The industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has not only affected students, but traders, parents, and intending candidates, among others. They are groaning under the weight of the strike which is over 100 days. PEACE OLADIPO (FUOYE) and CHIBUIKE NWACHUKWU (UNN) report.
Tertiary Education has become a reproach of sorts to Nigeria because of incessant strikes embarked upon by lecturers in polytechnics and universities. Decades have passed and strike remains a curse on the education sector. In almost every academic session, a strike occurs.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February 14, to make Federal Government accede to its demands.
One of the thorny issues responsible for the face-off with the Federal Government is the refusal of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), a payment system presented by the union as a replacement for the government’s controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Although the industrial action started as a four-week warning strike, the union continues to extend the strike whenever the warning period expires.
Regrettably, students across ASUU-affiliated institutions in the country continue to bear the brunt of the prolonged industrial action by the union.
Beyond the students, business people on various campuses also face biting economic hardships due to crippled business activities.
The ongoing strike came at a time when many business owners were battling to recover from the effects of the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, parents, students, traders, university workers and others are lamenting the negative effects of the industrial action.
We are stagnant, say students
Olivia Bernard, a 100-Level student at the University of Calabar, complained about being stagnant.
She said: “The ASUU strike is really affecting me. Imagine, being in 100-Level from 2020 to 2022, when others are planning graduation.”
Adedokun Abdul Qayyum Abolore, the spokesperson of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti Students’ Union Government, said: “As far as I am pursuing my degree, it is also important for me to plan ahead for my future. Imagine, I am in my last semester as an undergraduate and we embarked on strike. I was not supposed to be involved in this, I should have graduated already. It is very unfortunate. Should I talk about my house rent that is non refundable or precious time being wasted? Yet, it is this same country that age limit is set for employment.”
NANS bemoans unending strike
Chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Ekiti State, Olanrewaju Olamide said: “Incessant strikes by ASUU has not only put our lives on hold, it has also halted learning which is meant to be continuous. The effect of strike is not limited to students alone, it has also contributed to low quality of education in the country, low output of lecturers, insecurity as a result of the idleness of students who are the largest percentage of youths in the country. Remember, an idle hand is devil’s workshop while an idle mouth is his mouthpiece.”
Intending candidates unsure of admission
The ‘Jambites’ who recently had their exams in May 2022, are unsure of when they will resume school.
David West, one of those who recently wrote Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, is displeased because they do not know when their set will get admission.
He said: “Many students who wrote this year’s UTME won’t enter university this year because of the strike. Schools will have to meet up with everything they left behind, that will take like two to three months. So 2021 students will be given admission at the end of the year which means no admission for 2022 set.”
Ruth Tamara, a ‘Jambite’ also complained about spending years before gaining admission and spending years in the university too.
“If the school (federal university) we applied to doesn’t resume, we are not going to school too. Everybody wants to move forward, no one wants to stay behind. All I want is for schools to resume so we can also move forward,” she said.
Parents are not left out too
Parents too are lamenting the financial burden on them as their wards are unable to become self-dependent.
Mrs. Yemisi Oladipupo, a widow expressed her sadness on how the strike has affected her children.
” I have to strive to pay for the house rent and buy food for my children. I beg the government and ASUU to negotiate and call off this strike so my children can go and complete their education.
“Crime rate increase when these children are not in school.The two parties should meet and put an end to this strike,” she said.
Victor Folorunsho, another parent expressed his sadness over the industrial action.
He said: “It is as if this present government wants to destroy the lives of our children and they are the future of this country. They will rule this country later and there may be probability of them to be wicked because of the delay and discomfort the government has caused them.
“These students are seen roaming around on the streets. Majority of them are not doing something tangible. My son is supposed to be at NYSC Camp now but because of the strike, he is not.
“This strike is affecting every parent because we all want our children to make progress. We expect these children to be independent by now. We should be reaping the fruits of our labour, not still struggling to pay house rents and other school-related bills.
“If only I had the money, my children will go to private universities where there are stable calendars, ” he said.
Business owners and service providers lament
A petty trader, Mrs Martha Obeta, frowned at the lingering strike which has almost destroyed her business.
“The strike is really hard on business owners in this campus. It is so bad that coming out here is almost a waste of time because of poor sales.
“I tried getting a shop in the town, but could not afford any. So, I come here daily because I don’t want to stay at home,” she said.
Mrs Obeta, who owns a kiosk at University of Nigeria Nsukka campus where she sells varieties of biscuits, candies, soft drinks, pastries, writing materials and the likes, complained that her patronage has significantly dropped resulting to low income.
“When school was in session, I used to make up to N100, 000 daily if I have enough goods. But now, there are days I make as little as N1,000,” she said.
“With my low income, my family of eight now depend mostly on my husband and God’s grace for survival. Unlike before, food is now rationed in my house,” she added.
According to her, due to the reduced patronage, she has incurred huge losses following the expiration of perishable goods.
“I can’t sell expired goods or take them home for consumption so, I throw them away,” she said.
A fish seller in Ekiti who craved anonymity said:
“We miss students . Patronage is so low. I pray the students come back soon,” she said.
Transport operators on campus feeling the heat
The bus terminal at the popular Zik’s Flats in UNN that services students is a shadow of itself. Drivers now sit idly while looking around for anyone that may need their service.
One of the drivers who refused to be named expressed frustration with the lingering strike, saying the impact on his economy has been enormous.
“I used to make between N9, 000 and N15, 000 daily. Then I was always on the move, but now, there are days I don’t even move anyone around.”
The father of two, whose wife is currently pregnant, noted that since students left the campus, he has been taking care of his family from his savings as he does not have another source of income.
Another driver, Mr Isaac Eze said:
“Before, I usually go home with N3, 500 to N4, 000 after feeding and fueling my bus,but everything has changed.”
Hospitality businesses lay off workers, slash salaries
The industrial action has forced Chitis, the biggest eatery in UNN, with about 200 sitting capacity, to lay off 50 per cent of its workforce.
The supervisor of staff activities, Abel Elochukwu, said it was unfortunate that some of their staff had to bear the brunt, adding that laying them off was necessary at a time when sales dropped drastically from what it used to be.
He said: “Before the strike, we had about 90 workers, but only half of them are with us at the moment. We had to let them go to run the business with what we make these days.”
He lamented that the absence of the students, who happened to be their major patronisers was pushing their business to a standstill.
“This place contains about 200 people that choose to sit, not to talk about ones that buy and leave. But it is empty these days.
“Sales dropped below 20 per cent from 100 per cent and we can’t pay many staff and do other things with such low income.
“It’s not just the staff that were reduced. We also took some items off the menu to control waste,” he added.
Abel noted that if the strike continues, they would lay off more staff or eventually shut the business down.
Another business establishment hit by the continuous ASUU strike is the UNN owned Continuing Education Centre (CEC) Guest House. The hospitality centre situated at the centre of the campus, has over 30 rooms, and other facilities and services.
The CEC is always in great demand and usually booked up few days to major events in the campus.
But like other businesses, the CEC is struggling to stay afloat.
A top staff of the establishment who pleaded anonymity, said patronage in their bar, cafeteria and lodging facilities dropped to five per cent.
The staff stressed that there are days they would not record any patronage. They now depend entirely on funds realised from the equally struggling bar and cafeteria on such days. She explained that the current situation of the business that has about 73 employees, led to the “slashing of salaries of the staff.”
There are indications that if the industrial action is not called off as quickly as possible, the impact on the business owners, would be enormous, aside the students who have already lost a full session to the lingering strike action
CREDIT: THE NATION