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Avoidable shutdown of Unity Colleges

ASCSN’s Secretary-General, Mr Alade Bashir Lawal said the decision was a result of the current nationwide strike embarked upon by the Education Officer cadre in…

ASCSN’s Secretary-General, Mr Alade Bashir Lawal said the decision was a result of the current nationwide strike embarked upon by the Education Officer cadre in the Federal Ministry of Education, and Inspectorate Departments, including the Unity Colleges, under the umbrella of the association to press the government to be more forthcoming in its commitments to the welfare of its officers.
 Other issues  in dispute include non-payments of outstanding promotion arrears for 2007-2010 and the balance of 2011 promotion arrears, promotion arrears for 2011-2013, unpaid salaries to some staff for July, August, September and October 2013, non- payment of duty tour allowances, and non-payment of promoted officers among others.
It is instructive that payments for 2014 are not part of the association’s list of grievances, raising the question why the authorities allowed such payments to fall into arrears for so many years.
The Federal Ministry of Education is beset by a lot of problems, many of them self-inflicted; among them are the persistent strike actions by staff associations of higher institutions.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike last year for six months over government’s prevarication in honouring a previous agreement. Also the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) went on strike for almost a year.  Too often though, it is quick resort to the strike option without first exhausting other channels that causes abrupt disruptions to normal calendars in schools.
The ACSN is in the category of such abruptness, though officials of the Ministry of Education are not entirely blameless for precipitating it.
With the perennial complaints of falling standards of education and the notion of half-baked products being the outcome, the government and the staff associations still act in manners that force students to waste precious months at home only to be rushed through the curricula when they eventually return to school.
 While the teachers are certainly entitled to what is their due, because they have dependants who look up to them for succour, the decision to call the indefinite strike will not solve the problem. A better option would be continuing negotiation with the relevant ministry and returning to class to enable student return with minimal disruptions to the academic programme.
With the recent failure in the May/June WAEC examination, which has led to renewed calls on the government to declare an emergency in education, the strike could not have come at a worse time, with another round of O’ Level examination close at hand.  According to figures provided by the Nigerian National Office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) out of a total of 1,692,435 candidates that sat for the examination, only 529,425, representing 31 per cent obtained the minimum credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics.  They indicate a decline in the performance of candidates when compared with 2012 and 2013 when it was 39 percent and 37 percent respectively.
 The strike may be a factor in the performance of candidates in forthcoming and subsequent examinations.
 Officials of the Ministry of Education and the union’s leaders should meet and find common ground to end the strike forthwith so that schools can reopen immediately after the Eid el-Kabir break.

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