Nigeria: ASUU Strike – Lecturers, Students Unmotivated but Traders Excited As Nigerian Universities Reopen

While many students have returned to the campuses, those living in private hostels are unhappy that eight months of their rent have been wasted.

Following the suspension of the prolonged strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the authorities of the concerned universities have in the past two weeks announced the resumption of activities in the institutions. Many revised their academic calendars and ordered the immediate resumption of academic activities with the aim of covering the lost ground.

For the eight months that the industrial action lasted, the striking lecturers were not paid their salaries. Until the National Industrial Court (NIC) ordered them to return to work, ASUU had cited that payment of the backlog as one of the conditions for suspension of the strike.

However, after the Court of Appeal affirmed the order of the industrial court, ASUU advised its members to return to their duty posts, banking on the reported pledge by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to ensure that at least parts of the withheld salaries are paid, among other promises.

However, more than two weeks after the suspension of the strike, the lecturers confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that they were yet to be paid.

From the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Bayero University Kano (BUK), Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), among others, concerned lecturers told PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters that they were not motivated to work.

Many students have also said the long absence from school has quenched their passion and that they are finding it difficult to acclimatise again.

But shop owners, artisans, and service providers on the campuses such as commercial transporters are glad that life is returning to the universities.

Unmotivated staff, students

Full academic activities have resumed in FUTA and some students have begun writing tests in preparation for their examinations which begin in two weeks, our reporter observed. But the students expressed frustration in getting back to their studies after such a long break in the system.

A student of the Electrical Electronics Department, Segun Dairo, said he and some of his mates had lost the motivation for studies as they had taken up other activities while the strike lasted.

“In the last eight months I spent my time learning skills related to my course and I was beginning to really settle into it when they called off the strike,” he said.

“Some others went to do some work and we were earning money, so returning to school was difficult.”

The student said he had remained in his first year since enrolling at the university in 2019, hoping there would be no other strike till the end of his academic programme.

Another student of FUTA, Prince Ome, said he was unhappy to resume at this time. The student of Computer Science said he was training to become an e-mail marketer and web designer during the strike. “For now I am preparing for examinations. There will be lectures next week and exams will start the following week,” he said. “I am hoping I will gradually get the right feeling as we go along.”

Students who spoke to our reporter expressed apprehension that ASUU may declare another strike over the eight months’ salaries. But ASUU Chairperson, FUTA, Olayinka Awopetu, said the lecturers are doing their work, despite their anger over the issue.

He said the matter had been worsened by the fact that the federal government has not addressed most of the issues over which the strike was called.

Fresh students dominate UNIABUJA Campus

The University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) Permanent Campus was a beehive of activities when our reporter visited last Wednesday. The school resumed academic activities on 24 October, and lectures had since begun, our reporter observed.

But the population of returning students on campus is still low despite the commencement of lectures. During a lecture for students of graduating class of Public Administration on Tuesday, only about 25 students attended, said a member of the class, Muhammad Nasir. He said there are over 130 students in the class.

“So far, I don’t really see things moving as they should be because lecturers are not available and when you see them, they just come but not really to teach. Maybe starting from next week,” Mr Nasir said.

He, however, expressed his excitement to be back on campus after eight months of the strike. “By now, I am supposed to be a graduate but due to the strike, we are still in the school environment running up and down. It is not what I planned for but we still thank God.”

A large number of fresh students was however noticed on the campus. The students could be seen at the Faculty of Management Science and the Faculty of Science queuing up for registration.

One of the fresh students, Reuben Bulus, said he started his registration shortly before the ASUU strike and was back on campus to complete it. Others said they could not start the registration before the strike was declared.

“I was doing my faculty screening when the strike commenced. So I am yet to finish. That’s why I am here now,” he said.

PREMIUM TIMES observed students taking lectures on BUS 103 at the management science faculty around 11 a.m.

Murmuring over calendar in UNILAG

A report from UNILAG said many lecturers have relocated abroad but the university management said it could not confirm the claim.

A lecturer at the institution’s Faculty of Engineering who does not want to be quoted for fear of victimisation said 11 of his colleagues left the faculty during the strike. According to the lecturer, the backlogs of work left by those lecturers have been automatically transferred to the few left in the system.

“Just when we resumed, I learnt that 11 lecturers have left while three papers are still pending. So when they leave, the backlog of their work is now the responsibility of the few lecturers left. So you carry an additional load, and you are stressed, which nobody pays for,” the source said.

The lecturer said the low remuneration of the lecturers is a demotivating factor.

Meanwhile, students at UNILAG said academic activities have commenced in full throttle.

While the students expressed delight at resuming after months of the strike, others said the coming examination could mean low grades for them.

A 300-level student of Quantity Surveying at the Faculty of Engineering, Salaudeen Adewumi, expressed concern that the academic calendar which sets examinations to begin on 28 November would put students under undue pressure. The student, a member of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), said the association was trying to reach the management of the school for possible adjustment.

Similarly, a final-year student of Creative Arts and President of the Faculty of Art, Ovic Odeyemi, said the academic calendar might need to be reviewed to avoid mass failure of 100-level students who are not used to the system.

“The academic calendar doesn’t favour the 100-level students, and we are trying to speak on their behalf to the school management to see if they can give them more time to prepare. As a 400-level student, I can manage. But 100-level students that have not attempted any university examination and their first semester results matter a lot in boosting their CGPA.

“We are starting our exams on 28 November, so we have a month to prepare. Some lecturers have not even started. Some of the 100-level students even waited till after matric to resume school in January, now they have to keep up with everything they missed before the strike,” he said.

Some final-year students of UNILAG also expressed concern over the slow pace of their final-year projects, with some saying they are yet to be assigned to supervisors.

“I didn’t get a supervisor or project topic approved before the strike, so it is not palatable for me. I have to do everything in just a short while,” said a 400-level student, Odeyemi.

Another final-year student of Creative Art, Esther Omoyele, said she lost all motivation to attend to her projects during the strike despite having a topic approved and a supervisor assigned to her.

University approves one-week extension

Meanwhile, during a meeting with the students on Friday, the university’s outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, announced the approval of a one-week extension by the management.

Mr Ogundipe, whose tenure as the university’s 12th substantive vice-chancellor ends on 11 November, appealed to the students for understanding. He said there was no time to waste and enjoined everyone to be prepared for the tasks ahead.

BUK yet to commence academic activities

At Bayero University, Kano (BUK), academic activities were yet to commence, three days after the official resumption date.

The university had approved Monday 24 October for the resumption of academic activities including revision for the first-semester examination scheduled for 14 November.

But the school campus was desolate with the popular Mahmud Tukur Lecture Theatre at the university’s old site under lock and key last Wednesday morning.

Our reporter observed that the bus station opposite the school gate where students board buses from the old site to the permanent site was near empty and without the commercial buses present.

Students said lectures have not begun.

A 100-level student of the Department of Biochemistry, Moses Edozie, among others, complained that their belongings, including cooking gas cylinders, were stolen from their hostels during the break.

“The university did not keep our belongings safe. Most have been stolen,” he said.

The student also said he was waiting for the release of the school calendar, the return of other students, and the commencement of academic activities.

NASU strike in FUNAAB

Checks by PREMIUM TIMES on universities in Ogun State revealed that while activities have resumed at both Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, and Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun, a seven-day warning strike by the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Other Associated Institutions (NASU) at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), has impacted activities negatively.

At both TASUED and OOU, students are already set for what they called electronic-based tests while some others are already submitting assignments.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited the schools, students were seen moving in and out of the campus in a joyous mood.

At TASUED, the institution’s new calendar obtained by PREMIUM TIMES showed that the first-semester examination will begin on 7 November and end the semester on 30 November, while the second semester starts almost immediately.

A 300-level student, Adetutu Adelani, expressed happiness about the resumption but also concern over the heavy workload.

“When I saw the calendar, I wanted to faint, but what can we do? ASUU has reorganised our lives, no thanks to them,” she said.

In OOU, a 200-level student of Law, Adebayo Noimat, said she was prepared for the “serious work ahead because I know our lecturers will rush things so as to cover for the days wasted. Anyways, may God help us.”

Activities have not fully commenced in classes at FUNAAB because the lecturers are currently marking examination papers.

When asked why students are not in class, ASUU chairman of FUNAAB chapter, Gbenga Adeleye, explained that the lecturers have resumed work by marking examination papers. He explained that the university had just concluded the first-semester examination at the time the eight months strike started nationwide.

Relief for business owners

Unlike students and lecturers who appeared to be struggling to return to their normal academic activities, artisans and business owners on the various campuses are ecstatic. The traders said they experienced losses during the strike, but are glad to be back after eight months.

Two traders at UNILAG who identified themselves simply as Mrs Amao and Mrs Olutokun said they incurred losses during the strike. Both retailers whose shops are located behind the Creative Arts Departments said they had to dispose their expired goods.

“During the strike, there was no point coming to the school at all and the strike affected us seriously because we don’t have other things we are doing. We don’t pray for another strike,” said Mrs Amao

At the Faculty of Engineering Market, another woman, who also identified herself as Mrs Akachukwu, said the resumption for her means more sales, saying she did not leave the campus throughout the strike period.

The photocopy machine operator said she worked more for a few PhD students and some lecturers who were around at the time.

At UNIABUJA, artisans and business owners on the campus expressed relief at the return of life which directly improves their business performance.

A tricycle rider at the university, Yahuza Haruna, said his daily earnings had almost doubled since the return of students to the campus.

“Now one can make as much as N7,500 or N8,000 in a day. But during the strike, we hardly made up to N3,500. Our only customers were the labourers working inside the school,” he said. “We thank God the strike is suspended now and we pray such would not happen again.”

Also, a photographer who simply identified himself as Samuel, expressed delight over the resumption, saying life is gradually taking shape.

At FUTA, shuttle bus drivers expressed delight that the school was finally reopened for academic activities. One of the drivers, Owoeye Joseph, said he had to return to farming during the period as there were no students, the regular passengers.

“Fortunately it was during the raining season, so farming was the option,” he said. “It was like we lost our source of livelihood and we were thrown out of work without any hope, but we thank God that things are picking up now.”

Another driver, Peter Dolapo, who makes about N3,000 daily, said nothing was coming in during the strike.

A fruit seller at one of the university’s gates, Helen Adepoju, said she closed her place of sale once the students left. “Today is the first day I am coming to my shop, and I don’t know how things will look because students have just started returning,” she said.

However, an elderly woman who preferred to be identified simply by her business name, KTC Bookshop, said the sales were really poor during the strike.

Even with the resumption, she said, most of the students returned to school with their items purchased from home and that they would only start patronising her after they had exhausted what they had.

“What I can say is that we are happy that school has resumed. We hope business will continue to improve with time,” she added.

Good time for landlords too

While many students are happy to be back on the campuses, those occupying private hostels are unhappy that eight months of their rent have been wasted.

At Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) in Ago Iwoye, Damilola Ogunyemi, said: “Our house rents have been wasted. I never came to terms with this reality until my landlord told me that my house rent will be expiring in November.”

Ms Ogunyemi’s friend said she was already considering living with someone as she could not raise her house rent immediately.

“My landlord is a pensioner. He doesn’t joke with his house rent and I don’t have the energy to argue or fight an old man,” she said.

Shop owners are also unhappy that they would need to pay new rents without making sales during the eight-month period of the strike.

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