Education is regarded as the bedrock of development in any society, but the sector is suffering a serious setback in Nigeria as the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has given the Federal Government a 60-day ultimatum to meet its demands.
The President of the Union, Mr. Asagha Okoro, said “the nation would regret looking down on the teaching education sector if concrete steps are not taken to address COEASU’s grievances.”
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard Learning, Okoro said: “we have packaged all the issues facing the teaching education sector. If we do not see concrete action within 60 days, we will employ non conventional industrial methods to make our voice heard. What we are asking for is not much; most of these demands can be met with as little as N26bn. After a one week warning strike, the Union met with government representatives at the office of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, last Thursday.
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, Okoro said: “We were told that our concerns were germane and will be addressed. However, the issues discussed were forwarded to the Minister of State for Education and we were told that a meeting would be scheduled with him as soon as possible.”
The union had pointed out 17 issues to be addressed by the government. They include: “the suspicious delay in the release of the 2012 visitation white paper; the refusal of colleges managements to recruit commensurate academic manpower to cater for the high dearth of academic staff to meet the contemporary challenges engendered by the rising population of students; the non-harmonization of conditions of service for academic staff of all tertiary institutions to stem brain drain from the colleges of education to the universities; the proposed selective imposition of IPPIS in the CoE and the polytechnics; the truncation of a hitherto functional and innovative Tertiary Education Trust Fund leading to obvious regrettable gaps that compromises the critical need for the consolidation of the gains recorded during the past five years; non implementation of CONPCASS, 65years retirement age and Migration to CONTISS 15 in some state CoE; the non conduct of Needs Assessment for CoE to address students and staff needs for the enhancement of quality teaching and learning.”
Others are: the refusal of government to approve an Independent degree awarding status for all CoE certified by NUC as being qualified to award degrees in Teacher Education; illegal imposition of Group Life Insurance underwriters and the non payment of death benefits to our deceased colleague’s families between 2000 and 2013; non budgetary allocations for outsourced services and the refusal of government to heed the call for the abrogation of outsourced services and the offer of regular employment to all those in the outsourced cadre and the payment of out-standing arrears to the tune of N2,443,278,543.96; the non allocation/release of funds (N2,344,765,841) for crucial academic activities like accreditation programmes, among others.
Meanwhile, in its bid to forestall another strike action by COEASU, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Wogu, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with COEASU which charged the Federal Ministry of Education to, as a matter of urgency, meet with the Union to determine some of the issues at stake.
At the end of the meeting aimed at reassessing the extent of the implementation of the agreement reached on the 30th of August 2013 between the Ministry of Education and COEASU, the MoU states that all new issues tabled at the mediatory meeting will also be sent to the Supervising Minister of Education as they are specific administrative issues within the Sector which require tackling;
That the Federal Government appreciates the suspension of the seven days working strike embarked upon by the Union due to the intervention of the Federal Ministries of Labour and Productivity and Education on 30th August 2013;
That the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation will demonstrate the workings of the IPPIS platform to the Executive of COEASU on October 29,2013;
That in consideration of the above conciliatory meeting which is at the instance of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, the meeting shall reconvene after 60 days to consider progress made in respect of the outstanding issues now referred back to the Federal Ministry of Education. [Vanguard]