Year in, year out, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) engage in a seeming battle of supremacy – so to say, with the Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria. These persistent strikes have been reportedly having negative effect on the Nigerian educational system. Accordingly, this paper on “effects of strike actions on academic activities: the Niger Delta University experience” tend to look at the effect ASUU strike actions can cause in an academic environment. It was discussed that ASUU strikes can result to elongated academic calendar, deaths of students and staff, poor academic performance, crippled economic activities, lowering standard of education and the nation at large, and increased criminal activities. Based on the above, it was suggested amongst others that since successive governments have not been able to meet up with ASUU’s demands, this MAY be an indication that the demands are difficult for the government to comply 100%. Accordingly, ASUU should review its demands.
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Over the years, the occurrence of industrial strike actions had crippled academic activities along with economic activities which together formulate an enabling environment for academics to thrive in any institution. The assertion that industrial strike actions disrupt academic activities and the performance of students is no longer in doubt as statements of these effects had become virtually clichés.
Strike, as the word implies, according to Offoin (2015), denotes an unpleasant situation in which group(s) of people or organizations come together refusing to engage in an expected routine activity in order to press home their demand. Chijioke (2013) conceptualizes strike to be “an organized work stoppage by a body of workers to enforce compliance with demands made on an employer or a group of employers.”
Within the academic environment, one of the major associations whose strike actions had often disrupted academic activities is the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). ASUU is the umbrella body covering all public universities’ lecturers in Nigeria. Reports have it that ASUU have been embarking on industrial actions since 1999 till date with a minimum of 1 month to 6 months. Nairaland analyzed ASUU strike actions from 2011-2013 as follows:
1999: 5 months
2001: 3 months
2002: 2 weeks
2003: 6 months(ended in 2004)
2005: 3 days
2006: 1 week
2007: 3 months
2008: 1 week
2009: 4 months
2010: 5 months
2013: 5 months, 15 days
2017: 1 month
2018: 2 months and still counting
Effect of ASUU Strike in Niger Delta University
- Elongated Academic Calendar:
To say the least, this is the worst effect of strike actions on the Niger Delta University (NDU) thus far. Today, the Niger Delta University seemed to be far behind the average Nigerian academic calendar. This was initially due to internal crises, riots and strikes. However, the target object which the good Vice Chancellor is trying to achieve by planning three semesters in a year now seemed elusive as the almighty ASUU is currently dragging who is boss with the Federal Government. Surely they said, when two elephants are fighting, the grass suffers. It has been purported that if the strike is not called off on time, the Niger Delta University MAY loose one academic year and this is inimical to the growth and development of the school.
- Death of Students and Staff:
Ceteris Paribus, ASUU strike has been fingered by social media users as being remotely a causative agent to the deaths of several students. In the Niger Delta University alone, only in the 2018 strike action, Alfred Seiyefa was reportedly shot dead by criminals because of her phone and was buried in November. Again, Nikade Tariela, an Engineering student was also shot on the spot during a raid of suspected criminal hideouts at Tenacious Road, Edepie, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State. All these deaths were recorded because students who were supposed to be in school were are at home. Even in previous, numerous deaths had been recorded during strike actions.
- Poor Academic Performance
Within the strike period, many students usually go home, looking for something to do to get themselves engaged. Even those who are “mummy’s pet” who never got to go anywhere stay in front of television all day. At home, the drive to carry their books and read has not always been there. Thus, upon resumption, all that they must have read may have been forgotten, only to resume and to be hurried to write exams. If their respective teachers are not exceptional enough to put shock observers in place to absolve the possible effect of the school stayoff, many students may find themselves performing poorly.
- Crippled Economic Activities
Within the Niger Delta University and the Amassoma community, many businesses no longer thrive because of the effect of persistent strikes. Many business owners have reported that strikes often turn them to babies in their respective businesses, because once you grow to an extent, endeavoring to move higher, strike set in. You then spend all that you have saved only in feeding and house/family upkeep. After the strike, you have to borrow to start all over. Those who have nowhere to turn to have moved out of Amassoma to their village or to a better environment. Some big time businessmen later turned to okada (motorcyclist) while others tries to pick up the pieces of their lives and forge ahead. In this regard, many persons, both staff and business persons have become chronic debtors in the community because of epileptic salaries payment and undulated academic sessions.
- Lowering Standard of Education and the Nation at Large
To a very large extent, it can be adjudged that ASUU strike affect the standard of education and the nation at large. An aphorism posted at the entrance gate of a South African university goes “Destroying any nation does not require only the use of atomic bombs or the use of long range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students”. The statement continues…
Patients die at the hands of such doctors.
Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers.
Money is lost at the hands of such economists & accountants.
Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars.
Justice is lost at the hands of such judges… The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation (Pulse, 2018). Going by this general assertion, it could be said that ASUU strike have overreaching effects on the development of education in Nigeria.
- Increased Criminal Activities
The effect of ASUU strike on criminal activities is twofold. First, on the part of the students, without having anything engaging them, the boys are prone to engage in criminality which they believe will fetch them money. Secondly, in Amassoma the university host community, during strike periods, the community is always dried up, causing poor business performance and hunger. Thus, some hoodlums who are non students and indigent may resort to criminality to meet up with their stomach demands.
So far, it has been discussed that strike actions can result to elongated academic calender, deaths of students and staff, poor academic performance, crippled economic activities, lowering standard of education and the nation at large, and increased criminal activities. Although there are other effects however, this study is restricted to the ones mentioned above.
Based on the effect discussed above, the author therefore, put forth the following suggestions:
- Since successive governments have not been able to meet up with ASUU’s demands, this MAY be an indication that the demands are difficult for the government to comply 100%. Accordingly, ASUU should review its demands.
- Politicians will always be politicians. Therefore, ASUU must remain resolute on its REVIEWED demands because partial agreements lead to another strike in the following year.
- Government must be sincere in its agreement. What they cannot offer, they must not agree. But the author is of the view that earlier agreements may have been reached because of pressure on the Federal Government, hence, the difficulty in complying. Accordingly, the Federal government must only promise what they can provide for.
- Researchers should conduct studies to find out other forms of strike actions effects, especially in other environment.
This paper is simply a position paper and as such did not consider general opinion of the public in arriving at the effect so outlined above. Commentators can use the comment section to make their contributions which will be considered in a possible future volume.