As the ongoing industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities continues to render many undergraduates redundant, DEBORAH DAN-AWOH takes a look at salient lessons that students can adopt to achieve financial freedom before calling time on their academic programmes.
in the last five months, Nigerian undergraduates in government-owned varsities have seen their educational pursuit come to a screeching halt due to an industrial action embarked upon by lecturers owing to a long list of reasons, chief among which is the funding of public universities, or lack thereof.
But, this in itself, is no news, as the phenomenon of industrial action by university teachers is almost as old as the nation. It is an ugly reality that frequently rears its head on such a regular basis that it has become par-for-the-course as far as the Nigerian education system goes.
As a matter of fact, the issue of strike action, notably by ASUU, has been so deeply entrenched in Nigeria’s educational system that now fewer than 20 months have been lost in the last five years due to the unending tussle between the government and the varsity lecturers.
For students, getting caught in the crosshairs of this fight between two elephants always echoes as a very disconcerting experience, since every undergraduate typically dreams of graduating in record time in order to move on to the next chapter of life. However, if meticulously and intentionally harnessed, the downtime occasioned by these frequent industrial actions could be parlayed into a dress rehearsal on how to achieve financial freedom before entering the unpredictable labour market.
As a matter of fact, given the situation of the present economy, it goes without saying that establishing the framework for attaining financial freedom before graduating from the university will likely increase any young person’s chances of building a successful career.
This is in view of the fact the fleeting nature of life itself most times makes the transition from being a student (who has all his needs taken care of) to having to face a vast new world of providing for oneself can unfold so quickly that one has a great difficulty adapting to the changes that come with it.
As such, setting up a side hustle before graduating from the university becomes a much-needed intermission that helps the students to cushion the changes that come with this new world.
Perhaps, the side hustles can translate into life-long careers as financial ignorance has dominated the minds of many. This is probably due to the perspective that university time is a period of finding passion, refining the path, partying, falling in love, adventure, and exploration.
However, the financial decisions or any choice individuals make compound by 20 per cent, according to the Wall Street Brothers in their book entitled, “Efficiency.”
Especially as the searing realities of the Nigerian economy have dampened the visions and aspirations of many University students.
Ifeoluwa Oladapo, a 24-year-old undergraduate at the University of Lagos, said she had high expectations upon entering school. Still, it seemed like her life had been put on hold by the strike.
“Honestly, I am just tired of the whole thing. I miss school, getting extra income from uncles and aunties. Right now, I am studying Marine Biology, yet I am an entrepreneur who specialises in cakes and pastries; which is the one thing that has kept me sane. Then, I also help run our family restaurant when I don’t have orders to fill for pastries.”
According to Oladapo, one of her best decisions was learning to bake while waiting for admission into the university.
“I thank God I learned to bake then; raising funds wasn’t easy. But I thank God for my family that supported me then. If not, I would have been at the mercy of this country financially.”
Oladapo explained that saving the profits from her business and reinvesting to buy other types of equipment had also yielded interest.
“I can now charge higher because I understand how much I have invested personally to achieve this level of professionalism. Even though I make good money, I don’t squander it on frivolous things. I only buy what I need and then save the rest.”
Speaking further on money lessons undergraduates could learn during the ASUU strike, Stepanie Anene, an undergraduate studying Mass Communications at the National Open University, said that her career in voice-over as a professional had opened doors for her financially.
According to her, the first financial lesson she learned was that to make money, one must not have to follow the path chosen in school.
“I discovered I had a gift for voice acting. Funny enough, I have never got any formal training. I started by uploading my content on Instagram. I started with differences in pronunciation of British and American accents.
“The first time someone reached out to me for a job was from Access Bank. I was intrigued; I didn’t know anything about pricing then, so whatever they offered, I accepted it.”
Although still in school, Anene revealed that she worked from the confines of her house and made thousands of naira from her craft as a freelancer.
“Having started this in 2019, I received direct messages from people in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and the United States. It was then I realised that, just like me, many people want to break free from the box society or education has put them.
“So, one thing I tell people is to start, anyhow, anywhere. Take the first step and watch it unfold. Every month, I get nothing less than N100,000 from voice-over jobs as an undergraduate.
“When people ask me how they can start making money for themselves or feel limited because of the course they are studying, I tell them that it doesn’t matter. As a doctor, you can become a comedian and be amazed at how your life will turn out.”
According to Anene, only few people studied what they were passionate about in a country like Nigeria. “As long as you desire to make a side income, you can delve into any field,” she said.
Given the technological disruption and Nigeria’s backward movement against the tide of innovation and advancement, setting long-term goals to make knowledge and skills investments will ensure that young people are valuable enough to get future jobs and secure financial freedom.
Marvelous Eniwaye, a 100-level student of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said that the strike “has dampened my zeal towards my studies. I had intentions to venture into several educational stuff before the strike, but the strike has been a hurdle against my intention. Again, it has caused retardation for me.”
Marvelous disclosed that regardless of the strike, he had found an equilibrium to invest his time learning relevant digital skills.
“Presently, I am refreshing my computer repair and maintenance knowledge in a computer centre. I’m learning UI/UX design, although I am just coasting since I don’t have a personal system. I use the shop’s system sometimes since I don’t need some special applications.”
As it stands, the rhythm of skill acquisition and implementation has changed. Even though the nation takes a back seat in the scheme of things, young people can embrace the new change and the future of work to remedy the poverty gap.
While some undergraduates are leveraging the strike to create building blocks for a secured financial future, other students who haven’t imbibed this culture must begin to make hay while the sun shines, experts have advised.
Dr. Udu Yakubu, biographer and publisher, May University Press Limited, told The PUNCH that despite the economic situation, students of universities should understand that every phase of life would pass quickly.
“Money lessons for the undergraduates is that upon getting part-time jobs, you can’t rule out the possibility of getting free money from parents and loved ones.”
Whatever it is, the point to underscore is the need for students to be enterprising whether they are still in school or out of school.
Yakubu said white-collar jobs had become past news.
“There aren’t many jobs out there. Being enterprising means that with their degree or qualification, if they are thrown into the labour market, they can do many things for themselves, if they have learned how to manage the little resources that have come their way.”
Undergraduates must understand the essence of being financially independent. Because once they are out of school, most of them do not have access to free money in terms of allowances, experts also advise.