– Strange paradox
ANUMATA STANLEY – Education is said to be a social heritage which everybody yearns to have, irrespective of capabilities, family background and availability of funds etc. In Nigeria, formal education starts from pre-primary through primary, secondary and then tertiary. At these levels government has different programmes, policies, goals and objectives which must be attained. The important thing about this is that they must reflect national goals/objectives and also solve societal problems.
In life not everybody is fortunate to go through all the levels of education. Some did not have the opportunity to attend school at all; others stop at pre-primary, primary or post primary, while few happen to complete their education. In Nigeria admission into tertiary institutions of learning is characterized by a lot of challenges, as well as lots of factors which affect students’ enrollment into University, Polytechnic, Monotechnic or College of Education. These challenges and factors range from students’ ability hence entering requirements are not the same, fewer number of universities and higher number of university admission seekers, funding hence there is a break at National Diploma (ND) for polytechnics unlike Universities for bright students from indigent homes who are determined to have tertiary education, just to mention a few.
By implication, it simply means that to receive polytechnic or monotechnic education may not be someone’s fault but it is the societal fault to make the person feel ridiculed, relegated and even second classed as if he had received no tertiary education. The truth remains that the cognitive ability is a personal thing, it is based on one’s commitment and hard work not depending on how one started or the school attended but solely on determination in pursuance to ones dreams in life. Without mentioning names, there are people who started with the polytechnic and ended up with PhD and are now professors in their chosen area of specialization. Another latent truth is that universities will not be the only tertiary institutions to produce best brains and/or best graduates, indeed, polytechnics can as well do so.
Ironically, the discrimination against the polytechnic by the Nigerian society and government is surprising; you would ask me to provide evidences. They are as follows:
The Nigerian society has been observing unwholesome dichotomy between HND and BSc holders. Even when a polytechnic graduate has made first class or distinction it does not guarantee limitless career growth as he is still faced with limits to his career growth. In recent times, graduates of polytechnics (HND holders) even after completing the NYSC programme are being denied direct admission into the universities for career courses like medicine and surgery, pharmacy, medical laboratory science, etc. Even when they are ready to pay the price of starting from year one and/or have done relevant courses in the polytechnic from basic to advanced level. The university authorities/admission directors had always blamed the regulatory councils of these disciplines for this abnormality but had done nothing to correct the discrimination.
The dichotomous burden of the polytechnic system is a reflection of the class marginalization scripted by the bourgeoisie to perpetually undermine the survival of the middle class and the poor. Because, the children of the political class and the wealthy are thought not to be in the polytechnic that is why there is gross neglect of the affairs of the polytechnic system.
Among teaching staff, lecturers see the polytechnic system only as a transit camp to the more recognized, beneficial and most preferred university system especially as they obtain their PhD. The agony is even more chronic as lecturers in the Polytechnic system irrespective of the rigorous duties and peculiarities of the job schedule are placed at the same level with their non-tutorial counterparts contrary to global standards.
The issue of the recent strike action embarked by members of ASUP is not receiving press attention as it would if it was ASUU, just watch the difference, now that ASUU has embarked on nationwide indefinite strike, responses from members of the public and gentlemen of the press will be quicker and different too. The reason may be the same or otherwise. The issues which made the union embark on this nationwide industrial action had been presented to the government since February 2012. The government’s intransigence and apathy after several attempts to convince government on the impacts of the demands in revamping and strengthening the polytechnic sector hit brick wall. The issues are underlisted for you to understand ASUP properly:
1. The need for constitution of the governing councils of federal Polytechnics
2. The migration of the lower cadres on the CONTISS 15 Salary Scale
3. The release of the white paper on the visitations to Federal Polytechnics
4. The need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigeria Polytechnics
5. The worrisome state of State owned Polytechnics in the country
6. The continued appointment of unqualified persons as Rectors and Provosts of Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Technology by some state governments
7. The refusal of most state government to implement the approved salary packages (CONPCASS) for their polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technology and the 65 year retirement age.
8. The insistence of the office of the Accountant General of the Federal Polytechnics in the IPPIS (Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System) module as against the unions protestations while other arms of the tertiary education subsector are allowed to maintain the status quo.
9. The continued recognition of the National Board for Technical Education as the regulatory body of Nigeria Polytechnics as against the union’s repeated call for the establishment of a National Polytechnic Commission (NPC).
10.The snail speed pace of the review of the Federal Polytechnics Act at the National Assembly.
11.The reluctance of the office of the Head of Service to approve the revised scheme of service for polytechnics.
12.The non commencement of the re-negotiation of the FGN/ASUP agreement as contained in the signed agreement.
It will interest you to know that only one out of the twelve points that is partially done i.e. the appointment/constitution of governing councils for some polytechnics about six polytechnics still have no governing councils despite the fault that polytechnics have stayed years without governing councils. This represents less than 8.3 percent of the entire demand. As said earlier these issues were presented first to government in February 2012 and December 2012 following government inexorable posture to these demands, NEC body of ASUP served government with 30-day ultimatum, which expired on January 31, 2013 after which no government intervention, another issuance of 21-day ultimatum carried out with effective date, 25th March 2013, which expired on 22nd April, 2012 and the subsequent declaration of a one week warning strike which did not attract government concern, the union dove-tailed into an indefinite industrial strike action beginning from Monday, 29th April, 2013.