By Tunde Alabi
The breaking news today the 9th of May, 2022 is that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is extending their warning strike which started on 14th of February, 2022 by another three months! That means for six months in this year alone Nigerian students in public and some State universities won’t be studying in their schools.
This has become the trend in the last 40 years. It gets worse because the union and the government have mutual distrust in each other and the plight of Nigerian students (especially children of the poor) is of less concerns to each party. There is no guarantee that ASUU would call off the strike by August when the new declaration would expire because by then the stakeholders in government who should be sitting in discussions would have been engrossed in political campaigns. The current labour minister Dr. Chris Ngige for example has already picked his expensive presidential form of his party anyway.
I consider it expedient therefore to drop this piece of advice for students and parents of students that are affected by the strike in view of two facts; firstly I was a victim of ASUU strike myself, I spent six years for studying a four year course in the University.
Secondly, I have children in public universities at the moment so I am still a victim. As a student, three things defined my general attitudes; the first was that I kept reminding myself of my realities. It would interest to know that even getting jobs in the 90s was very competitive. Three factors stood out (and still do till today) namely; good grades, connections and quota system. Truth is that none of these factors were in my favour and I never deceived myself. While I trusted in God I knew that I had a part to play and what I did was what gave me the impetus to drop this small piece of advice.
In Nigeria of today, the best jobs are first offered to the children of politicians, top business people and elites. These kids went to great universities abroad and some of them came back with top grades. They are silver-spoon children who were exposed to quality and expensive education both within Nigeria and abroad so some of them are not just well prepared but are already better qualified. In fairness to employers, it would be difficult to consider a student that went to a University with annual interruptions due to ASUU strike instead of another that studied abroad or even in a private university in Nigeria. This was the reality that some of us faced some three decades ago, and it is still the same today.
The other angle is referral, students of well connected parents can easily be referred for employment opportunities. Those whose parents are privileged or are in the same social or business circles enjoy this factor. This kind of opportunity is shrinking by the day because more and more candidates now chase few available opportunities. Quota system has helped many people get jobs without much stress. This is especially applicable to Federal government’s job. It is a system meant to ensure fairness to every part of the country. So if you are from a State with high numbers of already qualified candidates it means that your chances are slim!
As an undergraduate, I realized that getting a good job would be difficult for me after graduation. Not that I didn’t believe in luck or miracle but I chose to be pragmatic. I ensured that I never at any time sit at home and be cursing ASUU or government only, I did so but also ensured that I got myself enrolled at a computer engineering school on No. 70, Apapa Road, Ebute Metta, Lagos. I put all my attention to the study and got so good at computer repairs, installation and maintenance in the first six month of the strike.
My attention to details, punctuality and eagerness to learn attracted me to Mr. Luke Adelowo (I am still looking for him or wife or children to show my appreciation) the CEO of Pay Delex Computers and he employed me as a Trainee Computer Engineer! I used the last six months of the strike to earn money. My choice of going for computer engineering training was because I was studying Physics as an undergraduate. Whatever I became today, took its foundation from the skills that I acquired during these periods. The ASUU strike of the year that followed was more of a blessing for me because Mr. Adelowo was already waiting for me in Lagos. I just walked back to my job.
My advice therefore is that as a Student, while you are still cursing ASUU and the government you should not sit idle at home. There are opportunities around you to either learn skills that are either relevant to your studies or some holiday jobs. The worst that you can do to yourself is to believe that a job is waiting for you somewhere by the time you graduate. We live in a country where things change and change so fast. That connection that you are banking on as a lifeline might not be there again at your most critical needs.
In a country of over 200 million people, there must be something for you to do to be relevant. As for parents, do not encourage your kids to be sitting at home to watch TV or play games. Some of us parents do more harm than good to our kids by providing all the comfort for them and don’t allow them explore opportunities around them. Whatever skill a child acquires stay with him or her forever.
We have seen students train themselves through income from photography, barbing, dry cleaning etc. In a world with easy access to societal vices, we must shield our children by ensuring that they are not idle. Some skills can be acquired and perfected during the ASUU strike that might end up becoming what the student would leverage upon after graduation. In fact, going back to complete one’s education may become a formality.
May God protect and guide the steps of our children to achieve greatness in our lives and may we eat bountifully from our investment in them in good health.
Lastly, you see ASUU and FGN? They are a pair of same evil. A supposed academic body that can not think of better ways to express grievances than going on strike repeatedly for 40 years is not living up to the appellate of an intellectual organization. A government that would rather pay millions in USD to bring children of the rich from Ukrainian universities but can’t solve it’s own universities’ problems is not only evil but insensitive and irresponsible. Neither ASUU nor FGN care about us, but survive we MUST!!!
God bless you.