The failure of staff of Nigerian polytechnics, now on strike, and the federal government to reach an amicable settlement is becoming a cause for concern. In a meeting with the Non-Academic Staff Union of Associated and Educational Institutions (NASU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) the federal government offered to pay the arrears of the N20.4 billion consolidated Tertiary Institutions Salary Structure (CONTISS) in two instalments.
Although government agreed to pay the first instalment in March 2014 and the second in September, 2014, SSANIP and ASUP said they would not accept the modalities for the payment of the CONTISS. This is hinged on what they described as unfair treatment from the federal government. SSANIP’s national public relations officer, Mr Adebanjo Ogunsipe, advised the government to make available the money in full as soon as the 2014 budget is released to ensure industrial harmony in the education sector.While acknowledging that the government has met some of the demands of the unions such as the setting up of a NEEDS assessment committee, implementation of CONTISS 15 migration, and the introduction of a new scheme of service, he wants other pending issues resolved.
Ogunsipe, who is unsure of the future of the polytechnics in the country because of the discriminatory attitude of government and the public, describes the yearly budgetary allocation to polytechnics as worrisome. He decried meagre budgetary allocation in 2014 budget to polytechnics. Some of the outstanding demands of the unions include the establishment of national polytechnics commission, a five-year single tenure for rectors and other principal officers, exclusion from the integrated personnel payroll information system (IPPIS) and the enactment of the polytechnic Act.
Even as the issue of the modalities for the payment continues to dominate discussions, members of ASUP have vowed to go on with the strike action until the money in contention is paid in full.That means that students of the various government-owned polytechnics across the countrywill continue to sit at home since they are not just the collateral damage of the bargain but the real victims of the impasse.
The way a nation treats its education or education of its young ones shows how passionate it is about its children. The frequent strike actions by our lecturers do not speak well of our education. Most parents have used this as an excuse to send their children to study in some ill-equipped schools abroad.Strikes are not new in Nigeria. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off theirs which lasted for nearly six month only a little more than one month ago.
In a properly managed system, the education authorities ought to be proactive and learn to pay the right salaries and equip the institutions on a regular basis. This is lacking. Instead, it is the workers, through their unions, who teach the government what to do and how to do it. Of course, this is a trend in Nigeria. Workers have to fight for their entitlements. But this should stop if we want to move ahead of this line of management that has failed to produce any positive result.
Government seems not to care much about the polytechnics and what happens there. This is unacceptable if we want to achieve any meaningful development in our quest for industrial and technological breakthrough. The polytechnics must be properly equipped to provide the middle-level manpower that is lacking at the moment. We urge the federal government to give urgent attention to the demands of the polytechnic staff. Their lingering strike is gradually killing our education.