By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
The education sector in the country has had a turbulent time from one administration to the other. Some blamed it the years of military misrule. There is the common feeling that the military neglected the universities because of their opposition to civilian rule. But with the re-emergence of civil rule the nation’s educational institutions are still in shambles, with no serious effort to address it.
So far, history has shown that the government attached so much importance to committees, which will deliberate on issues, after which the report will be swept under the carpet and become fresh issues of discussion all the time.
The bulk of the piled up and un implemented reports were mostly the cause of strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
However, the current issue on the table which has continued to attract condemnation is that of ASUP, which has already spent about eleven months prevailing on the federal government to meet its demands.
Some of the demands include, the continued discrimination against Polytechnic graduates in Public Service and in the labour market in Nigeria; the non release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics; the refusal of government to fund the implementation of CONTISS 15 migration for the Lower cadres and its arrears as from 2009 among several other issues.
The union met with the federal government to resolve the issues but to no avail, prolonging the strike of the union and forcing the students to continue to stay at home.
However, after series of unfruitful meeting with the President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Chibuzo Asomugha, said government’s unserious attitude towards education in the country was responsible for the country’s backwardness in the sector.
He said it was necessary to inform the public about the irresponsive attitude of the government towards especially polytechnic education.
“You will recall that polytechnics in the country have remained closed (intermittently) for the past six (6) months occasioned by the strike action embarked upon by our Union, to press home legitimate demands. Regrettably, however, government has neither shown concern over the repercussions of this action nor has it been worried that the polytechnic sector which is largely responsible for training of technical manpower needs of the nation is in a state of disarray.
“This is a clear indication of the estimation in which government holds polytechnic education, a perception that has acerbated the discrimination and marginalization of the sector and its graduates by both the public and private sectors of the economy.
“While government is busy intervening in other sectors that have been on strike or threatening strike, it has remained nonchalant about responding to the cry of our union and to end the six month old strike.We make bold to say that the critical state of the polytechnic sector today has significantly been encouraged by government’s attitude and approach to issues concerning it.
“The frustration is even more imminent as lecturers in polytechnic sectors are placed on the same salary scale with their non-academic counterparts as against what is obtainable in the university set up all over the world, despite the rigours and peculiarities of job schedules. These trends have obviously hindered growth and undermine the foundation for sustainable development of polytechnic education in Nigeria, and as vital stake holders, we must rise in defence of the system.
It is the position of our union therefore that the ongoing strike will be sustained until government address all the contending and also take appropriate steps towards repositioning polytechnic education in Nigeria.
He said with the current attitude of government towards polytechnic education, there is no guessing why the much talked about technological development has continued to elude the country and why the country’s future is shrouded in the miasma of retrogression.
The ASUP president said in other climes, technical education has become a key driver of growth and development and countries with higher skills levels are better equipped to face new challenges and master technological discoveries.
“In the progressive economies of Sub-Saharan Africa, governments are renewing efforts to promote technical education and training with the belief that skill formation enhances productivity and sustains competitiveness in the global economy.
“As nations respond responsibly to the need for technical and vocational education and have worked to equip their institutions to meet the challenges, Nigeria is only pretending and paying lip service to repositioning the polytechnic sector to make it respond to the challenges of our emergent civilization.
“What baffles our union and other well-meaning stakeholders in the sector is the failure of our leaders to appreciate the technological challenges posed by global trends, replicate and improve on them”.
Based on this, analyst believe that the qualified human capital remains scarce compared to the country’s development needs, adding that the situation in the polytechnic sector is worse and has continued to hinder growth and undermine the foundation for sustainable development.
Government should remember that skills for the country’s technology are built at the polytechnic level; therefore, improving the sector should be high on Nigeria’s development agenda to ensure that graduates are trained in an ambience that enables them acquire the skills to compete, innovate, and respond to complex social, environmental, and economical situations.
The current challenges in the polytechnic sector are many; and have equally hampered the creation of a more convenient platform for the sector to grow and develop as is obtainable in the developed and developing countries of the world.
What available today represents the flipside to every sustained effort in developing polytechnic education, and the results are dismal and discouraging.
It is also argued within some educational cycles that the nation is currently struggling to contend with government’s neglect of the polytechnic sector and underfunding, the problem of wrongful perception and stereotyped underscoring of the goals and objectives of the Polytechnic system in Nigeria remains equally high.
The neglect will affect the constant changes in technological development which require a continuous learning philosophy and a highly trained workforce to design and operate the systems.
However, with the intervention of the Minister of Labour recently, Nigerians are hoping that the students will go back to class rooms and continue their activities.