The federal government’s recent commitment to reforms to solve the decay in the university system and ensure that the sector competes favourable on the global stage will not stop the decay in nation’s education sector.
In fact, by paying attention to the universities only, the government is fuelling age long notions that the sub-sector is more important than other sub-sectors in the tertiary education system, and that the university degree is more important that equivalent qualifications obtained in the other sub-sectors.
This was the position yesterday of the National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha, who also lamented that there were no ongoing talks between the union and the government to resolve the ongoing strike, which started on October 4, 2013.
He disclosed that the last meeting between the striking union and the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, was held three months ago.
ASUP embarked on strike from April 29, July 17, 2013 in the first instance and resumed the industrial action on October 4, 2012.
Speaking in a telephone interview with THISDAY, Asomugha said the union already agreed that four out of the 12 issues of contention should be resolved, while discussions would continue for the remaining eight.
“There are no ongoing talks.
Actually, there is nothing to talk about because we had already arrived at an agreement for the things that the government should do, and government accepted that it would do, more than three months ago. We have even bent backwards to accommodate government’s limitations. Out of 12 issues that we brought to the table, we said they should do four, that we would continue talking about the other eight. But government has resolved just two out of the four,” he said.
He disclosed that the government appealed to be allowed to first resolve some issues in the short term for the strike to be called off, which made the union to agree that four issues be addressed first.
The two resolved issues are the constitution of Governing Boards for the polytechnics and the set up of a Needs Assessment Committee for the polytechnics.
Asomugha disclosed that the union is, however, not satisfied with the pace of the work of the committee whose members have complained of paucity of funds.
He also noted that the other two issues for resolution in the short term include the release of the White Paper of the Visitation Panel to Polytechnics and the release of funds for payment arrears of migrated lower cadre staff to CONTISS 15.
“Government is giving the impression that the universities are more important by the attention given to the universities. The polytechnics started their strike before the universities.
It appears as if government policy makers are not interested in the population of poor people who choose to go to the polytechnics, it is unfortunate. Solving the problems in the university system alone will not solve the problems of the education sector,” Asomugha added.
He called on the government to holistically resolve the problems in the education sector from the primary to the tertiary level.
“If our public schools at primary and secondary level are nothing to write home about, then what would happen in the tertiary system?
NCE now is the basic teacher qualification in Nigeria; both primary and secondary. And then you are not paying any attention to the Colleges of Education that produce these NCE graduates, so what are you doing to primary education? It is really unfortunate,” he added.
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