Education

Nigerian Polytechnics Facing Existential Threat — ASUP

ACADEMIC Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, on Tuesday raised the alarm that the Polytechnics education is facing existential threat as a result of the policy of government that tries to de-markets it and makes the youth not interested in enrolling into it.

ASUP claimed that some of those appointed by the Federal Government as rectors are people who don’t have the prerequisite qualifications to occupy such positions.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, the union lamented that many young people are no longer interested in going to polytechnics because of the disparity between Higher National Diplomas (HND) offered by polytechnics and Bachelor Degrees offered by universities.

ASUP President, Mr Anderson Ezeibe at the briefing to herald the Union’s National Delegates Conference coming up Wednesday, with the theme: Identity Crisis and Existential Threat to Polytechnic Education in Nigeria: Issues and Perspectives”, said the current bill before the National Assembly which indicates underwhelming 7.8 percent is provided for the education sector, implied that the country is further away from a solution to the underfunding in the sector.

Ezeibe further said there was confusion in the polytechnic system as many have been operating without the full complement of their governance structures since June, 2023, while unqualified and incompetent persons are being appointed to run some of the institutions.

He further said that the government’s decision to dissolve the governing councils of all federal polytechnics in the country despite the certainty of tenure of three years guaranteed by the Federal Polytechnics Act (2019 Amendment) has left the institutions in deficit of the required governance structures for their smooth operations.

According to him, “The decision of the government to buy more time for the unfit persons to see out their illegal terms as rectors of these polytechnics in the guise of an appeal process is immoral and unfortunate.

“The disregard for extant laws in the appointment of principal officers in these polytechnics by the federal government has emboldened different state governments to tow the same path as several state governments are in the business of violating their own laws in principal officers’ appointment processes.

“The Scheme of Service for polytechnics have been undergoing review since 2017 without any conclusion in sight. The implication is that there is no uniformity in application of standards on issues around duty prescription, career progression and cadre delineation in the sector. This chaotic situation has prevailed for six years only because of several attempts by persons without requisite knowledge to insert provisions unknown to academics into the new scheme of service.

“The Nigerian Polytechnic System remains the only arm of tertiary education in the country operating without a dedicated commission. Polytechnics in Nigeria remain in the irregular mix of other sub tertiary level education institutions totaling over six hundred with the adverse effect of inadequate regulation for the polytechnics.

“It is in this light that we welcome the decision of the government to include the establishment of a National Commission for Polytechnics in the Roadmap for the Education Sector 2024 – 2027 in the hope that such shall see the light of the day.

“Similarly, we welcome the decision to grant degree awarding status to Polytechnics as contained in same document. This is the surest way to end the persistent HND/Degree dichotomy which has defied every intervention thus far.

“We are equally of the belief that this will mark an upturn in the fortunes of polytechnics in the country currently facing an existential threat due to dwindling students’ enrollment and qualified manpower flight away from the system.”

He further said, “Some of these polytechnics are actually in confused states as processes for the appointment of principal officers have been disrupted, staff appraisal processes cannot be concluded, staff disciplinary processes cannot be concluded and other statutory duties of the governing councils cannot be executed.

“Continued retention of five persons described as unfit and unqualified to be appointed rectors in five new federal polytechnics in Monguno, Shendam, Wannune, Ugep and Ohodo can only be interpreted from the perspective of the government deliberately undermining proper administration of the affected polytechnics.”

He demanded the upward review of the budgetary provisions for education in the 2024 appropriation bill before the National Assembly to reflect actual needs for the sector; total withdrawal of the 2021 circular requesting institutions to make remittances of their internally generated funds and Immediate implementation of the approved new wage structure of 35 percent and 25 percent for chief lecturers and other categories of staff in the sector with the arrears.

ASUP further demanded the release of owed promotion arrears; the unconditional release of the eight months owed salaries of university staff in the country, as well as return to the table of renegotiation to enable a proper renegotiation of the ASUP/FGN 2010 agreement, amongst others.

“While we expect the government to work assiduously towards a revamp of the education sector, we expect that the issues highlighted in this document should be given requisite attention. These are key items undermining the functionality of the education sector in general and polytechnic education in particular.” Ezeibe stated.

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