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Nigerian Pilot

Incessant strikes and educational development in Nigeria

Over time, the issue of strike has generated a lot of controversies and setbacks in the development of the education sector and up till now, the solution seems not to be in sight as strike actions continue in tertiary institutions across the nation. It is surprising that despite all efforts put in place by the federal Ministry of Education and other regulatory agencies of tertiary institutions to mitigate strike actions in the nation’s higher institutions, the trend still persists as if nothing has been done to curb it.
One would begin to wonder what must have led to this unending situation faced by the educational sector. Is it the system that is so bad or those that are piloting the affairs of the sector? Sometimes stakeholders begin to ask if the issue of strike would not destroy government’s genuine efforts in repositioning the education sector the way things are going.
The lingering issue of non-accreditation of some courses at the University of Abuja, which has delayed many students from pursuing their academic career so as to graduate when they are supposed to, is one critical example of the problem of strike and its consequences. Reports have shown that the affected students are yet to know their fate as to when to continue and when to complete their programmes.
Towards the end of last year, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, University of Abuja chapter, demanded the immediate release and implementation of the government white paper on the special visitation panel as a way out of the crisis in the institution, but no solution has been proffered as the situation continues to escalate on a daily basis. The affected students have been waiting endlessly looking forward to when miracle would happen.
According to the ASUU chairman of the University of Abuja chapter, Dr. Clement Chup, “We therefore request the federal Ministry of Education to call the NUC executive secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, to release the white paper of the report of the last special visitation panel to the University of Abuja.”
The question many stakeholders asked on this issue of white paper is whether white paper actually been released and implemented, and if the answer is yes; how come there is still no solution to seemingly intractable challenges in the University of Abuja? And if the recommendations contained in the report cannot solve the problems that led to this crisis, other avenue should be sorted to see to it that the problems are resolved.
The ASUU earlier condemned the use of university vigilance group and armed soldiers to quell students’ protests. It noted that the use of such force against harmless and defenseless students was unfortunate and unwarranted. It is unfortunate that on many occasions, students are being killed and maimed by law enforcement agents in the name of trying to quell crisis.
“The union condemned the use of vigilante to attack and injure students at the campus, and the invitation to the military to invade the campus to brutalize innocent and defenseless students as well as the unfortunate and unwarranted defence of the University of Abuja administration by the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Prof. Juliousn Okojie, in the wake of the crisis” it stated.
Recently academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP went on an indefinite strike because of the inability of the federal and state governments to implement agreements on issues affecting polytechnics education. Other issues in contention are non-migration of members at the lower cadres on CONTISS 15 salary scale and release of white paper on the visitation panels to federal polytechnics.
Others are non-commencement of needs assessment of Nigerian polytechnics; worrisome state of state-owned polytechnics/monotechnics; and continued appointment of unqualified persons as rectors by some state governments. The teachers are also protesting over the failure of some state governments to implement approved salary packages for polytechnics and 65 years retirement age.
All these problems that have been causing incessant strikes in the tertiary institutions across the country can be tackled by those put in place to administer the institutions such as governing councils and the management. If these people are there and the problems persist, the purpose of keeping the there has been defeated and the need to remove them.
One other contention that led to the strike was continued recognition of the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE as a regulatory body for Nigerian polytechnics against the creation of a national polytechnics commission. ASUP also complained about the snail speed associated with the amendment of the Federal Polytechnics Act, among others.
Although, the House of representatives in Abuja last week urged the federal Ministry of Education to urgently intervene in the strike by members of Academic Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, but after the intervention by the government, if the root of the problem is not traced so as to solving it, the same issue will re-occur in the future.
Members of ASUP embarked on an indefinite strike on May12 after a seven -day warning strike that ended on that date. It expected that after the warning strike, the Federal Ministry of Education should have invited the Union for dialogue so as to avert future strike.
The impact of the ASUU and ASUP strike action always fall on innocent students as there would be no lecture and the concentration will not be there on the side of lecturers and the students. So the need to work towards ending continuous strike in the tertiary institutions in the country if very necessary as it affects the development of education.
The vice chancellors and Governing Council members of tertiary institutions in the country should be held responsible for any crisis, because they are there to guide against issues that could lead to crisis. They are supposed to nip any crisis in bud under their supervision in order to avert unforeseen occurrences that may arise.