When the Academic Staff Union of Universites (ASUU) went on strike, so much attention was drawn to it, especially by the media. The three-month old strike by polytechnics on the country has not enjoyed the same level of attention. BLESSING UKEMENA writes
It has been over three months since the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on an indefinite strike. The action began while the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike received a lot of media attention and was eventually resolved.
ASUP also had their grievances and hoped that the strike would bring government’s attention to their plight but since then, no serious attention has been given to the polytechnics. There seems to be no hope to end the strike.
Speaking with a cross section of the polytechnic students in the FCT, it was discovered that some of them have resorted to getting part time jobs in order to sustain themselves until the strike is called off. Terry Aigbe is an Accounting student at the Nasarawa State Polytechnic and says he had to take up a job as a driver to earn money, “This is the problem with Nigerian schools. A course that will take you a year or two will last up to four years because of this incessant strike. I work as a private driver in the FCT now because I cannot just remain idle. They have to give us some attention so this strike can be called off,” he said.
Grace Kalu studies Computer Science at the Federal Polytechnic, Bida and expresses her regret at the neglect suffered by the polytechnic students: “I never wanted to go to polytechnic because I know what they face in Nigeria when it comes to employment but I didn’t have a choice.”
Janet Iduha is a Law student at the Adamawa State Polythecnic, Yola and objects to the prolonged strike. “The government is not being fair to us. They need to give us attention just as they gave to ASUU. I have been at home for so long now and I have been looking for a small job because I do not know when this strike is likely to end.”
The President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Comrade C.B. Asomugha, on Wednesday described government’s response to its current strike as haphazard and unconvincing, saying the strike became necessary following the snail speed pace of the review of the Federal Polytechnics Act at the National Assembly.
In a communiqué last week by the National Association of Polytechnic students, (NAPS) Comrade Kassim A. Gamawa of NAPS who is the SSA Security & Emergency Matters, called on Nigerian students particularly, polytechnics students to come out for the mass peaceful protest against the ASUP lingering strike organised by the leadership of National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) which remains intact. On 15th to 20th January, 2014, all students of Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of education and other allied institutions awarding ND/NCE/HND across the federation and diaspora were asked to flood the FCT Abuja.
The communiqué advised that students should come along with mattresses, pillows, mosquito nets, mats, blankets and other items that may be needed to sustain their stay by the entrance of National Assembly, Civil Service Commission and Federal ministry of Education as they intend to systematically relocate their lecture rooms/ libraries and national secretariat of NAPS to the above mentioned parastatals in order to show their seriousness.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the National publicity secretary of ASUP, Comrade Clement Chairman alleged that the government had lied about meeting up to 80 percent of its demands. “We outlined 13 demands to the federal government and they only attended to two of the demands. Will you call that up to 80 percent? It has been the same over and over again, meetings upon meetings but nothing has been resolved.”
He further stated that at the last meeting the union had on the strike, the supervising minister of education was supposed to be there but did not show up. “We were supposed to meet with the supervising minister of education Barr. Ezenwo Nyesom Wike and the labour minister Hon. Emeka Wogu to find a way forward but only the labour minister came for the meeting.
We have not met with the minister for education since October 5th when we resumed this strike.” Some of the demands include setting up a National Polytechnic Commission; putting an end to the discrimination experienced by polytechnic graduates in the labour market and in the public service; better infrastructure for the polytechnics, better working conditions for the lectures among other things.
The union has declared that the strike will continue until the federal government meets their demands and with this it seems that the strike may be a protracted one as the last meeting ended in a deadlock.
In December, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU also went on strike and so far nothing has been heard in terms of resolving the strikes from the federal government. Their demands are quite similar to those posited by the polytechnic’s union. The education sector in Nigeria has suffered a huge setback in the past few months. The government will do well to ensure that education does not completely collapse before the election campaigns begin in earnest.
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