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How Strike, COVID-19 Wrecked Education Calendar

Umah Muhammed
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector has been one of the worst hits with 1.9 billion children globally unable to attend school.

Amidst the pandemics, the Academic Staff Union of Universities,  ASUU, shut universities in the country for nine months over a strike action.

This is even as other unions like NASU, SSANU and Primary School Teacher in FCT also had to go on strike at some point.

With the strike over, the threats posed by the second wave of the pandemic is threatening the reopening of the institutions.

Daily Trust checks showed that the twin menace of the pandemic and the strikes have combined to wreak havoc on the education system and the education calendar.

Now some analysts are warning that it might take a while to stabilize the calendar, provided ASUU does not embark on another strike, which is likely to happen as the Federal Government has already failed to meet some of the conditions for the suspension of the last strike.

To address the situation, some intuitions have resorted to cancelling the current academic session. That would mean a delay in graduating students and a failure to admit new intakes. This will create a backlog of students and prospective students, who will have to wait a year or two to pursue their careers or education.

An educationist, Yussuff Oriyomi said long closures of schools are detrimental, especially for students who may want to pursue a masters’ degree or proceed for further studies abroad.

“When Universities cancel a session like BUK, UI etc are doing, it will show a gap in their transcript that they would have to be explaining,” he said.

He also said there is a backlog of frustrated admission seekers who might suffer mentally.

“I know of one who almost committed suicide of recent due to depression,” he said. “Universities should integrate virtual learning seriously into the transfer of knowledge process.”

Meanwhile, Prof. Christian Opata of the Department of History, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) said the havoc is “very enormous” and “multi-dimensional.”

Prof. Opata, who spoke during a telephone interview from his Nsukka base, said that both students and lecturers have wasted one academic session because of the strikes and the pandemic.

He bemoaned the fact that even the research project he embarked upon in collaboration with his students before the outbreak was suspended indefinitely.

“There are some business ventures that thrive only when schools are in sessions. For instance, those who are operating business centres, catering, and landlords, they have all shut down because the schools are shut down,” he said.

An educationist in Kaduna, Ibrahim Shehu Giwa said the educational system is under assault from all angles and that this may be a systematic approach to killing education.

“Students have now resorted to drug abuse, most of them have forgotten what they’ve learned previously, those coming in have been denied the chance of entry and as it is, the capacity to accommodate additional numbers are lacking,” he said.

A former lecturer with the Department of Political Science, University of Jos, Professor Juliana Mafwil, said the problem with the education system in the country is massive.

Mafwil called on the government to give education priority, pointing out that even the allocation to the education sector in the 2021 budget is still very small and needs to be increased.

She advised the government to reconcile all their differences with ASUU, stressing that opening of schools with ASUU and the federal government strife still raging would be an effort in futility.

It is however the students who will bear the brunt of the instability in the education system. For most of them, the prospect is highly unsettling.

A student in the Department of Medical Rehabilitation at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), Ms Cynthia Olua said the lockdown interrupted their exams.

“It made everybody repeat the academic session. It also forced some young people (students) into illegal activities such as Yahoo-Yahoo and the girls are into ‘runs’ and things like that for some people both here and outside Nigeria to make quick money,” she said.

She said some students have already lost interest in education as “they have enough reasons to do so.”

“It has caused a drastic negative impact on the nation’s education system,” she said. “The authorities might consider the introduction of online teaching and learning methods in a stable network, not a situation in which the network would be fluctuating.”

The Student Union Government ((SUG) President of the Plateau State University (PLASU), Bokkos, Ezekiel Dajen Luatei, said many students have indulged themselves in criminal activities during the period in question and some have been arrested as a result.

He too believes many of his peers would not be returning to school because their lives have taken on different causes in the last one year that schools were closed while others might have lost their scholarship or sponsorship as a result of the economic downturn.

Aliyu Abubakar, a 200 level Student at Kaduna State University, said his and his peers’ education have been badly affected by the twin developments.

“My target was to complete my programme in the next two years but since last year, we have stagnated. We don’t even know what is happening, whether we will complete at the stipulated duration of the course or not,” he said.

He said he lost hope because he was tired of hearing every day that ASUU would go on strike and the constant closure of schools due to the pandemic.

Another student of the same institution, Kamal Shehu said, “We have been left behind academically because we overstayed at home.”

Peter Onyewuchi Duru, a 200-level student of Biotechnology at the University of Jos, said the situation has been destabilizing.

“It’s been mentally as well as emotionally destabilizing and I don’t want to venture deep into the economic impact it has on the nation at large. It’s really disheartening to think that a Nigerian student who is meant to spend four years in the university will eventually spend five or more,” he said.

He too is worried about future strikes considering threats by ASUU over non-compliance of the terms of the agreement they entered into with the government.

“I think a state of emergency should be declared in Nigeria’s educational system to permanently tackle the issues of ASUU strike and any other body within the educational system,” he said.

He, however, called on Nigerian schools to invest in e-learning, in the event that an epidemic like COVID-19 happens in the future.

Besides their studies, there are other issues tied to the disrupted academic calender.

Halima Musa, a student at Federal University, Lokoja, said the financial implications are a source of concern because most of them are off-campus students who have already paid rents for their accommodation, which was wasted as schools were closed.

“The landlords have refused to return our money, insisting that the strike wasn’t their fault as such we paid for what we didn’t use,” she lamented.

Rachael Bulus should have graduated with a degree in Estate Management at the University of Jos were it not for the strike and pandemic.

Throughout the strike, she couldn’t find interim employment and now she would have to spend another year at school before proceeding for national service.

According to her, students are not happy and most of them have been depressed at one point or another, especially the final year students.

Source: Daily trust Newspaper

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