I graduated from Secondary School about three years and seven months ago and unfortunately for me, I have had to grapple with the mess that is Nigeria’s federal university system. Where do I even begin to explain the struggle that is the University of Jos? I will spare you the details and just go straight to the point discussing the hot topic right now- “ASUU strike” but with a twist, because I will be speaking from a student’s perspective.

If you live or work in Nigeria or follow Nigerian News then you will be very familiar with the acronym ASUU ( Academic Staff Union of Universities ). ASUU is a Labour Union that encompasses academic staff from most Nigerian universities. Recently ASUU has been in the news once again making demands to the Federal Government.

These demands have not been met to their satisfaction leading to a one-month warning strike. These strike actions are a regular occurrence causing a major obstruction to the education of millions of university students in Nigeria. In my almost four years at the University of Jos, I have experienced about three strike actions ranging from a few weeks to a nine-month-long strike in 2020.

Before any ASUU strike, there are always rumours followed by news of meetings held by ASUU. This last warning strike was not any different. Students always hope for the best when rumours are heard because most students plan to graduate in as little time as possible, go for NYSC ( National Youth Service Corps ) and get a good-paying job. ASUU strikes serve to further delay these goals. It keeps pushing back the end for these young people, myself included to start earning money to support themselves and their families as well as begin the journey of building wealth.

when two elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. I am ashamed to admit this but what I feel when a strike is declared is not always sadness but sometimes relief and I am sure many students share my sentiments. Can you really blame us though because learning becomes very taxing when our lecturers are always trying to play catch up due to the lost time from previous strikes? A semester that is supposed to take about four to five months is squeezed into three or less.

The stress really does take a toll on students so the ASUU strike begins to seem like a necessary evil. We know the day of reckoning will come but for now, we breathe a sigh of relief because we get a break from the rundown hostels, public transportation, tests we are barely prepared for, crowded lecture halls listening to barely audible lectures and we get to go home to hopefully a few weeks of rest and not months of being jobless.

Unlike a holiday the timeline of an ASUU strike is unpredictable and uncertain. It could take just a few weeks or months to blow over making them hard to plan on how to utilize the free time. A lot of people like myself plan to study but we all know that is easier said than done because it’s always easier to study with a deadline at hand. It is very easy to fall into the lazy housewife routine sitting at home half-heartedly doing chores after bidding everyone goodbye as they head to work and school.

The ASUU chairman has advised students to “learn and earn during the strike period and come back fulfilled after the strike period”. The funny part is that most students enrolled in these universities for the same purpose, to learn and earn a degree that will help them earn a living.

Learning out of the four walls of the university is not that difficult. We as humans are inclined to always learn be it consciously or unconsciously and with the advent of the internet, this is easier to do. There are several issues involved though like the high cost of the internet and a technological gap but as the popular saying goes where there is a will there is a way. I encourage all students to find a way, read as many books and educate themselves beyond the curriculum. Setting a goal that is feasible can help, for instance, you can have a daily reading target of a chapter a day or a goal to read two books in a month.

The important question to ask yourself now is if you are learning something useful and can you build something long-lasting on it. I have never earned a substantial amount of money in my twenty years of living and I know there are several young people like myself. For the most part of my life, the subject of money and earning money has been of little to no importance to me. Our families, schools and ourselves placed academic excellence as the highest priority. Sadly nobody really teaches you how to make money in school. We have been made to believe education is the key but now the doors have been locked and we have been asked to find other means to learn and earn.

The recent ASUU strikes coupled with the rising rate of unemployment in the country has made many students view their education as some sort of side hustle. University students are now barbers, hairdressers, make-up artists, tailors, small business owners, and engaged in many more semi-skilled and unskilled professions. This trend makes me wonder if the ASUU chairman is not just asking students to learn a trade during the strike period. This idea is actually not a bad one. Due to recent circumstances like most students, I have been thinking about how to learn skills and leverage these skills to earn as well as capitalize on my strengths and interest to earn instead of waiting until graduation.

Realizing the need to start earning is half the problem, the other half of the problem is getting started. Overthinking and procrastination are big problems for a lot of people myself included. I get excited about these big ideas and then lack action and/or resources kill my motivation and drive to grow them. I really felt it when Buju (a Nigerian musician) sang “if you no get money e dey kill idea”( if you don’t have money it kills an idea) in his song titled Outside. Mathew 25:29 says ” For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him “(Holman Christian Standard Bible) and this has always seemed unfair to me but I have come to realize that we all have something in our hand even if some have more. For starters we all have twenty-four hours in a day, let’s build on that.

I want to do better this time around and use this strike period as a time of growth. Let us take it one day at a time and try to make the best of our time at home. To avoid slipping into old habits let us keep our friends and ourselves accountable.

Precious Ufedoh-Ojo Akuh

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