August 19th would make the ongoing Academic Staff Union (ASUU) strike the second longest since 1999 at 186 days. It is only behind that of 2020 which was aided, unfortunately by lockdowns from the pandemic. The strike which was announced on Valentine’s Day, February 14, has been fraught with back and forth between the striking lecturers and the federal government.
It has resulted in thousands of lecturers being out of work for months and millions of prospective, undergraduate, and postgraduate students being idle in a sense. Postgraduate students have their first degree and work to fall back on while prospective students have not started the university registration process yet, and undergraduates are in a state of limbo.
In the last five years, there have been three other strikes that have prolonged the length of time a student has to stay in school. Students who gained admission in 2017 should have graduated in 2021, but because of the strikes and the pandemic, they may be looking at 2023, depending on how much longer the strike lasts.
During this time, quite a number of students have been bootstrapping – pulling themselves out of the unfortunate predicament and making sure they do something worthwhile with the time. Students have either been applying to internships, learning new trades, or practically applying previous skills and knowledge to earn money.
Nairametrics spoke with some students on how they have taken advantage of the “free” time and below are some of the skills and vocations they have taken up while waiting for the academic session to resume:
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A final year student of adult and continuing education at the University of Lagos, Amaka Ahamefule has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She started her clothing brand, @stichesbyamy in 2019 on a small scale, only sewing for her friends, neighbours, and people in her school. She recently registered her business and takes on more work. Besides sewing, Amaka also applies for different remote part-time jobs and internships.
Since registering her business and applying more time, she has more than doubled the profit. Using free social media tools, she has steadily grown her business and audience over time. She now makes about N100,000 or more from her sewing business and part-time jobs she has done over the months.
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Naheem Abiola, another final year student in the University of Lagos, started his real estate firm in early 2019 in his second year when he became an agent or conduit for people seeking accommodation in or around his campus. He quickly became known for connecting renters and landlords or procuring hostel rooms and helping squatters where needed. He also found that during the strike, he could utilize his contacts and resources to expand his reach to include houses and apartments outside the university area.
Now he caters to the needs of students, not on campus and short-let apartments. He said this season and the end of year period usually have people visiting NIgeria, and wanting a place to stay without the worry of Airbnb-listed apartments or hotels. He also added that people often rent apartments for a day or weekend to throw house parties and do things like bridal showers or bachelor’s parties. These are the areas he offers his services and earns a substantial amount of money from.
Ruth Tosan Alenkhe was scheduled to graduate in 2021 from the University of Benin but a series of strikes prolonged her four-year degree. So, she took on affiliate marketing a few weeks after the strike was called into effect. She started some weeks after the strike went into effect.
Tosan Adeyemi spent February and March researching and learning as well as channelling more resources into her bakery business. She had baked years before gaining admission, and after she did, she still took orders from her coursemates and fellow students.
She started in April, and after learning the ropes, started teaching people online. She now averages roughly N150,000 monthly since May.
Gloria Olewunne gained admission to Obafemi Awolowo University in 2020 but could not resume till 2021. When she also started her second year 2021, she hoped that it meant she would graduate in 2024 or very early 2025 but those hopes were suspended when the strike was called into effect.
Instead of staying home and waiting, she became apprenticed to a woman who provided makeovers, usually for weddings and other events. She learnt how to tie gele and apply people’s make-up. She now takes solo jobs in addition to her apprenticeship.
Despite the federal government’s laws regarding cryptocurrency, students are still getting involved in forex and cryptocurrency trading. Some students often take out loans from parents, friends, or relatives to start trading while others use the money saved from their allowance or part-time jobs.
Tolani Oloyede, a second-year student at the University of Ilorin, got a loan from his uncle in February to start and has paid it all back now. He noted that it is unpredictable and so he wouldn’t advise taking out a loan from any random person.
What to note
- There are several other occupations that students have been doing during the strike to keep busy and earn a bit. From vocations like hairdressing, carpentry, and driving for ride-hailing apps like Bolt and Uber.
- Besides vocations, students have sought out white-collar internships in local and international companies through LinkedIn and other social networking websites.
- While it is pitiful that Nigerian federal universities are experiencing their second longest strike and 16th in 23 years, the students have shown their resilience in these adverse times.