In Nigeria, abandoned students face a dragging teachers’ strike

Nigeria’s main Federal Universities Staff Union (Asuu) initially went on strike on February 14 demanding more funding for higher education, which had been neglected for decades.

After several extensions aimed at giving the government time to meet their demands, including the payment of salaries, the union’s leadership declared an indefinite strike on August 30 in the federal public universities of Africa’s most populous country.

In a statement, Asuu management said the strike was aimed at “saving public universities from collapse”. She thus has “decided to transform the renewable strike into a complete, total and indefinite strike action”said Emmanuel Osodeke, president of the union.

The demands, as in previous strikes, are for higher wages, funding and improved facilities. The union urges students and parents to support teachers in their fight for better conditions. But after a series of strikes, the students feel sacrificed.

“I lost two university years because of the incessant strikes”, laments Emmanuel Odunayo, a first-year physics student at Obafemi Awolowo University in southwestern Nigeria. In 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigerian university teachers went on strike for nine months – the longest in the country’s history.

“Future in Peril”

“I lost an academic year in 2020 because of the nine-month strike and now I’m about to lose another”, continues the disappointed 20-year-old student. And if the young man understands the demands of the union, he begs them to return to work, “because their action puts our future at risk”he said.

The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the umbrella body for the students, has also called on the union to end the protest.

Parents worry about their children. This is the case of Wale Oni, parent of a student in Lagos, who calls for a rapid resolution of the conflict. He fears that the lack of studies and opportunities will push desperate students into crime.

“Idleness is the mother of all vices”, declares the father of the family, taking up an old adage. Local newspapers are full of stories involving students engaging in illegal activities, such as cybercrime, prostitution, or theft.

Nigerian youth are furthermore already facing inflation of nearly 20%, a weakening currency and an unemployment rate of 42.5%. But not all public universities in the country are affected by this strike, especially most of those managed at the regional level. Students at private sector institutions are also unaffected.

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