With her head rested on her palm, Dorcas Daramola gave a long sigh and embraced her 9-year-old daughter that just came back from school. She had been struggling to recover from the losses incurred during Covid-19 and the ASUU strike in 2020.
For Nigerian students in public universities, the effect of the Academic Staff Union Universities is leaving the university environment for their parents’ house, however, for Dorcas Daramola, a shop owner at the University of Ibadan, her business needs students to survive.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities did not show love; when it decided to embark on a warning strike on February 14 ̶ which is Valentine’s Day, a day meant to celebrate love and friendship with friends and family.
Dorcas is frustrated about how she can support and care for her family after ASUU declared a warning strike 17 months ago.
“The ASUU strike has affected me a lot; I am yet to recover from the debts I owed after the ASUU strike and Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. I thought the warning strike will not last for long, but unfortunately, here we here.
“Most of my goods have an expiry date, and if you don’t sell these goods within that timing, you would dispose of them how it gets spoilt. I had to give it to other vendors that are not on campus to help me sell at a very cheap rate just for me to get some money out of the goods,” she said.
The history of ASUU
The creation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 1978 to succeed the former Nigerian Association of Universities (NAUT) marked a watershed in the history of the labour movement in Nigeria. The birth of ASUU coincided with the military era of oppression that prompted the union into being fretful about national matters.
ASUU, from its birth, channelled its confrontations around the survival of the Nigerian University system under three main paths: salary and non-salary conditions; university autonomy; and the defence of the right to education. To this present moment, ASUU requests from the federal government stand are not much different from what they have been agitating for over five decades.
Historically speaking, from 1999 it is very hard not to experience an ASUU strike once in two years — 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
More business owners lament over lingering ASUU strike
A branding expert, Ayobami Odugbemi, in an interview with this reporter, said her business thrives more when the academic calendar of the institution is smooth.
According to Ms Ayobami, she said she had to let her workers go because she could not keep them in her office and not pay them their salary at the end of the month.
“The ASUU strike has affected my business badly. Before the ASUU strike, I know how much I make from my business. The money I make now is just for me to survive for the main time.
“Because business was not running steadily, I had to let my workers good because I could not afford to pay them with the condition of the business,” she said.
A food vendor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nicholas Adeyanju lamented the incessant ASUU strike saying that whatever affects the students also affects people that provide goods and services for students on campuses.
“Normal academic break is not always friendly in spite of the fact that it is a short break, not to talk for a break that lasts for months. So, the ASUU strike is an unwanted visitor for anyone that sells goods and services for money.
“We urge the Federal Government and ASUU to reach an agreement on call-off the strike for our customers, which are students. This will enable us to grow the economy in her own small way,” he said.
For 62-year-old Mulikat Adeyemo (not real name), she said the best time for her to make money is when Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko is in session. With that, she can make her popcorn and groundnut for students to patronize.
“Apart from the fact that I sell more when students are around. I easily interact with students because I take them like my children. They have different attitudes, but it is always good to have them around,” she said.
Students share their ordeals
A 400-level student of Business Administration at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko lamented that the ASUU strike is a waste of time and resources. He added that the strike has affected him psychologically because of the fact that he has not been able to achieve his goals for 2022.
“I am tired of the ASUU strike, and I cannot drop out at the moment, I am in my final year. I have decided to look for jobs to do for the main time, but most of them rejected me because I am a student with the possibility of going back to soon anytime soon.
For Karimat Abdulsalam, a sophomore student of Mass Communication at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, said the ASUU strike has affected her plans.
“Before the ASUU strike, I had planned my life. I intend to graduate in the next three years and then move to the next phase of my life. But unfortunately, ASUU strike came in and I am stuck. I have to restrategize my plans because of the ASUU strike, and it has not been easy.”
In the same vein, Halima Adeyemo, a 200-level student of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages at University of Ilorin, Kwara State, she said
“The ASUU strike wasted my time, because I spent over three months at home, the time that I should normally use to learn and move on with my education. Positively, I decided to learn some skills like graphics design, crocheting and baking, and those skills have been useful for me.”