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Thursday, August 11, 2022
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ASUU strike; making best use of the universities shut down

By Ajanya Deborah Ojochegbe

In my four years as a student at the University of Lagos, I have witnessed three strike actions, each of which I hoped would be the last. However, due to another strike, I am writing this from the comfort of my living room rather than at school.

Numerous industrial actions have afflicted the Nigerian education system, which has influenced our lives, expectations, and the general opinion of the Nigerian Tertiary Education system.

I intend to address some of the challenges posed by industrial action and the opportunities that such occurrence could provide for you and how well they can be utilized, as well as proffer ways in which a desirable educational structure can be attained in a country like Nigeria.

Education is stated to be a requirement for man’s existence; it promotes the development of valuable information and abilities in a community, and it instils in those who are exposed to it particular talents and attitudes that are seen as useful and designable in society.

As a result of the importance of education, some have held the belief that one who ceases to learn ceases to exist, and that one who does exist possesses traits such as transcendence, discernment, communication, and active participation in the evolution of society.

In recent years, the educational sector, particularly universities in Nigeria, has experienced incessant closures as a result of lecturers’ industrial actions, sometimes known as ‘Strikes.’ Education in Nigeria is currently unable to fulfil its noble goal due to a slew of issues, one of which is the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, which has frequently disrupted academic activities.

The ASUU’s constant strikes can be attributed to a variety of factors. According to ASUU, the most serious issues are funding, lack of autonomy, and dehumanizing working conditions. In an attempt to find a long-term solution to these issues, the Federal Government established the Public Complaint Commission in 2005, which recommended a 90 per cent funding level for the next fifteen years, but the Federal Government has failed to fully fulfil their part of the bargain.

According to a report, Nigerian Tertiary institutions have gone on strike 15 times since 1999, for a total of 50 months. The impact of these frequent closures on tertiary institution administration is easier to imagine than to articulate.

Staff strikes in Nigeria’s university, polytechnic, and college of education systems have become a recurring decimal, with negative consequences for both tertiary educational institution administration and student performance.

Academic calendar disruption is one of the negative consequences of industrial action. Disruptions in academic programmes were among the non-motivating elements affecting students’ learning attitudes.

Effective learning improves academic achievement and is achieved by successfully covering the course outline before the start of the examination; nevertheless, this is rare before a strike. As a result, students are left with no alternative except to learn independently with few resources and in a short amount of time.

Lecturers, on the other hand, are not immune to the negative consequences. Lecturers may be obliged to teach for a longer time than planned, and their schedules may be altered; periods that were intended to be utilized as vacations may be used for teaching once the strike is lifted.

When life throws stones at me, I keep looking for the gold, as someone once remarked. Another person advised, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Who doesn’t like lemonade, and who wouldn’t want a smidgeon of gold in their possession?

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I could provide a slew of quotes to demonstrate how every adversity can be turned into an opportunity. Without a question, this is a trying period for every Nigerian Federal University student; many are unsure what to do with their time, while others are fed up with reading their books page by page with no sense of direction.

Some students, on the other hand, have everything planned out for them; while many have used the strike as an opportunity to restart their businesses and side hustles, others have taken advantage of the opportunity to expand their intellectual horizons by participating in various international competitions that would have otherwise disrupted their studies.

Industrial activities, without a doubt, would not be damaging to an ordinary and intelligent Nigerian university student who makes use of the opportunities available. There are two fundamental aspects that can be used to efficiently accomplish this: learn or earn, or do both.

  1. Learn

During this period a student cannot afford to stay idle. Brain flexibility is reduced by keeping the mind asleep and not actively participating in the acquisition of knowledge. Actively gaining knowledge in numerous areas of life will keep the mind open and make it much more responsive to school texts when school resumes.

As a result, opportunities can be seized by actively participating in knowledge acquisition activities such as enrolling in and completing an online course, learning a skill for entrepreneurship, learning a language, and applying for internships in companies or organizations related to one’s field of study. This would extend the student’s horizons in regards to his or her course while also providing the benefit of experience.

My father once advised me to learn as much as possible, and today, everything I know how to do well was learnt during my breaks or strike periods; Today, I am a fashion designer and own my fashion brand specialising in making Children’s clothing.

I am also an aspiring Interior decorator currently undergoing training in house painting and interior decor, furthermore and I’ve also interned with law firms and organizations like the Nigerian Bar Association, Lagos Chapter, where I helped in preparing an audit on Ikoyi Prison inmates. Not only have all these afforded me a certain level of exposure and experience but have also contributed immensely to my growth in career, skill and in finance.

Students should be open-minded while choosing to learn and explore numerous areas of interest; you never know where you might find a profession. Significantly, the knowledge earned outside of a university’s four walls prepares one for life after graduation. It gives the student independence and a feeling of direction for what to pursue following years of university study. The lovely thing about learning, as B.B King famously said, is that no one can take it away from you.

  1. Earn

Another way to take advantage of industrial actions is to make money through legal ways. Many students are talented, but they aren’t putting their abilities to good use. ‘Knowledge has no meaning unless it is put into practice,’ says Anthon Chekhov. So, putting one’s skills to work to generate money, brainstorming and seeking guidance on how to provide one’s services to the public in an appealing manner is a good method to harness the breaks during strike actions. Another way to earn money is to look at yourself, find a problem, and propose a solution. Respond to the question of what people want right now, how to supply a solution, and how to turn it into a business idea.

Simultaneously, students can apply for remote jobs and offer services to earn money. There are a plethora of sites that offer remote jobs, including Amazon, AT&T, CVS Health, and Dell Technologies, to name a few.

Students can also make money by freelancing and giving writing services. Additionally, during periods of industrial action, opportunities can be exploited by volunteering in community services, offering to impact knowledge in a school for free, working on abandoned projects, investing in one’s growth and personal development, improving one’s health and spiritual life, and seeking a well-deserved rest as long as it is beneficial and won’t allow you to stare mindlessly into space.

Finally, while I feel that there are possibilities to be exploited during strikes, it is my honest hope that Nigeria will move beyond this era of recurrent strikes and place a greater emphasis on the educational success and well-being of its students.

While that has yet to come to realization, I urge that these various Unions and Universities construct a well-structured remote learning system for their students, which would be operational during the industrial actions. During this time, a platform should be built to allow students and their tutors to communicate effectively.

Projects and assignments should also be given to students on a weekly basis to ensure that they are fully informed of their academic obligations. Although there would be continual industrial action, the student’s relationships with their professors and tutors would not be completely severed.

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