Nigeria’s federal universities have been empty for more than six months, with students prevented from attending classes due to a protracted standoff between the state and teachers who declared an indefinite strike in late August.
The main staff union of the Federal Universities of Nigeria (Asuu) initially called the strike on 14 February demanding more funds for higher education, which has been neglected for decades.
After several extensions to give the government time to meet their demands, including the payment of salaries, the leadership of the union declared an indefinite strike in the federal public universities of Africa’s most populous country on 30 August.
In a statement, the Asuu leadership said the strike was aimed at “saving the public universities from collapse”.
It has thus “decided to transform the renewable strike into a complete, total and indefinite strike action,” said Emmanuel Osodeke, the union’s president.
The demands, as in previous strikes, are for higher salaries, funding and improved facilities.
The union is urging students and parents to support the teachers in their struggle for better conditions.
But after a series of strikes, students feel sacrificed.
“I have lost two academic years because of the incessant strikes,” laments Emmanuel Odunayo, a first-year physics student at Obafemi Awolowo University in southwestern Nigeria.
In 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigerian university teachers went on strike for nine months – the longest in the country’s history.
– “Future at risk” –
“I lost a year of university in 2020 because of the nine-month strike and now I’m about to lose another one,” says the dejected 20-year-old student.
And while the young man understands the union’s demands, he begs them to return to work, “because their action is jeopardizing our future,” he says.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the students’ umbrella body, has also called on the union to end the protest.