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Prolonged ASUU strike turning our children to Yahooists, robbers, kidnappers – Parents lament

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… Strike affecting our mental health – Students

…. FG, ASUU playing politics with Nigerian students’ future – NGOs

‘…Youths have already lost faith in education’

‘…We’re creating a crisis we can’t manage’

Parents have expressed sadness over the extension of its industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for another 12 weeks (three months), describing the development as “barbaric.”

Parents, who spoke with our correspondents in separate interviews, said the strike has exposed their children to anti-social behaviours like robbery, kidnapping and Yahoo Yahoo (internet fraud).

ASUU had embarked on strike on February 14 to press home its demands which included revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for payment of university lecturers.

Their lamentations

Speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend, on Thursday, Mrs. Josrphine Ayuba, a civil servant who spoke with this reporter expressed fears that the strike has exposed her children to crime.

She said, “I have two undergraduates who are at home doing nothing. ASUU strike exposed our children to crimes. ASUU should learn how to use proper dialogue in solving problems rather than strikes which worsen things. ASUU has caused a lot of harm since it embarked on strike in February and many students who were exposed to idleness as a result of the strike were involved in many anti-social behaviours including robbery, kidnapping and banditry.

“A society that has debased education to the dump status cannot complain when its youth scorn academic pursuit and embrace get-rich-quick mentality like we are witnessing today. Our children have taken to Yahoo Yahoo due to idleness occasioned by the unending ASUU strikes. Young undergraduates are increasingly being arrested and imprisoned for cybercrime.

“Dialogue is the best solution in resolving the problems rather than embarking on strike and I urge them to have a rethink in the interest of the Nigerian youths who may be exposed to idleness that may lead them into crime.”

Also, in an emotion-laden voice, Mr. Bassey Aniwam said there is the need for parents to rise up and challenge “this ASUU-FG brouhaha that has continued to disrupt the academic growth of the Nigerian child.”

“My son would have graduated, but due to the nine months ASUU strike and the Covid-19 pandemic, and now, he is yet to graduate, and presently at home doing nothing. The financial implication is another burden as I have to make an extra budget. And this is not funny, considering the economic situation in the country.

 “What is happening between ASUU and the government is very pathetic. It is a case of when two elephants fight, the grass suffers. Our innocent children are at the receiving end of all the disruptions because most of the children of our leaders are outside the country studying without any disruption. For a five-year course, my daughter spent almost seven years in school because of the ASUU strike. All her mates in private universities graduated and were making mockery of her. Parents should rise up in one accord, and challenge this oppressive government to resolve this issue permanently,” he said. 

Also, stating her frustrations to Blueprint Weekend, Mrs. Eveline Jatau said she fears that her children would fall into bad company.

She said, “It is a disturbing situation. You know you cannot keep these young people in one place for too long. They keep finding excuses to go out and there is little you can do as a parent because you know it is caused by boredom. So you just continue to hope and pray that they don’t come to harm’s way”.

 “I have two of them who are affected by the strike and the situation is giving me serious problems. Whenever I go to work, I am always afraid of the type of friends they might have taken home or gone to mix with. When school was in session, they were always busy studying or doing their assignments but tell them to study now and they tell you, ‘for what, when we don’t know when ASUU will call off their strike.

 “This is why we have been appealing to ASUU to consider the long term consequences of this strike and call off the strike. We know that they are fighting for things to be better but they should also see things from the perspective of us, the parents who are disturbed that the future of our children are being jeopardised.”

Mrs. Chinyere Uchendu, on her part, appealed to the federal government and ASUU to resolve the crisis for the future of the children and education in the country.

She said, “Three of my children are in the university, but are now back home doing nothing. If this situation is not properly handled, most students could lose focus in life and be made to indulge in social vices, such as internet fraud, armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping, amongst others.

“We were hoping that at the end of the one month warning strike by ASUU, that both ASUU and the federal government would have come to an agreement, but it is really unfortunate that ASUU is going on another two months strike. We strongly believe that it will affect our students and the standard of education in the country.”

 “We don’t want our children back home; we prefer seeing dialogue between ASUU and the federal government in order to ensure frank talks that will quickly bring the whole problem to an end so that the country continues with sound education policies that will be competitive with international community.

“We don’t want our children to spend three months at home because of the strike. We are begging the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, go back and resolve their matter with ASUU so that the children can quickly go back to classes.”

 Students’ frustrations

Similarly, a cross-section of students who spoke with our correspondents in separate interviews expressed their frustrations, saying “the federal government allowed the strike to linger because it didn’t affect their children, most of who are schooling abroad or attend private universities.”

Chinwe Ubani, a 300-level Chemistry Education student of the University of Abuja, said, “They did all they could to avert the airlines operators from embarking on strike since it would affect them and their children, but ASUU has been on strike since February and it rolled over for another 12 weeks, but who cares? After all, their children don’t even attend public universities.

 “The strike has affected me nearly in every aspect. I practically feel like three months have been deleted out of my life already. I mean, I would have been a graduate today and possibly serving my fatherland. As much as I have been able to do a few things, I would have done a lot more if I had graduated as scheduled. I am losing flair for academics, no thanks to the FG/ASSU situation. To think that I will stay at home for another three month is frustrating.”

Another student, Enemali Joseph, a student of Federal University Lokoja (FUL), said the strike has devastated him emotionally, putting a cog in the wheel of his dreams.

“I’ll say the prolonged ASUU strike has affected me negatively. It is so because not only has the strike devastated me emotionally, it has also forcefully put me behind my schedule. You can imagine a four-year degree programme which I had hoped to complete in 2020 now dragging to God knows when.

 “With the strike all my plans are shattered and yet I cannot plan further. It has made me less enthusiastic about reading and education. We have also seen crime rates soaring since this industrial action started. Take a look at the social media; it is all about the book of lamentations, report of all sorts of wrong activities occasioned by idleness – rape, armed robbery, unwanted pregnancies, prostitution and possibly suicides.

 “We appreciate that ASUU is fighting to make things better, but there are other ways of making their voice to be heard rather than the strike option. We the students are the ones feeling the brunt of the strike and they should take this into consideration and call off the strike,” he said.

Funke Abolurin, a student of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU), regretted being in a system that cost her two years of her academic life.

“Well, at first, the strike was really helpful in a way as it gave us enough room to cover up on some course outline, considering our then tight schedule. Now, it is annoying due to the extension as I have lost all motivation to study again. It has done more harm than good to me. Instead of writing my examination and going to the next level, I am stuck at home, not knowing the next line of action.

“The strike has been horrible to be honest. I should actually be in my third year now, but due to the country’s messed up educational system, I am still in my first year. I should be preparing for examination, but I am at home instead.  The current three months extension by ASUU is affecting my mental health. It is really having a bad effect on my mental health,” she said.

 NGOs’ concerns

 In their concerns, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) told our correspondents that the federal government and ASUU are playing politics with the future of Nigerian students.

The Convener of Justice for All, Mr. Jude Osaleke, said ASUU and its employers could sort out their differences without making students the victims.

“The strikes are becoming worrisome. The development does not portray the country in good light before the international community. ASUU and the federal government are playing politics with the future of young Nigerians.

 “The strikes are causing the youth to lose faith in education and consequently take to negative vices that may compromise their future. This development is dangerous to us as a nation. It does not speak well of us as a nation that truly desires accelerated development and transformation.

 “The government should tackle this issue. It must go down to work, and quickly too, to revisit whatever demands the lecturers are making. I understand that the government is saying that it cannot afford to meet the demands of the 2009 agreement entered into, by the then government, with ASUU. But in seeking to revisit the agreement, there must be genuine commitment toward ensuring a lasting solution.

“All parties should be committed to finding a common ground to the issues so that we can get the children back to the classrooms because it is the parents that bear the brunt of the impasse.”

Also, the president, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, Mr. Olu Omotayo, said the development was a grave danger to tertiary education in the country.

He said the inability of ASUU and the federal government to resolve the labour dispute was capable of stagnating whatever economic gains the current administration had made.

According to the lawyer, you cannot talk about development without education and security.

He said it was worrisome that the politicians were busy talking about politics and restrategising on how to win elections while students were idling away at home.

“They are creating problems that will haunt us in the future. Some of these students might be forced to join bad groups, thereby increasing the crime rate in the country,” he said.