FG, ASUU, Students & the Heartbreak

By Humphrey Ogu

This is certainly not one of the best times to study or work in a Nigerian public university. Not so long ago, humans were forced to stay indoors by the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. While the Covid-19 pandemic lasted virtually every human activity came to a halt. For institutions and organisations in the technologically-advanced parts of the world; academic and business activities were moved on to the virtual space. Studies and businesses went on. But not so in our own space.

In most public universities, academic activities only resumed when restrictions on human movement was relaxed and the World Health Organisation(WHO) confirmed that it's safe to have physical interactions. Just as the Covid-19 pandemic was coming to an end, there came another setback. This time the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a strike that kept students at home for a couple of months. Expectedly, that altered the academic calendar a bit.

The universities had hardly recovered from the covid-19 Pandemic destruction, and the strikes that followed when ASUU resumed its endemic strike last February. Other university-based unions followed and the university system was grounded to a halt. Eight good months of the academic calendar were lost to the industrial action of ASUU and the unyielding stance of the government. As if to stifle labour unionism, the power that be starved the affected staff of funds in the name of no-work, no-pay policy. For the starved university staff, it's been so far, so bad.

Many things have happened. Many lives have been lost on the parts of staff and students. Many staff have moved on to other jobs. For students in the affected public institutions, the academic calendars have been unduly altered and the hope of moving to the next class or graduating within the stipulated programme duration has been dashed. Their dreams have been deferred.

There are several categories of students affected by the strike. Those who just gained admission are already disillusioned. Most students, who could afford it, have moved on to other universities--either privately-owned universities in Nigeria or others outside the country. Those who lack the wherewithal to move, are compelled to come back to where they left off eight months ago. Some of the students who have given up on university education moved on to do something else with their lives. Others have lost their lives due to depression or other causes.

From whatever angle one looks at it, it's a case of no victor, no vanquished. A lot have been lost already. It's a time for sober reflection. Can ASUU strike endemic be eradicated? Will students in Nigerian universities ever have respite, heave a sigh of relief and graduate in record time? Would public university staff ever have conducive condition of service? endless question.

On whatever side we are: staff or student, there is no denying that we've just suffered a serious heartbreak in the hands of the federal government. As staff, our hopes have been dashed. As students, our dreams have been deferred. As a nation, future has been infected. We all share in the huge loss of eight months. Let's rekindle our hope and continue to strive for a brighter tomorrow. Welcome back!

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