“What kept you busy during ASUU strike?”- Students share their stories
NEWSMAN, Abuja – It was a great sigh of relief as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) gave Students an early Christmas present on December 24th 2020 as it “conditionally” suspended its 9 months old strike, which began on March 23rd, 2020, this means students can now resume schools after the festive season.
According to ASUU, the decision to go back to the classroom was made based on agreement reached with the Federal Government at a meeting held on Tuesday, December 22nd which addressed most of the demands of the union.
Recall that some of the key demands tabled by ASUU which warranted the strike action include funding for revitalization of public university infrastructure, Earned Academic Allowances, withheld salaries, proliferation of state universities, visitation panels, reconstitution of the government re-negotiation team and the replacement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
In this piece, some students share with NEWSMAN what they engaged in during the “Long compulsory break”, they also spoke about what they wish was different about the Nigerian educational system, how the year 2020 has been for them in general, and their hopes for the future.
18 year old Sadiya Mukhtar, a 200 level student of Biological science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria shares her experience.
“I would proudly say that I made the best out of my year and ASUU strike. In the beginning of the strike, there was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety that I faced with the whole COVID-19 situation and it took a toll on my mental health. But as an achiever, staying idle is not something I would recommend for myself as it makes me uneasy.
“I buried my head in self-development books as I read and learned tips for living a better and happier life. This led me to coming up with a business plan. It’s still in the idea level but I see it materializing sooner than later,” she added.
She also shared how she used her Instagram platform to create awareness about the beauty of her tribe – Hausa Culture.
She further said that “public universities would be better if students are taught things that truly matter in life, like financial education, emotional intelligence, physical and mental health etc.”
Enoch Rabo, 29, was about rounding up his Masters degree programme at Nasarawa State University, Keffi before the ASUU strike.
“I spent the ASUU strike learning to make more money, learning how to code, wrote a book, developed a website for myself, took online courses. I just developed myself in every possible way. With or without school, I want to be able to survive on my skills.
“I love our educational system for one thing, it’s very, very cheap. That’s one area the government has done really well. In the UK and US especially, education is expensive. Only rich kids can conveniently go to college. Here in Nigeria, even if you’re poor, you can manage to get a university degree without being indebted.”
“All we need is a better system. More conducive learning environment. Employment of qualified teachers and lecturers. Not just people looking for jobs.
“How can our Government make education so cheap that in the end, our graduates end up using same knowledge they acquired from our universities to work in and develop other countries? Many graduates are leaving the country because the system isn’t favourable at all,” he said.
Rabo further said that “one exciting thing that happened to me this break was that I had my first child. She was born in October.”
Shekwoyemilo Bala is 21 years old and a 100 level Economics student of Nasarawa state University, Keffi.
She said “At the beginning of the strike, I mostly downloaded and watched movies, and then later started reading novels that have made me Improve. I also developed a skill in fashion designing and enrolled for some zoom classes.
“Then, I hoped staying at home wasn’t going to be for so long because of the coronavirus pandemic, but I also hoped school would resume as soon as possible, because it was really not a pleasant experience. But then I started developing my skill the more and was earning from it, so it made things better.
She added that “the year 2020 has been tough and yet interesting. It has taught me to live with people and make excuses for their faults because we aren’t perfect. And it has made me more open to life, to expect anything.”
Odey Edache, a Micro Biological student of Federal University Dutse, Jigawa state said “I didn’t do much. I attempted to start up a laundry business, but it didn’t last long.
The 20 year old said that “the most important thing I achieved was learning how to drive. That alone was the highlight of this forced holiday. This year has been a lot. I have gained and I have lost. A lot has happened which has changed my perspective on a lot of things.
“I’d wish that they would be more value placed on the schools and that the graduates would be valued, the learning environment made more conducive and the lecturers more willing to teach.”
Final year Music student, University of Ibadan, Chimaobi Bende, said he “practiced and developed real good in music, played football, read books and other materials in and outside my field. I rested and learnt to rest”
The 30 year old said if not for the strike and all that happened this year, he should have been done, submitted, defended his project and probably be a serving corp member.
100 level Water Resources and Environmental Engineering student of University of Ilorin, Grace Haggai when asked how she felt going on strike in her first year, said “I am really scared.”
“Now my 5 years course is now 6 years. I just hope this is the last strike I see before I graduate hopefully. Didn’t even get to see my first semester result. Hoping whatever it is that made them go on strike be fully settled so we would just continue without stopping,” she said.
“At first I wasn’t able to do anything due to COVID-19 lockdown, no place to learn a trade or to while away time, so I just watched YouTube videos on how to make fragrance of different types ranging from using aroma beads, diffusers, normal room fresheners and I hoped on practicing them all as a business.
“It was so frustrating that ASUU and the FG couldn’t just settle whatever it was and allow us resume school, I was always talking about how it made me tired of home at first. Then after the ease I started up a jewelry business online , on whatsapp and instagram and that’s what I still do,” she added.
Zeih Sidi, 300 level Statistics student of Nasarawa state university, Keffi said “the ASUU strike wasn’t productive, I only managed to learn how to drive, and I visited friends I hadn’t seen in a while managed to finish a 10 season long series film”
When asked if he was excited to resume school, the 20 year old said he is “indifferent towards it”.
Meanwhile, 22 year old Magdalene Danladi, a 400 level Physics Education student, University of Jos said the year 2020 in general has been “exciting, daring, adventurous, confusing, interesting, life challenging, the point is, it has been a year!”
“The strike and everything that happened this year delayed my plans of finishing school this year. Would have really loved to finish this year.”
“I started tailoring and cooking, I also got to spend a lot of time with my family and friends, so it wasn’t all a bad experience for me,” she said.