Polytechnic lecturers have been on strike in the last four months. Is there any hope that the strike will be called off soon? Michael Oche on some of the issues
The strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUP) since last October has left millions of polytechnic students frustrated. For up to four months now, students have remained at home and there seems to be no hope that the strike will be called off any time soon.
The strike in the Polytechnics has indeed distorted academic calendar. In the last one year, the polytechnic lecturers have gone on strike for an accumulated period of seven months.
ASUP had in April, 2013 declared a nationwide strike, following the refusal of government to address the union’s grievances.
The strike was later suspended in July after 81 days of inactivity in the nation’s polytechnic following the intervention of the Joint committee of the Senate and House of Representative on Education. The high expectation of students expecting to resume their normal academic calendar was however dashed when the union again embarked on another strike in October, 2013.
The union said it decided to resume its industrial action because the government failed to accede to their demands after a one month window.
After its university counterpart, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its five month strike last December, polytechnic students expressed optimism that the government will attend to the demands by ASUP.
However, that has not happened. President of ASUP, Dr Chibuzo Asomugha has persistently accused the Federal Government of not showing concern over the consequences of the industrial action insisting that the government has remained adamant to the demands of the union.
According to ASUP’s national Publicity Secretary, Clement Chirman, the whole thing about the strike is that there is no definite response from government. “It is the same thing over and over. It is either we meet, we are meeting, or we will meet; and after all the meetings, up till now, none of the issues have been tackled,” he said.
He said further, “Our expectation was that, since we were on strike while the government was negotiating with ASUU and at the same time, negotiating, as our cases were similar, government would have just handled everything together. Rather, government went ahead to attend to ASUU and left ASUP. This explains to you the type of thing ASUP has been talking about; segregation and the concept people have about polytechnics in Nigeria.”
But the Federal Government faulted the allegation by the Polytechnics lecturers that it has neglected Polytechnic Education in the country, saying vocational and technical education has remained the cornerstone of the ongoing transformation in the education.
The supervising minister of education Nelsome Wike said he has been joined by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, to engage ASUP in a fruitful discussion, explaining that only one issue, which is the release of the White Paper on Visitation Panels, was remaining to be trashed out.
However, comrade Chibuzor denied the education minister’s claims, saying the minister has not met with the union since October 5, 2013. He said the union only met with the labour minister, Emeka Wogu.
He also denied that the federal government has met 80 percent of the union’s demand.
“We presented 13 demands and the government has only met two of our demands. Does that amount to 80 percent?” He queried”
ASUP’s demands includes the following: The non release of the white paper on the Visitation Panel to Federal Polytechnics; the continued discrimination against polytechnic graduates in public service and in the labor market in Nigeria; the refusal of government to fund the implementation of CONTISS 15 migration for lower cadres and its arrears from 2009 and the non establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission (NPC) and the continued recognition of the National Board for Technical Education(NBTE) as regulatory body for polytechnics.
The other grievances are the gross under funding of the polytechnics sub-sector and the continued lopsidedness in the disbursements of TETfund grants and other interventions clearly designed to the disadvantage of the polytechnic sector; the non-commencement of the re-negotiation of the FGN/ASUP agreement as contained in the signed agreement; the insistence of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to single out the polytechnic sub-sector within the tertiary sector for the implementation of the IPPIS module against the union’s position; the worrisome state of most state-owned polytechnics and the failure of some state governments to implement policies that would ensure standardization of programmes and welfare of workers in the sector; the continued appointments of unqualified persons as rectors and provosts of polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technology by some state governments and the refusal of most state governments to implement the approved salary package (CONPCASS) and 65-year retirement age for their polytechnics lecturers, monotechnics and colleges of technology, among others.
Though there have been renewed efforts to ensure that the strike is suspended. But polytechnic students continue to ask, for how long will they continue to wait?
Hope that a resolution would be reached between government and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) any time soon dimmed as the meeting between the labour minister and ASUP failed to yield positive results.
However, most students who spoke to our reporter said they are tired of sitting at home and expect the government and the union to quickly resolve the issue.
Kayode Sunday, a student of federal polytechnic Kaduna said, “We didn’t expect to stay at home this long. The worse thing is that nobody is talking about the strike. Unlike the ASUU strike, everybody was aware that universities were shut down, but nobody even knows if polytechnics are on strike.”
Another student of the federal polytechnic Bida, Isah Muhammad said “I hope this government is serious with the education sector. Because the incessant strike by higher institution of learning is not good for the image of the country, especially in this 21st century. I also read in the papers that colleges of education are planning on embarking on strike. I hope the president is aware that the reelection ambition is under threat with all these strike.”
He said he expects the government and ASUP to quickly reach an agreement so that the strike will be called off soon
“We want to go back to the classroom. My National Diploma programme which should ordinarily take two year will now take three years. It’s really saddening” he said.
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