The statistics are frightening! In the last two decades or so, university teachers have gone on nationwide strikes 16 times covering a cumulative period of 51 months.
Local chapters of their umbrella body, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, have also declared strikes in their respective institutions over local disputes, some of them dragging through several months.
On February 14, ASUU embarked on yet another strike, this time a one-month warning closure that carries a stiffer penalty of “total shut down” if the demands are not met.
As the one month expires and anxious students and their parents await the next action, a nationwide survey carried out by the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) has shown that Nigerians are generally tired of the incessant strikes, while many young people are feeling frustrated and loosing interest in education.
While some respondents begged government to strive toward a truce with the lecturers, others say that ASUU should consider other ways of dealing with the situation as the strikes had not solved their concerns.
Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, Deputy National President, National Parents-Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), for instance, believes that ASUU and the employers could sort out their differences without making the student the victim.
“The strikes are becoming too worrisome. The development does not portray the country in good light before the international community.
“The strikes are making the youth to lose faith in education and consequently take to negative vices that may compromise their future. This development is dangerous to us as a nation.
“It does not speak well of us as a nation that truly desires accelerated development and transformation.
“Government should tackle this issue. It must go down to work, and quickly too, to revisit whatever demands the lecturers are making.
“I understand that government is saying that it cannot afford to meet the demands of the 2009 agreement entered into, by the then government, with ASUU. But in seeking to revisit the agreement, there must be genuine commitment toward ensuring a lasting solution.”
He also appealed to ASUU not to shun the meetings called by government as “this will not lead us to anywhere”.
“All parties should be committed to finding a common ground to the issues so that we can get the children back to the classrooms because it is the parents that bear the brunt of the impasse,” he noted.
For Prof. Rahamon Bello, the immediate past Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, the strikes are “a dangerous trend that has consistently weakened the fulfillment of the hopes, aspirations and dreams of the country’s youth”.
According to him, the development is impacting negatively on every aspect of the country’s economy.
“The rate of any nation’s development is measured by the level of education of its citizens; government must make it a priority.
“We cannot be going back and forth on this issue that has been lingering for several years. It is bastardizing education in the country.
“It is the reason why some of our children are seeking higher education elsewhere. The crisis between Ukraine and Russia has let us into knowing how many of our children are pursuing their studies there.
“You can see how many of our youth have left this country in search of quality education and stable academic calendar. Nothing says we cannot achieve that,” he stated.
He said, however, that aggrieved labour unions could go on strike as there could be the need to sanitise the system to create room for better conditions of service.
The don explained that what the lecturers were agitating for had remained the same except for the salary platform that had to do with IPPIS and the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“ASUU may have its own extremity but it means well for the nation. So, we don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. There is the need to look critically into their demands.”
Prof. Oluwole Familoni, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic and Research, University of Lagos, told NAN that the development would heighten the crave for a short cut to success by the country’s youth.
“The dangers inherent in keeping youth at home, who ordinary should be in school, cannot be overemphasised.
Again, seeking education outside the shores of the country goes along with foreign exchange, such trend may not be healthy for the country’s economy.
“If we fail to fix our system here, we drive these youths outside and this may lead us to loosing some of our best brains to these foreign countries. Besides, our youths may end up with foreign cultures.
“Let government go back to the drawing board and do the needful to save our system. It must also ensure it promises only what it can comfortably fulfill.
“Some of them don’t want to come back to Nigeria because it is ASUU strikes that will welcome them,” he said.
A civil servant and parent in Asaba, Ilevare Akhimie, said that frequent strikes by ASUU had devastating effect on the nation’s educational sector.
“The effect of strike is manifested in the work place; graduates employed into the public and private sectors are unable to defend their certificates.
“Many lecturers are engaged in teaching in private universities, while others are engaged in other form of business to get the family going.
“Unending strikes have made our students and young generation lose hope in our educational sector, unlike in some Africa countries,” he said.
Ijeoma Ebiti, a computer scientist in Festus Ajuru University, said that education is the engine that drives economic and technological development of any nation, and should not be allowed to suffer.
“Our leaders should give education its pride of place in order to move this country forward,” he said.
Bunmi Harry, a final year student of the Department of Economics, Rivers State University, urged the federal government to resolve its issues with ASUU to enable the striking lecturers to return to class.
According to her, the frequent strikes have made many students lose interest in pursuing their studies.
On his part, Dr Williams Wodi, a lecturer and member of ASUU in UNIPORT, said the negative effect of the strikes was that more Nigerians would continue to send their children to study in foreign countries.
Mr Wodi disclosed that data made available by the government in 2017 showed that parents spent about N82 billion to educate their children in Ghanaian universities alone.
“This excludes the several other countries where Nigerian students go to study.
“The quality of education in those nations may not even be as good as it is in Nigeria, but the signal this creates to the international community is that our education system is inferior,” he said.
Stakeholders in the North-East have also expressed disdain over incessant ASUU strikes and described the situation as a major set back in Nigeria’s quest for development.
Some of them told NAN in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe States that the trend was “disturbing,” as it exposes students to examination malpractice, drug abuse, crimes and social vices.
Usman Ibrahim, a student in Maiduguri, said the nagging industrial action deny education to the youths and exposes them to poverty and vices.
Mercy Yohanna and Abdulrasheed Musa, also students, said the incessant strikes often result to poor quality of graduates being produced by the universities.
Similarly, Usman Wali, President, Students Union Government, Yobe State University, said that strikes were “responsible for sadness, frustration and hopelessness, especially among final year students”.
“The state of despair and idleness caused by frequent strikes always tempt students to engage in drug abuse with the hope of forgetting about their predicament.
“It is a common knowledge that crime rate among students increases during strike because of prolong idleness and peer influence.”
Mr Wali noted that apart from delaying graduation of students, frequent strikes undermine quality of degrees as students are rushed through lectures to meet deadlines each time the action is called off.
In Ibadan, Oyo State, Delayo Ojo, a student of the University of Ibadan, said that strikes in the sector only add to the number of years scheduled for students to complete their studies.
“You can’t say you have a plan for education in Nigeria, especially when you enroll for a four-year course in tertiary institutions, most likely, you will use like five to six years.
“I had no carry over, yet I used almost six years for a four-year course, just because of ASUU strike.
“I also used three years for my Master Programme, instead of 18 months, owing to ASUU strike,” she said.
Ms Ojo said that many students had dropped out of school, especially those on study leave granted them by their employers.
“When the time granted them is up and they are yet to conclude their programmes due to strike, they will have to return to their offices.
“Most often, some just forget it or postpone the studies indefinitely,” he said.
But Akin Aboluwade, a parent in Ibadan, has blamed the incessant strikes on “ASUU’s selfishness”.
Mr Aboluwade opined that not all issues should end up in strikes.