By Ranti Olaose,
Friday, December 6 2013
Friday, December 6 2013
On July 1, 2013, I had a test. I had spent the day before studying and although I wasn’t as prepared as I would like, I wasn’t completely clueless. So when the morning of that day came around and I heard ASUU was going on strike, I felt some sliver of relief. It didn’t seem like much, exams were only 4 weeks away, I was pretty confident it would only last a week or so at most. It’s been 3 months.
They began the strike after a few months of warning due to the failure of the government to resolve 8 out of 10 issues agreed on in 2009 (You can find a comprehensive report on these issues here). Since then there’s been no shortage of name calling, finger pointing, endless meetings and condemnations, all to no avail. The Federal Government claims to be unable to uphold their end of the deal, and have called on ASUU to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. ASUU is standing their ground and insisting on the terms of the 2009 agreement being met. Apparently, this will be the strike to end them all. The proverbial elephants are tussling, and the Nigerian student is the grass.
Strikes are no novelty for the Nigerian undergraduate as they’ve happened almost every year since 1995, but we never really adjust to the effects. Apart from already having that particularly dark cloud looming over you, when it does strike, the results are always devastating. I can rattle off the many ways in which just 3 months of idleness has affected me and the millions of stranded students across the country. There’s the damage it has done to the academic calendar. In a very normal school year, I would have written exams in July, be done and soaking up sun by August, instead I’m watching it rain in NYC, with the threat of the strike getting called off suddenly in the background. But this looks like a literal first world problem compared to the students who are at home watching the news and hoping PHCN, who apparently are on a strike of their own, doesn’t leave them in darkness. As of now, I’m still unsure as to how the school calendar would be modified to fit this gap we’ve had, and still have it return to normal.
There’s also the problem of these students who should be poring through textbooks turning to the streets and poring through other’s pockets. The idle mind is the Devil’s workshop, after all. These strikes have turned what should be a 4 or 5 year journey into a game of chance. A friend of mine, a final year student, was defending his project in July. He should have graduated, and started NYSC in November, moving on with his life, but he’s caught behind the gates like the rest of us.
It’s things like these that show the world just how defunct our educational system is, in turn making Nigerian degrees practically worthless in the international community. Anyone trying to find employment in, say, England using a Nigerian certificate is searching for gold in the desert. The other day I was talking to a Jamaican who could not believe that a University could be out of session for three months because of a strike. Bear in mind that Jamaica, much like Nigeria, is a third world country. However, the concept of it is still unthinkable to them. This just shows how disgraceful this is for Nigeria, the giant of Africa, although it’s stopped being the giant for a while now.
So, amidst this ‘last strike’, we must ask ourselves, is this really the last strike? A healthy dose of pessimism would allow us see that the FG isn’t just going to throw money they admittedly don’t have at ASUU to pacify them. Even if they do, for how long would it last before another debate on the run-down infrastructural system of universities is had, or the cost of living rises till lecturers cannot live on their salaries? What then should be done to ensure this does not repeat itself? I personally believe the system needs an overhaul, maybe a state of emergency called on it. As of now, it’s being held by duct tape and glue. A generous influx of revenue into the Nigerian universities would be a good place to start (that is, if it doesn’t end up lining the pockets of the high and mighty). I believe that if we focus on paying lecturers well enough to care about their jobs and give them the tools to do it properly, the rest would fix itself. But all of that is in the long term. The major concern right now is, how will this tug of war between the FG and ASUU end?