Last week marked an end to an eight-month university strike in Nigeria, it was a period that typified the Nigerian government’s willfull ignorance of the plight of its people. In President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure (2015-2022), there has been a prolonged strike of over 24 months—that technically estimates to more than two years of students out of school.
These pictures of Nigerian students symbolise how a top to bottom and rotten government can ruin several lives. It’s like a Russian doll with many layers with a different story. After speaking to several students in Lagos, many had the same thing to share:
This photo essay aims to help these few tell their stories to listening ears since there has only been a small and generic coverage of the ASUU strike by the Nigerian media and none from the point of view of the affected students.
Each student was asked two questions and their expressions were captured upon responding:
- How has the strike affected your life trajectory
- What have you been up to over the past 6 months
Life has changed so much for me because of the strike. It’s so infuriating because I’m a Nigerian citizen, and that alone halts my life.
In the beginning, it was depressing and hard to stay idle—But the me now is very different from the student me. I’ve had months taken away from me because someone somewhere is refusing to pay their staff. I believe I have transcended past school; I wouldn’t even know how to cope when the strike is lifted.
In the last 6 months, I’ve had to grow up and focus on my career squarely—I have worked two different jobs since the strike started. And what’s worse is that I can’t be employed like a full staff because companies tend to view out-of-school students almost like dropouts”.
“I have felt stagnant and held back. Seeing my other peers in state schools and private schools graduating—watching them all move on with their lives makes me jealous; I want what they have. I want to move on with my life. Why should I have to be an undergraduate student for more than 4 years?
In the last 6 months, I’ve explored new places in Lagos, met new people—worked. But, most importantly, I spent time with my family”.
“Being out of school for so long has opened my eyes to different realities of adulthood; I had to join the ever-increasing unemployment pool—knowing I had zero chances of getting a good job. Why? Because I have been out of school for reasons beyond my control. Since companies rarely want to employ people without bachelor’s degrees, finding anything good to earn a living from has been a hassle. I can’t even possibly imagine going back to school at the moment. So how do I adjust and cope?
The last 6 months pushed me to grow and improve my inner creativity; I now work as a freelance graphic designer and photographer—all I learnt on my own because I was idle, since school shutdown.”
I for one have been slowed down generally; I’m talking in aspects of job hunting or just achieving general life goals. It’s one thing to have hiccups in your plan for life due to random issues but it’s another thing to be intentionally held back from growing by the people who are supposed to empower you.
It’s harder to plan for anything now because there is no time frame for anything. No one knows when the strike will end, or how long the next year will be or even when the next convocation is. There’s only so much you can do without a plan, I’m honestly mentally exhausted!
In the last 6 months, I have been working as a Social Media Manager for a Fintech Startup. I’ve also gained some experience in content creation and graphic design.
“The Asuu strikes have been so frequent in the last few years. From the first time I resumed University till now—nothing has changed. I don’t even know when I’ll graduate from school; I should have concluded my final exams. But here I am, still in the same place.
6 months into this strike, I’ve had to alternate through tiredness, anxiety and depression. I’ve had to find myself outside of school and pursue a different career path outside of my accounting major—I now work for a small online magazine as a content writer.”