ASUP: A mocking silence (1)

(By Ajibiye Samuel and Osasona Adeniyi)

A nation’s human capital is directly proportional to its progress and advancement. The world today is technology-driven, and countries are striving hard and competing vigorously to beat one another on the world stage. If Europe could achieve it; if America could achieve it; if Asia could achieve; Nigeria, being the giant of Africa, can. But the current administration should take full responsibility. Establishing such inspiring educational institutions is undoubtedly capital intensive.” 

(Son engages his father in a discourse)

“Dad, when will this prolong silence end?” The father is busy with the Daily News magazine in his hands, but slowly raises his head, and replies, “As long as you refuse to do what I said.” The son is taken aback by his father’s response. He sits down on a chair beside the father, who continues reading. “Even though what you have asked me to do jeopardizes my rising career prospect and puts my only life on the line?” he asks his dad.

  The father smiles this time, and shakes his grey-haired head. He puts his arms around the boy’s shoulder and says, “Son, you know I am your father. You are not my only son. Your older brother came with his loaded requests some days past. I granted all. Now it is your turn to have your own share. Don’t try to be smart.”

  This time, the son becomes furious, and retorts, “Oh! Father, I came with my request first, and you promised to accede to those requests. Now, in your own words, I am trying to be smart. I wear the shoes, and I know where it pinches me. You don’t know father”. The son continues, “Besides, my friends who have gone far ahead of me in life have their fathers ‘unwavering support in their rise to power and success.”

  The father is annoyed now, and says with a tone of finality, “Then go and live with them, and cease being my son. I would not give in to such cheap blackmail.” The silence continues…

  This dramatic scenario depicts the incessant altercation between the Federal Government and the striking polytechnic and monotechnic teachers. The father is the Federal Government; the son represents the Polytechnic and Colleges of Education lecturers, while the successful friends are other technologically advanced countries of the world.

  The truth is self-evident that polytechnic and monotechnic education in Nigeria is, according to Wole Soyinka, “undergoing an affliction that many could not have imagined possible” in the 21st century. Quickly, let us look at the demands of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), the reason, in the first place, for which the industrial action has been embarked on. They seek government’s intervention in the following areas:

• The worrisome state of infrastructural facilities at public polytechnics and colleges of education in the country;

• The continued high-handedness of Rectors of some polytechnics;

• The non-inclusion of Colleges of Education in the TETFund interventions project;

• The exclusion of Colleges of Education in the on-going Needs assessment of public polytechnics in Nigeria;

• The non-establishment of National Polytechnic Commission (NPC);

• The non-cancellation of undue disparity between Higher National Diploma (HND) holders and University Degree holders in Nigeria;

• The continued appointment of Rectors from outside the polytechnic system;

• The lukewarm attitude of policy makers towards the amendment of Federal Polytechnic Acts;

• The non-migration of staff at the lower cadre on CONTISS 15 salary scale; among others

  The late Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. The truth contained in that statement is self-evident for countries such as Japan, China, Singapore, India, Brazil, among others, which have emerged victoriously from the shackles of penury to the world’s economy today. If we compare our polytechnics and montechnics with the ones in the aforementioned countries, it might be right to say that ours is still in a state of infancy after the 53rd anniversary of Independence as a sovereign nation.

   Permit me to ask the question: The current industrial action by Polytechnic and Colleges of Education lecturers is in whose interest? If Nigeria must change and progress in the 21st century, qualitative technology education and effective teachers training institutions are the undisputed answer. It is a known fact that nothing good comes cheaply. Nietzsche wrote: “The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it, but in what one pays for it – what it costs us”. Education is the bedrock of civilisation, and technology education enhances industrialisation. If technology education and teachers training institutions must work perfectly in this country, the Federal Government would have to make sacrifices. These purported sacrifices, from the public funds, are the investments that would yield expected returns in the long run. Our collective expectations of qualitative and functional educational systems, that we can pride ourselves in without the commensurate sacrifice will only remain, what psychologists technically refer to as, a ‘grandeur of delusion’.

   Besides, good and affordable technology and teachers education is the best legacy a government of any country can bequeath to its citizenry. If dullards and dunce run a country, perpetual underdevelopment is never a crime. Most advanced economies in the world today are technologically-driven. Any nation with non-existent or poor quality technology education would be inadvertently trapped in the cobwebs of backwardness and self-pity. This is because a country’s national development plans cannot be fully realised without personnel with a renewed mind, such that engenders social progress. A nation’s human capital is directly proportional to its progress and advancement. The world today is technology-driven, and countries are striving hard and competing vigorously to beat one another on the world stage. If Europe could achieve it; if America could achieve it; if Asia could achieve; Nigeria, being the giant of Africa, can. But the current administration should take full responsibility. Establishing such inspiring educational institutions is undoubtedly capital intensive.

   If technology education and teachers training institutions are dysfunctional, or fall below expectations, ask the government; not the people, who are the immediate beneficiaries. If the graduates are not employable, or if our Polytechnics and Colleges of Education are not ranked among the best in the world today, the Nigerians should ask questions such as: What are the conditions of facilities on the campuses of Nigeria’s Polytechnics and Colleges of Education when compared with others around the world? What percentage of the annual budget is allocated to polytechnics and colleges of education? What policies are formulated to check abuse of intervention funds released yearly by the government? Why do the children of public office holders study abroad? Are ASUP and COEASU asking for too much?

   Silence, at this critical time in the history of our country, further puts our sense of moral obligation into question —questions that ought not to have arisen in the first instance. To think that public polytechnics and colleges of education are not on the same footing with public universities would be a deliberate insult on, not only the ideologies of the founding fathers, but also the dripping sweat and sleepless nights of those who have laboured over the years to keep the sector going. Besides, addressing pertinent issues associated with the university sector to the exclusion of the polytechnics and colleges of education is unimaginable and discriminatory. Universities alone cannot provide adequately all the required manpower capacity and professional skills needed by our nascent democracy for growth and advancement. This formed, partly, the reason for establishing these polytechnics and colleges/institutes of education around the world – the urgent need to fill vacuums, created by growing necessities. Meeting the emerging necessities requires collaborative efforts. This is crucial in order to cope with the increasing global change and rising demand of manpower in modern communications technology and teaching techniques.        Then, why must our polytechnics and colleges of education suffer ‘malnourishment’? Over the years, such institutions have equally been making significant contributions to human capital and technology development in our land. Poor technology education and obsolete teaching techniques decelerate development. Thus, rather than seeing the on-going strike by the polytechnic teachers as a sudden threat, the government should consider it an awesome opportunity to transform, in a holistic manner, the educational sector in Nigeria.

• To be continued.

• Samuel and Adeniyi are lecturers at the Department of Languages, Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos.

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