COVID-19 vs ASUU strike: Varsities and the fate of final year students

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By Victor Akuma

If there are people in the academia who feel much pain owing to the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent indefinite strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), final year students of Nigerian tertiary institutions should come to mind.

However, this is not to say that students of lower levels don’t get bothered about the situation but because these sets of potential graduates are on the verge of having extra year to their normal year of study, not to mention some who already have loads of carryovers which obviously will not permit them graduate with their set. So does it mean such persons will have to wait for an extra two year for a 4 year course before smelling NYSC? This should really be looked into as the fate of Nigeria’s labour market is looking indecisive.

Another basic but neglected area where the attention of authorities should be called to is in the area of idleness. An idle man, they say, is the devil’s workshop, an average Nigerian student lacks the penchant to study while at home, in fact, he or she would rather be bored than pickup a book to read, not even books recommended for his course of study.

So, this means such persons only have the urge to study when they find the need to do so and that need would have been found in school where they are prompted by assignment deadlines and their mind revolves round their graduation month. These are basically, the only reasons that make an average Nigerian final year student to study.

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Believe it or not, some of these final year students at home don’t feel the need to read because they are not prompted by anything, not even a deadline for assignment submission. In fact, it is contestable that some of them have forgotten they are final year students and have taken to frivolities.

The consequences of such laxity are quite enormous. The first thing it does is to strip them of all they possibly have been taught and read for the few months they have been in the final year class. Secondly, they are not reading to fill back the gap and thirdly, I had earlier said an idle man is the devil’s workshop, they could engage themselves in unwholesome activities like theft.

It has also been alleged that this is the best time for them to work on their projects and seminar presentations, I can tell not up to 10 percent out of 100 Nigerian final year students at home still remembers their project topics let alone working on anything and for the few that want to work on something will be reminded by their project supervisors that the nation is on coronavirus break and as such do not need any headache from anyone, lest they contract the virus via email or telephone calls by their supervisees.

It is not surprising that there exist a whole lot of online businesses in the country currently, both the legal and illegal ones. That’s because these students are choiceless at this point hence they are in for anything that will help them save enough money to sort their way through in case they are unable to beat deadline for the submission of their project chapters when school resumes.

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Also, care should be given in the project works to be submitted by these students as I foresee a rain of falsified data in their works since the norm will be to beat deadline when school resumes, no matter the means.

With all these, I would love to suggest some moves which should be of benefit to the country, universities and other higher institutions of learning, as well as to the students.

First, there should be an expedited move by the federal government and ASUU to put their differences aside by resolving the already annoying strike. Moreover, the minister for labour is not a medical doctor and even if he is, am sure he’s not among those in isolation centres, helping the COVID-19 patients.

So, he should resume work with the minister of education by calling for online meetings with ASUU team or even physical meetings but still maintaining the social distance rule. Moreover, we see Boss Mustapha the nation’s SGF and his Presidential task force team cluster everyday on Channels television during a cross section of media briefing on the novel virus. In fact, I would also advise other parastatals of the economy to resume in like manner, even if it entails virtual monitoring of the economy rather than leaving it desolate. So Dr. Chris Ngige should speed up actions with ASUU, let them make some promises as they are known for, I believe ASUU will still fall for it.

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Secondly, when the issue of ASUU is resolved and the pandemic persists, there should be some sort of synergy between FG and tertiary institutions to start creating and sending lecture notes in form of pdf to the emails of these final year students and if possible, to students of other levels too.

This process, I believe, will work better because the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), has their e-courseware, a pdf material of courses. To develop such for different disciplines shouldn’t be much of a problem. Going by video conferencing class might not payoff as most students might not have enough data to stream for hours everyday but can easily navigate to their email inbox to check for lecture notes. After all, here is not the West were you pay for data without knowing it, rather, Glo and MTN will make you feel the pain of your subscription.

Finally, project supervisors should show more concern that will prompt these students to start working earnestly on their projects.

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