Seven months on: Polys, COEs, still under lock and key

The seven month-old industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP)  and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has continued to stagnate academic activities  in polytechnics and colleges of education, with  fading hopes of an early resumption date, despite endless meetings  by the warring parties to resolve the matter. AUGUSTINE OKEZIE captured the logjam

Not a few stakeholders in the education sector share the believe that the present administration have continuously paid lip service to issues affecting the sector, especially, at the tertiary level. Otherwise how could one explain a situation where, for over 7months now, the gates of our polytechnics and colleges of education have remained under lock while the youths, who were expected to drive our national aspirations, are left wandering the streets aimlessly?

The Minister of Education, Barrister Nyeso Wike, seems to be rather preoccupied with the politics in his home State of Rivers than with the assignment which he owes Nigerians. One therefore wonders; why he has not been replaced with a more purposeful minister who will devote the much needed attention to the development of Nigeria’s education.  Former Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufai was not this reckless before she was thrown out.

You cannot claim to be fighting for the students when events show otherwise. Keeping students at home for close to a year is certainly not fighting for their interest. There are better ways to fight a cause, rather than embarking on endless strikes. The key to ending this strike is in the hands of the federal government, ASUP and COESU. They must therefore utilize it properly because polytechnic students are frustrated; suffice it to state that they are running out of patience with those involved in the process of ending this strike

It will be recalled that the education sector reached a near collapse with the strikes embarked upon by the Academic staff union of polytechnics, ASUP, and the Colleges of

Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU. This was barely a month after the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, called off its nearly six-month old strike.
Meanwhile the ASUP Chairman, Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha said: “Principally in 2009, we entered an agreement with the government which was supposed to be renegotiated in 2012.Between 2009 and 2012, nothing was done about that agreement. The reason why we called off the 81-day- old strike in 2013 was because the Joint Committee on education of the Senate and the House of Representatives intervened. There were 13 issues in the earlier agreement we signed in 2009 but government decided to pick out four which it said it could handle within a short time frame.

They argued, and we saw reason with them that some issues, such as the disparity between HND and  BSc would require legislative actions and longer procedures, so we believed in the integrity of our leaders and suspended the strike in the hopes that these issues would at least be resolved for the time being’’. He said

The four core demands by the unions include: the release of the White paper on visitation to federal polytechnics, the completion of the constitution of the governing councils for federal polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadre on CONTISS 15 salary scale, and the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian polytechnics.
Blueprint investigation reveal that government seem to have addressed three of the four issues on demand, excepting  that of the migration of the lower cadre on CONTISS 15 salary scale,

The ASUP boss said that the strike will not be called off until these four issues have been resolved in their totality. He said: “The Government said that they would settle these issues within two weeks, but when our National Executive Council met, we decided to give them one month.
COEASU on its part, also embarked on strike in September 2013 as a result of Federal Government’s refusal to honour an agreement made with the union in 2010. The Vice- President of the union, Mr. Smark Olugbeko gave some insight into some of the issues earmarked in the 2010 agreement.

“The first issue is the non- implementation of Peculiar Academic Allowance. Government owes lecturers in the colleges N5.6 billion. Since the agreement was signed in 2010, government has refused to make provision for the allowance in the budget. Government directed Governing Council of Colleges to pay the allowance in the first year saying that it would make provision for it in the 2011 budget, up till date, government has refused to fulfill this promise. Another issue is the Group Life Insurance.

Death benefits to deceased members remain outstanding since 2001. This was occasioned by the centralization of the scheme as against the provision of the Act which stipulates that individual institutions should implement the scheme.  There is also the issue of the non- implementation of 65 years retirement age; the Kaduna and Osun state governments have remained adamant in implementing the 65 years retirement age in their respective colleges of education.”

Continuing, Olugbeko opined that “Infrastructure development is the only aspect , government has taken serious steps to address by setting up Needs Assessment Committee for public colleges of education. It is, however, expedient to urge government to ensure that the outcome of the findings must be given the necessary action.”

Other festering issues include the migration of the lower cadre to the Compcass 15, imposition of integrated IPPIS, inadequate finding of the teaching practice, non- accreditation of NCE programmes, non-release of Whitepaper on Visitation Panel Reports 2011, non-implementation of CONPCASS in some states, and non-institution of dual mode which allows colleges of education the autonomy to award degrees in core education courses to run concurrently with the NCE programmes.”

Olugbeko added: “As a union which deploys measures not antithetical to the good of the system specifically and the country at large in her agitations and engagement with government, it is our candid opinion that the union’s concerns, such as the ones raised herein, need to get some commitment from government. This could be ensured through the instrumentality of the processes that could realistically address the issues and indeed other pertinent ones for which attention had been sought in times past.”

Also lending his voice, the Senate President, National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), Adeyemi Lukman said: “We have made consultations and consolidations with ASUP. Our stand is that the Federal Government must meet the demands of ASUP, the same way they met the demands of ASUU.

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