On July 1 2013, The Academic Staff Union of Universities decided to embark on industrial action due to the failure of the Federal Government to implement the 2009 Agreement reached with the Union. Most of my colleagues and I expected the strike action to last no longer than two or three weeks at the most. The month of July went by without any seeming end in sight to the strike action. By August, it began to dawn on me that the end was not anywhere near in sight. That was when I knew that I had to find something to do during the waiting period. The question then became what could I do.
My highest qualification was SSCE which almost every job seeker holds. Meanwhile, my mother offered me employment in her school to help audit bank tellers and balance the accounts. Since I wasn’t particularly good with figures, I was not too enthralled with the prospect. Then I joined an online community on Facebook called Volunteer in Nigeria. Since I have always wanted to do a bit of volunteer work with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) after my education, I felt it was a right step to take. This was arguably one of the best things that happened to me during this strike period because of the numerous opportunities they brought my way and the amazing people I got the opportunity to network with over the last couple of months.
In October 2013, I was a participant in LEAP Africa’s Youth Empowerment Programme sponsored by Shell Nigeria and we were exposed to a variety of ideas ranging from Social Responsibility to Missioning and Visioning. The lessons I learnt there gave me the resolve to do more in terms of individual social responsibility. And so from October to December 2013, I spent my break volunteering with LEAP Africa for SIPA 2013, Fate Foundation’s Annual Celebration, Friends of the Global Fund for Africa’s VCT/HIV Week, Slum 2 School’s Xmas In A Box Tour and Love Project’s Community Outreach. I also participated in The Excellence in Leadership Conference, Unilever Nigeria’s Campus Learning Workshop and a host of other seminars and programmes.
All in all, I think I can group my strike break into 2 periods; the first period is between July and September when I was waiting for something to happen while the second period is between October and December when I actually made things happen. Volunteer in Nigeria really did a lot in terms of making me utilize my strike break productively. I got information about many of these programmes and volunteering opportunities from their blog and Facebook group.
After about 170 days at home, the Federal Government and ASUU finally reached an agreement and the industrial action was finally called off. Resumption dates for most institutions have been announced. I would be headed back to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Osun state, to continue my academic pursuit in January 2014 but one thing I am sure of is that I am not going back the same person who came to Lagos in July. My horizons have been broadened, paradigm shifted and my mindset changed. I have become a better Nigerian!
‘Tola Oladiji is studying Medicine at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state, Nigeria. You can connect with him on Twitter via @GodConscious1
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- Announcing #Strike101 #actioncounts #IVD2013 (volunteerinnigeria.wordpress.com)