The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has been on indefinite strike for over two months because of government’s failure to implement agreements on issues affecting polytechnic education.
In this interview Comrade Nda-Umar Usman, the Chapter Chairman, ASUP, Federal Polytechnic, Bida, explains why the union is notshifting grounds.
It’s been over two months since the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics embarked on an indefinite strike to press home some demands, can you run through these demands?
They are actually long time demands, some of which include, the none constitution of governing councils, which has been done partially with about six institutions still outstanding;review of the Polytechnic Actwhich we consider obsolete and not in line with current realities and has been holding down the polytechnics; the Higher National Diploma (HND) and degree dichotomy; and non-release of the revised scheme of service because the existing one is out dated,archaic and has outlived its usefulness.
There is also the continuous recognition of the National Board for Technical Education as the regulatory body for the polytechnics as against the establishment of National Polytechnics Commission.
Other tertiary institutions have a commission why not the polytechnics?
There are also the non-release of the white paper on the visitation panelreport and the need for needs assessment for the polytechnics;
implementation of CONTISS 15 as it affects the lower cadre; insistence of the Accountant General of the Federation to implement IPPIS (Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System) against the wishes of the sector; non-constitution of committee for the renegotiation of FGN/ASUP agreement due since 2012; non-implementation of CONPCASS; and 65-year retirement age by state-owned polytechnics and monotechnics, amongst others.
What is the response of government to these requests?
The Federal Ministry of Education has not shown enough commitment to our demands. Every day is about asking for time to get things done and claiming that most of the demands are not to beresolved directly by the ministry. In fact the ministry is insensitive to polytechnic education.
What support have you gotten from the National Assembly in this struggle?
Well, the National Assembly has not done much either. The bill on the Polytechnic Act has been with them for avery long time and much progress has not been recorded. Only the House of Representatives has looked into the bill. It went through first and second reading, it has also gone for public hearing where the National Executive Council of ASUP made their input and we believe they would be captured.
But the Senate has not done anything about it. Even with the current strike not much has been done by the National Assembly because they do not attach any importance to polytechnic education. The effort by the House of Representative is even through a private bill which substantially captures most of the demands I stated earlier but unfortunately, the Federal Ministry of Education which is supposed to propel the bill is lackadaisical about it.
But of course, for the bill to become a law, the two houses have to pass it but the senate does not seem interested in the problem of the polytechnic.
Recently, the education ministry presented its medium term score card.
How would you assess the performance of government with regards to education?
As far as I am concerned, not much has been achieved. Youcan see that the polytechnicsare on strike, NUT are also onstrike or threatening strike as well as ASUU. Achievement in the education sector is still far below average.
What is the allocation to education in thebudget for the last two yearsthey have been in office? Mid-term report is about pictures and charts. They should please wake up to thecurrent realities.
Most of the structural development you see in the polytechnics are financed by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TetFund) and that is not a creation of this administration. This Tetfund which is supposed to be intervention fund, by the way, is far greater than the actual capital budget of these polytechnics and even at that you cannot access 100% of what was budgeted. At the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, where I belong, there was a year we accessed only 42% of about N100 million that was budgeted by the government.
What are you supposed to do?
I would have thought that since we have a huge student population seeking admission into the university, about 1.6 million of them sat for the last UTME,a sensible government would have simply convertedour polytechnics into universities with the same infrastructure and a little enhancement here and there instead of establishing more universities with the attendant burden of funding and development which will take a long time to bring these new universities at par with global standard.
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