After strike, flooding now keeps students from classes

Thousands of students eager to return to the classroom after an eight-month strike by Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ended are now stuck at home after university campuses in many Nigerian cities were flooded.

Nigeria is grappling with the most catastrophic flooding in a decade. About 33 out of its 36 states have been affected by the crisis, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), a federal government agency that focuses on disaster management in all parts of the country.

The severe flooding started in September and, as of 24 October 2022, has caused at least 600 deaths, displaced more than 1.4 million, and injured over 2,700 people, according to data from NEMA. Property worth billions of naira, including farmlands, has been destroyed.

Experts say the heavy rains, combined with poor urban planning, have made many states in the country susceptible to flooding. In many parts of the country, floods have rendered infrastructure like roads and airports inaccessible. Many university campuses are affected.

Multiple reports by local newspapers indicate that Bayelsa State in South-South Nigeria is one of the worst affected states. It has been cut off from the rest of Nigeria as floods have reportedly covered the East-West road that connects the area to the eastern and western parts of the country.

The two universities in the state – the state-owned Niger Delta University, at Amassoma, and the Federal University Otuoke – are under water.

Due to the flooding, students who had faced the ordeal of the lecturers’ strike and were looking forward to returning to the classroom, are now facing another setback.

“Many of us had hoped to return to class this month after ASUU called off their strike on 14 October, but the university has postponed resumption because of the situation,” Perez Felix, a second-year accounting student at the Niger Delta University, told University World News. “It’s a terrible situation here. My friends in universities in areas not affected by the floods have resumed classes and I’m kind of sad that I’m still stuck at home.”

Professor Samuel Edoumiekumo, the vice-chancellor of the Niger Delta University, lamented the impact of the floods on the university, saying the university premises have been submerged. Edoumiekumo told local newspaper Punch that “We use a canoe to move around one part of the campus.”

He said that, in parts of the university that are completely under water, power has been disconnected to avoid electrocution.

Online learning a solution?

However, Edoumiekumo said the management is considering organising online classes for a segment of the students, particularly those taking professional exams.

“We cannot resume because of the floods, otherwise we would have started. But, even at that, we have taken some decisions. There are some students that are going to take some professional exams, so we can’t say that, because of the floods, they should not prepare for their exams,” he said.

“For all those taking professional exams, we have directed their provost to work out modalities to teach them online. They will be receiving lectures online to prepare them for professional exams,” he added.

But experts see a problem which Edoumiekumo acknowledged: Both students and lecturers affected by the flooding crisis may not, understandably, be in the right frame of mind to participate in any form of learning or teaching. Lecturers, for example, are looking after the welfare of their families.

Affected universities will resume later

Local reports indicate that other universities across Nigeria, including the Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, Makurdi, in Benue State, and the Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro, in Delta State, are also affected by the floods.

Some of the universities reported that property has been destroyed and snakes and other reptiles have invaded the premises. Consequently, some of the universities have ordered that the students and staff return to campus at later dates.

For instance, the management of the Federal University Otuoke in Bayelsa State said in a memo: “Unfortunately, we Federal University Otuoke cannot resume physically like our colleagues in other institutions due to the rising level of floods on our school’s terrain, as well as the enormous risk in accessing roads to the school. The university has rescheduled resumption for 20 November 2022.”