The hope of Nigerian polytechnic students going back to their schools to continue with thier studies has continued to be dashed by failure of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Federal Government to resolve issues that led to the on-going ASUP strike.
The polytechnic lecturers embarked on industrial action about seven months ago over non-implementation of agreements reached with the Federal Government and lack of infrastructure in the institutions.
To any discerning mind, the agitation put forward by ASUP are legitimate and reasonable. These demands are aimed at rescuing the polytechnic education from imminent collapse. There is no gainsaying that education is the engine room of national development. No country had attained enviable height economically and technologically without adequate attention and funds for the education sector.
The principal aim of polytechnics in Nigeria is to turnout the middle-level man power needed for industrial and technological development of the country, bearing in mind that no meaningful national development could be achieved without sound and qualitative technical education. An expert once posited that for any country to enjoy technical emancipation, they should engage in polytechnic education.
Sadly, while other countries are developing their technical sector, in Nigeria the sector has suffered total neglect over the years. Many polytechnics in Nigeria are nothing but glorified secondary schools.
The infrastructural decay is very alarming.
It is a known fact that in most polytechnics, just like other public tertiary institutions in Nigeria, students hang on windows to study, take lecture notes and write examinations due to inadequate infrastructures. There are either none or poor hostel accommodations, books and laboratory equipment. In most polytechnics, libraries and laboratories are out dated, lecturers hardly receive research grants.
I find it difficult to understand why it is hard for government to fund technical education knowing the enormous benefit therein. The rate of youth unemployment soars everyday. Thousands of graduates parade the streets everyday with their degree certificates in search of unavailable white collar jobs.
Crime rate continues into increase as many jobless youths are lured to crime. Are these not enough reasons to fund and promote technical education which will empower the youths to be self reliant and useful to themselves and the society.
It is worrisome that polytechnic education in Nigeria is being treated with disdain, culminating into why their graduates are regularly stigmatised in the labour market and seen as mere educated-illiterates. A situation where polytechnic graduates are looked down upon because of the discrepancies existing between B.Sc and HND certificates has contributed greatly to the undermining of this all important education sector of the country.
In most establishment, whether private or public, the discrimination exists at the point of entry and during promotion, with no recourse to individual’s talent and efficiencies.
As a matter of fact, some critics think polytechnic education should be scrapped. Many parents, guardians and even students seeking admission into higher institutions consider polytechnics only when they fail to gain admission into universities.
There is therefore need to redress these anomalies in the interest of the nation. Government should as a matter of urgency bridge the gap by adequately funding the polytechnic as being demanded by ASUP. All tiers of government should contribute in funding education in Nigeria and spare us the endless tales of woes in the sector. We should give equal attention to polytechnic and university education, knowing that both are very important and complement each other.
To further strengthen our polytechnics, there is need to look at the curriculum. Non-technical courses that are irrelevant to the core mandates of the institutions should be limited to the barest minimum to allow them maximize their capacity to train technicians, technologists and middle-level managers. The National Board for Technical Education should review the curricula of polytechnics to make them go in tandem with modern day reality.
Most importantly, government at all levels should be more sensitive to the plights of workers. The welfare of workers should be the top priority of any responsible government. So, instead of being consumed with the politics of 2015 elections, government should expedite action to end the ASUP strike, just as ASUP should be considerate and not insist that all their demands must be met before they go back to classrooms.
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