From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
President Muhamadu Buhari has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to consider the plight of students and call off the ongoing strike.
This is even as he has also urged students in the country’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as the government strives to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.
He made the appeal at the 19th National Productivity Day Celebration and Conferment of National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, for their high productivity, hardwork and excellence.
The event was held at the State House Conference Center, Abuja.
Buhari recalled his February 1 directive to His Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the ministers of education, and labour and employment, Adamu Adamu and Chris Ngige respectively, to as a team to address the concerns of the striking aggrieved workers’ unions.
ASUU had in statement on Monday, said since the President’s directive was issued, no meeting had been held by the concerned officials to resolve the conflicts.
ASUU said failure of the government to show concern about its demands forced it to extend the three-month-old strike by another three months.
President Buhari recalled that he had earlier directed the Chief of Staff, Hon. Ministers of Labour and Employment, Education, Finance, Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and in fact all other University based labour unions.
On the theme of this year’s celebration ‘‘Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System,’’ the President pledged that the Federal Government would continue to do everything possible to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country, adding that his administration recognised that the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system.
‘‘Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority.’’
Highlighting notable achievements in the education sector including the drastic reduction of the number of out of school children from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, automatic employment for graduates of education, review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, among others, the President said more still needs to be done.
“Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens.
“Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.
“It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.
“Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system,” he said.
To address these challenges, Buhari said his administration has reviewed the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, while years of service have now been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.
Similarly, the President said the government has also approved a special salary scale for teachers in Basic and Secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, Science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance, while prioritising timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.
Furthermore, he said the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and Colleges of Education comes with assurance of automatic employment upon graduation as well as payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students.
Congratulating all the awardees for their various accomplishments and well deserved recognition, the President said they have been carefully selected from a multitude of competitors, saying “this award should spur you to greater heights.”
President Buhari commended the Chairman and members of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award Committee, including the management and staff of National Productivity Centre for a job well done, urging the recipients of the merit award and Nigerians to make productivity their watchword.
In his lecture titled, ‘Achieving Higher Productivity Through Improved Educational System’, Dr Sylvester Onoja, he proposed that the ministry of Education be split into two, one called the Ministry of Basic Education should be headed by an educationist, while the second, the Ministry of Higher Education, can be headed by any other professional.
He stressed that the Ministry of Education, should be treated like the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice, where only doctors and lawyers are appointed respectively.
“Today, it is difficult to be minister of health, if you are not a medical doctor, and you cannot be a minister of justice, if you are not a lawyer, the same should be applied to the Ministry of Education, basically, it is only those who are trained as educationist that should be Minister of Education.”
Onoja, also called on the state governments to take education seriously.
He said: “I have information that in one of the states of the federation that as at 12th of May, 2022, no student from public schools have registered for WASSCE, those that have registered are from private schools. I also have information that in another state of the Federation, in the last Common Entrance Examination, only 74 registered for the examination in a state that has three federal government colleges.
We must do something drastic about it. There are states in the last 10 years that have not employed a single teacher to teach in public schools. There are no substitute for education.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said since the inception of the award in 1991, 382 individuals and 97 organisations have been honoured with the NPOM.
Dr Stella Adadevoh and Mr Babatunde Lawal, received posthumous awards at the 2019/2020 edition of the National Productivity Day.
Dr Adadevoh, who died on August 19, 2014, was recognised for her outstanding performance in the fight against the spread of the Ebola virus in the country while Lawal, who until his death on November 6, 2020 served as Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Affairs Office.
Babatunde, an economist by training with bias in fiscal policy analysis, management and strategic planning, was commended for his ‘‘thoroughness and paying keen attention to every detail’’ during his tenure as permanent secretary in the Federal Civil Service.
Other recipients include the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; immediate past Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chike Ihekweazu; Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi; Chairman and Founder, BUA Group, Abdusamad Rabiu; Chairman of Globacom, Mike Adenuga Jnr; Professor Stanley Okolo, Director General of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and Allen Onyema, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, among others.