usman Umar Barambu), it was announced that there will be a protest from September 19 to October 11, 2022, to express grievances against the ongoing strike. This is not a bad idea at all as protest is a powerful tool for social change.
Become an entrepreneur
Although there are different definitions of ‘entrepreneur,’ the most common phrase used by scholars has been ‘risk taker.’ As Nigerian students, we must become risk-takers. We must be willing to take risks no matter our circumstances. Most of us have missed out on opportunities because of the fear of resumption. That should end now.
By also becoming an entrepreneur, we have to develop ideas that would turn into a business, providing solutions to problems. In this way, we will become our own bosses.
There are a lot of skills to be learned nowadays, but I would suggest that we leverage more on high digital skills because the world has gone digital. Most of the digital skills are available online for free: copywriting, coding, graphics design, content creation, content marketing, social media management, UI/UX design, video editing, virtual assistant, and so on.
We can use this period to acquire the aforementioned skills that will make us self-reliant and independent. Most of us have seen the opportunities to register for these skills, but we have overlooked them, expecting resumption. It is important for us to know that the skills we would acquire today would not only be useful now, but would also be useful when we eventually graduate. As a matter of fact, when we become experts in them, we would earn passive incomes and also improve our growth.
Having only good grades or degrees cannot afford us a job in this 21st Century. Most organisations now value experience over grades and degrees. So, applying for internship opportunities would help us greatly to explore different career paths that would give us work experiences, which we would later need in the labour market.
Although most of the internship opportunities might be without pay, it would still be helpful to give us the platform to train and provide us with work experiences useful for our curriculum vitae (CVs), even before graduating.
Contrary to popular belief, internship opportunities are open for both students and graduates.
Take online courses
Taking online courses from credible platforms such as Udemy, Google, Udacity, Alison, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and so on is also a way forward for us. Some of the courses these platforms provide are free, while some are paid. These platforms would offer us certificates, which we can include in our CVs.
Online courses offer flexibility. We can choose to enrol for them at any time, and we can enrol for them anywhere as long as we have the needed materials such as our phones, laptops, etc. to access the courses online. So, even if ASUU eventually put an end to the strike, their decision would not affect our enrolment for online courses.
Sodunke, a Nigerian student, writes from Lagos