Some Nigeria polytechnic students devise survival strategies during the 8-month-old ASUP Strike.
Isah Kwano is a Higher National Diploma, Banking and Finance student of the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi. But due to the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, you are not likely to find him on campus nowadays.
Instead, you may find the youth operating a commercial vehicle known locally as Kabukabu. It is not his will to suddenly become a transporter. It is an outcome of the protracted industrial action.
Kwano says, “My brother, I do not want to lose on all fronts. Initially, I thought the industrial action was not going to last long. But now I have spent over eight months at home. So, to keep the body and soul together, I discussed with other members of my family and they allowed me to use one of the family cars for transport business.
“Every day, I leave in the morning with the car. I must admit that this has kept me busy and away from sundry vices. It has also reduced the level of frustration that I face.
“Above all, there is no day that I do not make up to N1,000 since I got into the cab business earlier in the year. However, this is not to justify the continued industrial action. I want the Federal Government and the lecturers to resolve their differences as soon as possible so that I can return to campus.”
He is not the only victim of the current strike by lecturers in public polytechnics. The story of Abdulmalik Usman, an HND 11 student of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, presents another dimension to the strike that has lasted for 240 days today.
For the youngster, the situation has become a hopeless one. By his calculation, he has lost an academic session due to the tango.
He says with bitterness in his voice, “How do we reconcile the fact we have been at home since October 4, 2013? A normal academic semester lasts for three months. Now, we have stayed out of campus for eight months. Have we not naturally lost more than a full academic session at home? Before the strike, we had earlier spent more than two months due to strike in 2013. So you can see that it is a hopeless condition.”
Asked how he has been handling the situation, Usman – who is the President, National Association of Polytechnic Engineering Students – says he has no wherewithal to start a small-scale business.
He adds, “I am often at home engaging in a personal research work. This may sound strange to you, but it has taken up my time. My research emphasis is on Nigeria’s history. I have taken my time to compile top events, especially in the education sector, from Independence to the present day. The idea is that in the future, I will not want those coming behind us to pass through the difficulties some of us are going through today. Look at my fate and that of thousands of students across the country. Look at technical education in the country. With this standstill approach, is there a future for polytechnic education in the country?”
For Lukman Adekitan of the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State, the strike has prevented him from participating in the NYSC scheme.
Adekitan, who also says he has not been doing anything special since the strike began, notes with a frown that a female colleague of his has been impregnated.
“It will interest you to know that one of my colleagues, an unmarried female student, is now pregnant. When I asked her what went wrong she responded, Na so oo. This is to tell you how much this strike has altered our lives. Supposing there have been normal academic activities, I would have gone for national youth service before now,” he explains.
A student of the Kwara State Polytechnic, Dare Amoo, who urges the Federal Government to yield to the lecturers’ demands, notes that the demands were to improve the polytechnic sector.
On what has been keeping him busy, Amoo states that he has abandoned his books for now.
He adds, “At present, I am learning how to make art works. Some months ago, I learnt how to beautify houses. I advise other students to try to engage themselves in one activity or the other. They should not just sit at home. They should not waste this free time. They should learn some works in order to assist their parents.”
Adetunji Oluwaseyi of the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree also shares Amoo’s view that the Federal Government should attend to the lecturers’ demands. He keeps himself busy with a tutorial organised in the school. “The tutorial has kept many of us here and prevented us from engaging in unnecessary travelling around the country,” he says.
However, as the likes of Usman, Amoo and Kwano engage in things that keep them away from frustration and vices, as well as grow them individually, the National Association of Polytechnic Student Senate President, Lukeman Saludeen, has a different thing to say.
Salaudeen, a Mining Engineering HND 11 student of the Kaduna Polytechnic, has been busy interfacing between the students and the “warring parties” in the crisis.
The student leader, who acknowledges that the strike has been tough on students, says the Federal Government has not been fair to the polytechnic sub-sector.
According to him, beyond the danger of exposing some students to social vices, the industrial action has temporarily truncated the dream of many students to participate in the NYSC.
He also notes, with anger in his voice, that the authorities have not been able to act decisively on the BSc/HND discrimination.
He declares, “Before the recent inauguration of the Chief Pius Anyim-led committee, the Federal Government claimed that the issue of HND/ BSc had been reconciled. With this new committee, the truth has come to the fore that the authorities are not sincere in their dealings with those in the polytechnic sector. They proclaim one thing today and do another the next day.”
Agreeing with Salaudeen, the striking polytechnic lecturers have also accused the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyeson Wike, of causing an “irrevocable” damage to the nation’s education sector.
According to them, the minister is on a mission to inflict permanent damage on public polytechnics.
The lecturers, who spoke through the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Chibuzo Asomugha, accused Wike of “blackmail and double speak.”
Lecturers in the nation’s public polytechnics, who have been on strike since last October 5, 2013, are seeking, among others, the removal of what they regard as discrimination against polytechnic graduates, review of the Polytechnics Act, the establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission and the release of the White Paper of the visitation to federal polytechnics.
They are also kicking against the poor funding of polytechnics, deplorable condition of state polytechnics, appointment of unqualified persons as rectors of polytechnics and the review of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System and the funding of the CONTISS 15 Migration.
Asomugha, in an interview with our correspondent, insists that Wike is out to destroy the sector, considering his actions and utterances.
The ASUP President also points to the last Academic Staff Union of Universities strike and the ongoing industrial action by the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, saying the minister’s role in the crises is suspect.
He says, “The Supervising Minister of Education appears to be on a mission to inflict an irrevocable damage to polytechnic education in Nigeria. He has not hidden his anger against the striking workers of polytechnics and colleges of education who dare to disagree with him.
“It is still very much in doubt that Wike has the capacity to manage an industrial crisis in the education sector. For instance, it took the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan to stop Wike from completely messing up the last ASUU strike.
“Now the polytechnic lecturers and their colleges of education counterparts have been on strike for many months, and all the supervising minister has done is to relish in blackmail, misrepresentation of facts, bullying, blustering and double speak.”