The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a Nigerian union of university academic staff, founded in 1978. This trade union appears to liaise between the government and university workers, particularly teaching staff, to ensure good working conditions for members. Since the existence of this union, several industrial actions have been embarked on by its members since, in the past, this seems to be the only language understood by the Nigerian government.
In June 2013, I had just resumed the second semester of my first year in the university when a lecturer came into class and broke the sad news, “I’m sorry students, ASUU is on strike and I shouldn’t even be here today. You all are advised to go home and hopefully; the strike will be called off soon.” Sadly, our hopes were dashed, as the school did not resume until January, 2014. This was not the end of such industrial actions that lengthened my stay in school.
Sadly, 2020 dashed the hopes of many, students and non-students alike, with the spread of the deadly coronavirus. In March 2020, the federal government of Nigeria shut down all schools across the country to check the spread of the virus. However, as early as May 4th, the first ease of the lockdown across the country was experienced. Surprisingly, it is November and Nigerian universities (under the auspices of ASUU) have not yet resumed, despite the fact that all other institutions in the country have since resumed.
Coronavirus and the Strike
The combined effect of the coronavirus and ASUU strike is that Nigerian university students have been at home for the past 7-8 months, with failed attempts at having virtual classes (before the ASUU strike surge). Many of these students have become drained psychologically, emotionally, mentally, and in all respects.
It is even more sad to note that the end of this strike does not seem to be around the corner as ASUU representatives have so far reached dead ends with the delegates of the federal government. In a recent tweet, the trade union advised students to acquire skills, travel, and have fun, among other suggestions. It breaks the heart to know that the federal government has failed at meeting the demands of the union since time immemorial, and members of the union have also failed to shift grounds, to the detriment of poor Nigerian students. It is believed that this nonchalant attitude is due to the fact that children of members of both sides don’t attend tertiary institutions in the country.
Some persons, including Sowore, as well as the Education Rights Campaign, have advised students to embark on a mass protest calling for an end to the strike. He tweeted, “#EndAsuustrike. Let the students languishing at home organize a mass protest to force the Muhammadu Buhari regime to end the destiny destroying strike, I will join, they’ve got nothing to lose! The reason they don’t care is because their kids don’t go to school in Nigeria! #RevolutionNow.” The 2020 strike by the union is said to be due to loggerheads over the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, a platform which the federal government said all lecturers must be registered on or they would not be paid salaries.