“Some of us spent three years for an ND programme that is supposed to be 18 months due to the 14 months ASUP strike in 2013/2014.”
Gabriel Dike, Lagos, Fred Eze, Abuja, Paul Orude, Bauchi, Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
This is certainly not the best of time for the nation’s tertiary institutions as the industrial actions by lecturers in the universities and colleges of education have crippled academic activities in the various campuses.
READ ALSO: Polytechnic lecturers give strike notice
The situation will be compounded tomorrow, Wednesday, December 12 if the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) keep to their threat to embark on strike if the Federal Government failed to address their demands.
The implication is that if ASUP withdraw its services,classrooms in the universities, colleges of education and polytechnics will be empty.
On Thursday, November 29, the National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUP after its meeting at the Yaba College of Technology gave the Federal Government till December 12 to address the contentious issues or it will ask its members to down tool.
ASUP’s demands include non provision of funds for the NEEDs Assessment for public polytechnics, persistent shortfall in personnel cost, non-payment of salaries in many state institutions with accrued arrears of between three to 11 months, even with the receipt of three tranches of Paris Club refund and bailout funds released to states, bill for the review of the Polytechnic Act which has passed second reading at the Senate.
Other demands are CONTISS 15, which has been the most malignant among the lingering issues with arrears put at over N20 billion, establishment of National Polytechnics Commission, removal of dichotomy between HND and degree holders,it has been lingering for long time even with various approvals for its removal, many state polytechnics do not have governing councils and most of their programs are without accreditation, many institutions have adopted alternatives to practicals because of infrastructural decay and poor equipment in their laboratories, studios and workshops and poor funding, with the budgetary allocation to polytechnic grossly inadequate and unable to make any significant impact in the system.
Since the decision was taken at the NEC meeting, fears have gripped students and their parents on the impending industrial action. The students, in particular are hoping the federal government will engage the leadership of the union in discussion to avert the impending strike.
STUDENTS AND PARENTS REACTIONS
A parent, Mr. Kunle Afolabi, who has two wards at Yaba College of Technology, appealed to the government to engage ASUP in a serious discussion in order to avert the impending industrial action, stating that if allowed, it may truncate academic studies of some final year students.
Afolabi warned that the nation can not afford to have academic staff in the universities, polytechnics and colleges of education all on strike at the same time at a critical period of the country. He said it will send a wrong signal to other countries that we are not serious with our education.
Alhaja Risikat Adelaja, a trader, expressed concern about the December 12 ultimatum deadline issued by ASUP to government to meet their outstanding demands. She urged the Buhari administration to invite leaders of the union for urgent meeting before the expiration of the date.
Speaking on the impending action, the National moderator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All, Kabiru Aliyu, challenged the government to try all it could to avert the industry action being threatened by ASUP.
He said: “It will be unwise for government to invest billions of Naira in purchase of arms and ammunitions, and not invest in education. With quality education and empowerment programmes, there would be less violence and security breakdown.
“This is election year and campaigns have just begun. My fear is that these students could be a tool in the hands of desperate politicians who could go at any length to grab power. The students might be forced to take up the business of thuggery and praise singers for politicians, thus justifying the statement that ‘idle mind is devils workshop’.
On his part, the President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Bamidele Akpan, appealed to polytechnic lecturers to exercise more patience with the government and not shut down the institutions.
“Strike might not solve the problem but worsen it. However, how can we tell the world that entire Nigeria’s higher education system is shut down because of different disagreements with the government?
“However, we have fixed a meeting with the union leaders and other stakeholders to find a way outside industrial action, that would bring durable solution to the unending strike in government own institutions.”
General Secretary, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr. Mike Ene, blamed government for the unending strikes in different unions in Nigeria’s higher education system.
He said: “Government are always in hurry to sign agreements without proper check on the content. It now becomes difficult for them to implement the agreement, and pride and arrogance will not allow them to request for adjustments.”
Marshal Rodji Moses, a Business Administration and Management HND student, said the strike will hurt some academic activities most especially the marking of answer scripts because some students are writing exams. It will affect students like me waiting to graduate and those also preparing for NYSC. It will also affect the new students and registration is supposed to start by December. It means that students are not certain when to return to campus.
“I know the demand are many and the federal government is saying they cannot implement all but the ones that are important on the scale of preference that will calm the nerves of the lecturers should be addressed so that academic activities can go on in our polytechnics. The problem in Nigeria is that implementation of agreement is always difficult.”
Maryam Bala Adamu, HND 11 Mass Communication Department student, explained that with ASUU on strike and the government not responding, “we already know that government does not value polytechnic education like university and so with ASUP threatening strike, by the time we resume it will be a problem.
“Everything will stop especially for me that want to finish school and face the World. With school on strike, nothing will work, lectures will not hold. Even exams, marking of scripts will not be attended to thus results will not be ready. Those to collect their results and go for either NYSC or IT will not be able. Government and ASUP should look for a level playing ground and settle their difference.
While the Students Union President, Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, Aliyu Suleiman is of the opinion that the impending strike will have a drastic effect on education in the country. He asserted that from government action, it seen the federal government values universities than the polytechnics, adding the “university lecturers are on strike and the government is not doing anything, just imagine ASUP going on strike, it is going to be a slap on our faces.”
“Students are the ones to suffer if ASUP keeps to it threat. We beg the federal government not to allow this happen. This government should implement what the previous administration had agreed with the union. I am not just calling on the federal government to ensure that ASUP does not go on strike, but also ASUU to call off their strike,” the HND11, Estate Management student noted.
Julius James, student of Agricultural Engineering, Federal Polytechnic, Ede, admitted that if the strike commences after the ultimatum ‘’it will affect final year students because they are almost rounding off the semester. The implication is that it will also affect our results. If the results do come out early, it will affect our chances of getting direct admission or even going for IT. My advice to government is to call stakeholders and relevant officials involved so that they can resolve the issues amicably.”
In his reaction, the President, Students Union of Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Rufai Lukman, of the Department of Computer Engineering, called on government to urgently meet the demands of the lecturers to ensure the smooth running of academic activities in the polytechnic.
“Government should try to pay all their outstanding arrears of allowances. The proposed strike is unavoidable because I believe that government has the wherewithal to meet all their demands. These outstanding issues that are about to lead to strike have been lingering for a long time. Government should settle with them amicably before the general elections next year.”
“If ASUP happen to go on the strike, students can hijack the situation and embark on riot to protest the disruption of their academic activities. Also, the female students may embark on prostitution if they are out of school.
The students union Public Relations Officer of Federal Polytechnic, Ede,, Victor Ilesanmi of the Department of Statistics said that government has no option than to meet the demands of ASUP.
“They need to be motivated so that they can show adequate commitment to their duties. Government should not only pay them regular salaries and outstanding arrears of their allowances but also promote them and increase their salaries. A labourer deserves his wages.
“If the lecturers are allowed to proceed on the strike, it will affect the whole system. Strike will prolong the academic programmes. Some of us spent three years for an ND programme that is supposed to be 18 months due to the 14 months ASUP strike in 2013/2014. Another strike can lead to disruption of our programmes.
Olusola Emmanuel, the Speaker of Parliament, Students Union of Federal Polytechnic, Ede, who is in the Department of Chemistry said “The strike is a bad omen for students. We don’t pray for it. The past ASUP strikes disrupted our academic activities and calendars. For instance, in my set, we did a regular ND part time programme that was supposed to last for three years, but we ended up spending four years due to the last ASUP strike. We are now in HND programme.
“With another strike, we can’t graduate in August next year. The longer the strike, the longer it will take us to graduate and go for the NYSC. Strike can frustrate some students. When some are out of school, they may not come back when the strike is called off and end up as drop out and hoodlums.”
A female student from the same institution, Afolabi Adenike of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, advised government to invite ASUP national officers to a round table discussion and reach a consensus on the outstanding demands.
“Government should urgently look into their demands because they are very special to the country’s education system. Their demands are justified. Another ASUP strike is bad news for students. I have heard about it but I am sure many of my colleagues are not yet aware. They will be shocked if the lecturers go on strike again.
The clock is ticking fast, while students and parents expect the federal government and ASUP to resolve the issues in contention before December 12 ultimatum.
COEASU just suspended its two-month-old strike after government promised to address some of the demands.