Polytechnics are tertiary institutions meant to produce adequate manpower that would support a country’s technological and industrial development. Sound and qualitative technical education forms part of the bedrock for any country’s national development. For decades, however, polytechnics in Nigeria have been struggling for funding, among other problems.
In June 2013, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on a strike after the union had accused the federal government of not meeting agreements reached, in 2009, on the constitution of the polytechnics’ governing councils, the release of the white paper on the visitation panels to federal polytechnics, the commencement of the needs assessment of Nigerian polytechnics and the migration of the lower cadres of staff to CONTISS 15. The strike was suspended in July following ASUP’s consensus with the federal government on when the erstwhile agreement would be implemented. However, early in October, ASUP resumed its strike due to what it termed government’s refusal to fulfil its promise.
Since then, students have been left in a limbo, wondering when they would go back to school. Frustrated, the National Association of Polytechnic students (NAPS), in February this year, took the bull by the horns and embarked on demonstrations across the country, urging government to meet the demands of ASUP. This has wider implications, not the least of which is possible chaos created by continued demonstrations by exasperated students.
The strike must not be allowed to continue. We acknowledge that both parties have made efforts towards a resolution: ASUP agreed to whittle down its initial demands to just the current ones for immediate implementation, with the understanding that other demands would be addressed by government in due course, while government has constituted the polytechnics’ governing councils. There are reports that the committee on the needs assessment has also gone far with its assignment.
Apparently, the strike is continuing due to two thorny issues – the release of the white paper and migration of staff to CONTISS 15. Those discerning know that white papers hardly see the light of day in Nigeria, mainly because such reports usually expose rot that no one wants to take responsibility for.
If government is sincere in solving Nigeria’s education problem, that white paper must be released. For the payment of arrears and other moneys with regards to CONTISS 15, we believe government should make the one-off payment ASUP is demanding. After all, members of the union can see that from the wastage and mismanagement of public funds, corruption, and direct theft of Nigeria’s resources running into billions of dollars, government “has the wherewithal to pay”.