The three-week-old industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has crippled academic activities in the nation’s public universities has continued to take huge toll on students, especially those who have already stayed unnecessarily long on campus. Some of them in this report expressed their displeasures over the strike.
Ajayi Babatunde is a 600 level student of the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Ikeja, whose hope of graduating within the next couple of weeks has again been dashed. This follows the recent declaration of an indefinite strike embarked upon by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). According to Babatunde, who is also the President, Lagos State University Medical Students’ Association (LASUMSA), the programme he started in 2007 and originally scheduled to end this August was at a time, due to incessant strikes either by association of doctors or ASUU, rescheduled for April 2014.
However, “the ongoing strike,” Babatunde said; “has again confirmed the uncertainty of April date because a single day missed would definitely be repeated.” “It is sad that once again we are witnessing another unsolicited break. Just last year, we had eight months of strike by the Medical Guild which affected our clinical classes. “Now, we don’t know when this ASUU strike will end. Even the clinical postings we are attending now is a waste of time because whenever ASUU resumes, we will still repeat them.
Only few of us who are so passionate about medicine are attending while many of our classmates could not afford to waste their money, time and energy,” he explained. Similarly, Ilelaboye Johan (not real name), a Masters Programme student at the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, in Osun State, is in his third year for a twoyear programme.
The 37-year-old Johan is blaming his fate on three prongs, namely: nonchalant attitude of the university towards students’ affairs; individual supervisor’s indolence and poor treatment of dissertations, and the incessant university workers’ strike, including ASUU, NASU, SSANU, among others. The lady, who traced her decision to join the university for the programme to her inability to secure a job despite her brilliant ND and first degree qualifications, said the ongoing ASUU strike would make her pay new “undeserving” tuition fee. “I cannot understand what I am still doing on campus here. I submitted my Form A to the postgraduate college about two months ago and up till date, they have not worked on it.
Also, I had submitted my completed project to the supervisor for vetting for almost a month now but he hardly creates time for me. Now, the strike is here and I will have to pay another school fee.
“The whole system is faulty, and that is why I feel many candidates don’t consider OAU for their Masters programme. If you complain, they tell you spending eight semesters for a four semesters programme is not bad, because their lecturers also gave them problems,” the frustrated Johan narrated. The story is the same with Boladale Kamar, who is spending his sixth year for a five-year Law degree programme at the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, and Helen Ogwu of Ladoke Akintola University (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, who is in her fifth year but in 300 level at the university’s Department of Nursing Science.
The circumstances painted above may have informed the animosity of the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students against their lecturers, who they accused of not carrying them along before declaring the strike. Speaking during a recent media briefing, NANS National President, Yinka Gbadebo condemned what he termed insensitivity to student affairs on the part of ASUU, saying each time ASUU goes on strike, students had always been at the receiving end. He said the association under his leadership would not support the ongoing strike because “ASUU is not according the students their deserved honour and consideration.”
Meanwhile, ASUU has insisted that unless, the Federal Government honours the agreement “it willingly entered into with the union in 2009,” there would be no going back on the ongoing strike.
Speaking on a television programme in Ibadan recently, the Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of ASUU, Dr. Olusegun Ajiboye, said the ongoing strike should be seen by Nigerians as a collective struggle to ensure that children of the poor still have access to good and quality public education. Ajiboye expressed worry that private institutions exploit the masses because Nigerians allowed the government to underfund public primary and secondary education.
“What is working in Nigeria? Roads are death traps; health institutions are in comatose despite lies that they have equipped our hospitals. They jet out at will for medical checkups and treatments and return home. Nelson Mandela has been ill, but he is being treated in a South African hospital. Our rulers cannot do that. Health tourism is now the order of the day.
They embezzle the little we have and the masses suffer and die. “Agreement is a covenant. There must be sanctity of agreement. For developing countries to grow, it must fund education with about 26 per cent of its budget as recommended by UNESCO. However, the Nigerian government is extremely comfortable with 8.5 per cent of budgetary allocation to education while about one-third of the nation’s budget goes to salaries and allowances of political office holders in a situation where many countries with smaller GDP have their percentage budgetary allocations to education as follows: Ghana (31%) ; Cote d’Ivoire (20%); Kenya (23%); Morocco (17.7%); Botswana (19.0%); Swaziland (24.6%); Lesotho (17.0%); Burkina Faso (16.8%); Uganda (27.0%) and Tunisia (17.0%).