ASUU Strike, JAMB’s dilemma and the Future of Poor Students, by Bola Bolawole
When everyone had hoped that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would call off its strike, it extended it by a whopping three months, to the consternation and bewilderment of students, parents and concerned citizens alike! The ongoing ASUU strike had started with a four-week warning strike on February 14, 2022. True to its threat that it would roll-over the strike if nothing positive came from the Federal Government; ASUU announced an eight-week extension of the strike, as the warning strike lapsed without any positive action by the government. The extension, which ended on Monday, May 9, 2022, has now been further extended by ASUU by 12 whopping months! There is no doubting the resolve of ASUU members this time around to continue with their strike until the FG meets their demands. The university system is being systematically but assuredly destroyed. The immediate losers are students and their parents. ASUU members lose nothing because their salaries are being paid as at when due or they will be paid anyway. Two conditions that workers normally give to call off their strike action are that their salaries and other perquisites are paid and that no worker is victimized or punished for the strike action. Even if anyone cares – though they hardly ever care – nothing can be done about the time lost by students and the resources wasted by their parents. In these austere times, this is much punishment inflicted on students and parents for no fault of theirs. Both the Government and ASUU are insensitive and must be told in plain language that they are assholes!
I have three wards stuck in a federal university. Our neighbour’s children who got admission into a private university one year behind my own children have caught up with them and overtaken them! These days, after wasting years in public universities due to strike actions, students graduate and waste years again queuing to serve! Nowadays they have batches and they also have A, B, C to whatever sets! In all of these, some NYSC officials are still so callous that they extend the tenure of service of Corpers at the flimsiest of excuses. Away with the scheme! It has outlived its usefulness! When you escape a near-moribund NYSC, you are thrust head-on into an unemployment market seething in its depths. Only the children of the powerful get employment these days. The children of nobodies leave the universities only to start learning tailoring, fashion designing, hair-dressing, barbing, baking and what-have-you! Have you heard that many graduates now enrol in the “University of Yahoo-Yahoo”? One such “university” got burst recently by the authorities! We hear that parents now withdraw their children from the normal schools and enrol them in Yahoo-Yahoo training institutes!
But not all our stranded children as a result of the lingering ASUU strike go that way; many are improving themselves by engaging in legitimate and productive engagements! Thank God for the internet that has reduced the entire world into a global village. Many of our children now engage in coding, programming, and other hi-tech studies that increase their worth in the global market. Many others hone their writing skills and get engaged by international organizations. A growing number of our youths reside here but work for companies in Germany, Brazil, etc and earn good and cool money in foreign exchange. Wise chaps no longer look for a job here – and they do not go learn barbing and tailoring – they improve themselves, hook on to the hi-tech revolution and take advantage of the limitless vistas of globalization. You will be shocked to know the percentage of our youths who are forex and cryptocurrency traders and the level of success many of them have recorded. Not all the young, rich guys out there are into Yahoo-Yahoo or cultism. A good percentage makes their bucks in a decent and legitimate manner. In the end, the country is the loser for it on both ends – concerning those who will go into crime and cause problems for the system as well as those who have disconnected themselves from the Nigerian society and system and their loyalty, heart and soul are no longer here.
And the country, Nigeria, dies slowly but assuredly! Frustrated by the turn of events in the country, the youths embarked on #ENDSARS many months back. Things have since gone from bad to worse. Once it succeeded in viciously mowing down the youths, the Government – both federal and state – went back on its promises to initiate the much-needed reforms. Tell them to get ready for the rage next time! Not only youths, but parents as well, will storm the Bastilles! Parents are already ventilating their anger against the system. Take, for instance, the just-concluded UTME examinations: JAMB, as usual, did a good job, every passing year it ensures it improves on its performance. As a member of the Media and Civil Society Group that serves as watchdog and which is empowered to hold JAMB’s feet to the fire, I have played that role in the past few years in Lagos, Ogun and Osun states but the last exercise met me in the FCT Abuja. As usual, the Prof. Ishaq Oloyede-led JAMB discharged itself creditably but the worries now are about the backlog of admitted or admit-able candidates who cannot enter the universities.
When those who are inside are not coming out, how can fresh students enter? Every institution of learning has a carrying capacity. Many of them are already stretched to breaking point. Some have merged sessions. Some others have cancelled sessions outright. Yet, the situation keeps getting worse. How many streams of candidates have written and passed JAMB but are stranded, marking time at home as a result of ASUU strike actions and Government’s insensitivity to ASUU’s demands? Shall we, then, kukuma close down the public universities? Note that the polytechnics are also threatening to join the fray!
Titled “Backlog of admissions following ASUU strikes worries parents”, a news medium reported the dilemma of parents thus: “Some parents have expressed worry over the backlog of admissions following incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU… In 2020, ASUU went on a nine-month strike, which was the longest since 1999, and about two years later on February 14, it went on a four-week warning strike. It declared another eight-week strike, saying it was giving the government more time to attend to its demands. Upon the expiration, it announced an additional 12-week roll-over strike with effect from May 9, to end in August. However, due to the challenges of industrial action and the Coronavirus-induced break, most public tertiary institutions have backlogs of candidates yet to be officially admitted with the results of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, UTME, conducted in 2021. The new results released by the examination body will, therefore, constitute another backlog for many of these institutions. Parents, who spoke in separate interviews…were concerned that the action might affect the admission process for candidates who sat for previous and the just-concluded (JAMB) examination”.
I know families where older and younger siblings have gained admission but are both marking time at home. The seniority line between such siblings becomes blurred and this could have psychological impact and cause disquiet in such families. One parent was quoted as saying: “Not many of us have the money to take our children to private universities and even if you can take one, what happens to the others? I have a daughter who is still waiting for admission from last year’s JAMB and her younger sister just scored high marks in the exercise just concluded… With the incessant strikes, I am worried about when they will finally be admitted without wasting (both) time and the resources parents keep spending (on them)”.
Another parent was quoted as asking why children should sit for the JAMB examinations while ASUU was on strike. “I don’t see the essence because JAMB is part of the education sector and getting admissions into these same striking institutions begins from there. It means our children and wards will, if successful, continue to wait for the strike to be over before the process continues. By this time, I do not think the process will be transparent anymore because there will be carry-overs from previous exercises while there are also those who are yet to graduate. Everything is jammed up now”.
JAMB’s Head, Public Affairs and Protocol, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, was quoted as saying that JAMB has done its bit, the buck now passes to the institutions of higher learning! “It is our responsibility to conduct examinations and we have done that as expected and will hand over the process to the institutions to do their part. They will decide how they want to go about it”. That is a tough one!
Perhaps more worrisome is the apprehension that foreign countries are contemplating withdrawing their recognition of certificates issued in recent times by our institutions of higher learning. Common sense must prevail, especially on the Government’s side, to stave off any such disaster.
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