The popular saying, when two elephants clash the grass suffers perfectly reflects the case on Nigerian students caught in the middle of the never-ending feud between the Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU) and the federal government of Nigeria. ASSU issued a twenty-one-day ultimatum to the Federal Government on Monday 15th of November 2021 to implement the agreement they had reached in 2020 following the last strike which lasted for another nine months, an action to which Nigerian students suffered greatly as they are just completing the 2019/2020 session in 2021.
From 1999 to 2020, ASUU has gone on strike for a total of fifty months and yet another strike is on. The Federal Government and ASUU are always in a constant conflict concerning unpaid salaries, low salaries, and poor working conditions of the Union’s members. Nigerian students always account for “X” number of years in addition to their normal study year due to incessant strikes. The effect of this constant action is one of the main reasons for the poor quality of education in the country.
Students are constantly depressed and lethargic due to the constant strike action and uncertainty concerning the progress of their education. They are left confused on whether to search for remote jobs or wait till the strike is over. The recent 2020 strike lasted for nine months and this created a whole lot of confusion in the minds of students not to mention the effect it had on their education when the strike was called off. Upon resumption, most students had lost the motivation to study and they struggled to remember the catch up with the curriculum. On the other hand, due to time lost during the strike, lecturers rushed students through the curriculum with materials and little or no time for explanations as the academic year had already been spent. This contributed largely to the lethargy of university students and the few who were still motivated struggled to assimilate. Ultimately this led to poor performances in examinations.
Another adverse effect of this constant strike is that it leaves students idle for prolonged periods. While some seek internship opportunities and some others engage in all sorts of criminal activities such as cyber-crime, fraud, thuggery, etc., these activities create adverse effects on society by increasing the rate of insecurity in the country.
The Federal Government should take into consideration the plight of students by ensuring high-quality infrastructure and educational facilities are available in all Universities. This is achievable if the Government meets its end of the bargain as agreed with ASUU. Ensuring proper working conditions for the Union as well as ensuring proper remuneration for them is one of the major causes of the incessant strike. The ASUU chairman of the Lagos Chapter said in an interview that the highest-paid professor earned four hundred and sixteen thousand naira in 2009 and still earns the same till date. Other lecturers and staff earn a minimum wage which is thirty thousand naira in a country where a bag of rice costs twenty-five thousand in the least, not to mention the inflation rate on other consumer goods which increases daily. These factors affect the standard of living of the lecturers and consequently, the quality of education students receive.
Furthermore, the budget allocation to the educational sector should be increased as the sector is one of the most important and its quality affects other sectors. Currently, the allocation to the sector is less than ten percent of the National budget a rather insignificant amount because the education sector greatly affects the quality of other sectors in areas such as creative innovation and future-forward ideas.
ASUU on the other hand should also devise other effective means through which they can communicate their dissatisfaction as the continuous strike seems to prove abortive. It would not be a recurring strategy if it was truly effective. The Union can advise the Federal government on measures and policies that can help both parties whilst keeping the interest of the student’s priority.
In conclusion, incessant strike actions will continue to have adverse effects on the students as it is not the best tool for the union to communicate its grievances. The Federal Government should also place priority on the quality of education in Nigerian Universities by ensuring that the demands of the Academic union are met and the interest of the students take priority.