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August 24, 2020 at 3:11 PMKCEEIndustrial actions embarked by both academic and non-academic staff of most public tertiary institutions in the country have dashed hopes of students who are eager to return to classes after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
Tertiary institutions in the country have been shut since March after the government ordered their closure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
But the National Universities Commission (NUC) revealed recently that preparations were ongoing to reopen universities in the country.
Confirming this, the federal announced yesterday that tertiary institutions in the country will reopen “very soon”.
Nwajiuba said, while private universities have requested to be allowed to reopen, vice-chancellors want those in exit classes to resume in earnest.
He stated: “Tertiary institutions across the country will open very soon. Private universities have written us, requesting that they are allowed to reopen ahead of public institutions. Vice-chancellors have also requested that we allow them to reopen for their students in exit classes.
“We have also a lot of calls from bodies who want us to resolve the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities before reopening because some public schools which are not ASUU-prone want to take the advantage of the strike to move ahead, but that would destroy our public schools. So, we are working on all these calls.”
The minister said the National Universities Commission (NUC) would have to do an appraisal of the state of tertiary institutions ahead of the reopening.
“We are waiting for the same from other tertiary institution bodies so I can situate them and present the PTF on COVID-19. I can’t give the NUC a deadline on this because our job at the ministry is to wait for their inputs. This is not a political decision alone. If you open the university system, you have opened the country,” he noted.
“The body is making efforts to situate the visitation panel, though that has to be gazetted and we are on it,” he said.
The news from the government may sound good to only to private university students, but for public university students, it is not for them following looming strikes in the country.
Academic and non-academic staff had embarked on strike after alleging that the federal government refused to meet the demands of the various unions in the tertiary institutions.
Decrying the situation, president of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Comrade Danielson Akpan, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the utmost demand of the students is for schools to reopen with safety modalities in place.
Akpan said, “We are very much concerned that tertiary institutions are not being considered coupled with strikes. It has been our outmost demand that schools should reopen with modalities in place to help in the reopening process. The entire leadership of NANS wants schools to reopen,” he said.
“The thing is in two phases, one is allowing schools to reopen for academic activities to commence and the second is safe schools where the safety of the students will be guaranteed, where it will not be a spreading ground for coronavirus.
“Now, the first is the expectations and the demands of students and that of their parents for it is the responsibility of the government. Now, as much as students and their parents want schools to reopen, has government shown commitment in handling the safety?”
But president of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, (COEASU), Nuhu Ogirima told this paper that the lecturers will embark on strike if government failed to bring to the fore the prevailing rapid and awful condition of both staff and infrastructure in public Colleges of Education (COEs).
He said, “The paltry fraction of N15bn pledged to us as palliative, out of N486 billion required as at 2017, to cushion the effects of the non-implementation of Needs Assessment, and others has not been fulfilled till date.
“Also, the imposition of IPPIS on the COE system bedeviled the payment of emoluments of staff with anomalies, infractions and deprivations. Third party-deductions are not being effected in most colleges. A number of our members on Sabbatical and Study Leaves have not been included on pay-roll; and worst of all check-off dues have been withheld, unremitted to the Union since February, 2020, ostensibly to stifle the Union of funds and cripple her activities.”
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that on March 9, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had commenced a warning strike, which eventually led to an indefinite strike on March 23 in protest against government’s refusal to pay their members who defied the order to enroll in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPIS).
The Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) at the weekend also issued government a fresh 14-day ultimatum to address their grievances at the expiration of an earlier 21-day ultimatum which government failed to address.
With all the strike actions, students in tertiary intuitions would not go back to classrooms even if government decides to reopen schools.
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) had also said they would withdraw their services the day universities would be directed to reopen for activities after the COVID-19 lockdown.
The unions are protesting what they described as haphazard implementation of the IPPIS and non-implementation of the 2009 agreement entered into between them and the Federal government.
More than four months since coronavirus outbreak forced educational institutions across the country to shut down, Nigerian government recently began the process of reopening schools by directing exit classes in secondary school to resume.
ASUU recently revealed that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) which is being developed by the union as an alternative to IPPIS is ready for integrity tests, meaning that when its efficacy is tested and verified, the issues that led to the declaration of the ongoing strike action on March 17, 2020 may be called off, but the union has insisted that salaries owed its members must be paid before paving way for any discussion.
ASUU said, “As we speak, five months salaries of our members at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) were still withheld by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) on account of non-registration on IPPIS.
“Thousands of other academics across the universities are suffering the same fate. So, while we counsel that the federal and state governments must meet the Taskforce specified guidelines for reopening of educational institutions, we insist that all the arrears of the withheld salaries of our members in federal and state universities must be paid immediately to pave for further discussion on the outstanding issues in the Memorandum of Action of February 7, 2019”.
The ,inister of state for Education, Nwajuiba, recently spoke on ASUU strike and the fate of tertiary institutions, saying the union is right and meant well for Nigeria but getting all the money to meet their demands becomes challenging because of the effect of COVID-19.
“While ASUU may mean well, some of the things we are contracted to do, like the amount of money to be released to the universities every year are not actually available, but we are still seeking their understanding,” he was quoted as saying.
There are growing concerns that tertiary institutions, especially the federal universities, may not reopen even after COVID-19.
This has necessitated students in the country to also call on government and the unions to seek ways out so that students can go back to classes.
Like university students, students of Colleges of Education and Polytechnics across the country are still uncertain even if their schools are reopened.
COEASU, in a letter to the minister of Education, gave government 14 days to address their demands or face nationwide strike.
The letter titled, ‘Re: Neglect Of Colleges Of Education In Nigeria; An Ultimatum,’ copied minister of Labour and Employment, the executive secretary of National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), chairman of Committee of Provosts, Colleges of Education in Nigeria, NCCE and the chairman, Committee of Federal Provosts, NCCE, was to get positive response to forestall a possible industrial action.previously issued a 21-day ultimatum to the federal government to address lingering and emerging issues concern, vide a memo with reference no. COEASU/NS/01/19, dated July 13, 2020.
“We are, however, irked by the fact that your office till date is yet to pay attention in any form to our demands and ultimatum. This further qualifies government insensitivity to issues bordering on the advancement of the nation’s teacher education industry”, it stated.
FCT Disinfects School of Nursing, Gwagwalada Ahead Of Resumption
Meanwhile, the Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS) of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) yesterday disinfected the FCT School of Nursing, Gwagwalada, ahead of the institution’s resumption for general examinations.
The acting director, Nursing Department, HHSS, Mrs Grace-Leo Musa, said the students were only expected to resume for their examinations scheduled to hold between Aug. 25 and Aug. 29.
Musa told journalists during the exercise that the disinfection of the classes and offices was to ensure that the institution was safe from the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said that the FCT School of Midwifery would also commence its examinations in September, immediately after the general examination for nurses.
The acting director explained that the school would fully resume when further directive was given by the federal government.
She continued: “We feel that it is necessary the environment and classes be decontaminated and fumigated, for it to be safe for the examination to guide against the spread of infection.
“So the Acting Secretary of the HHSS gave this approval for decontamination of the environment, this is to allow the environment to be conducive for the students, teachers and examiners who are expecting the students”.
She said various measures to guide against the spread of COVID-19 would be put in place as the students resumed for the examinations, adding that approval to this effect had been put forward to the authority and had been approved.
She added that HHSS and the school management were well prepared for the resumption, and that students who had carry-overs would also be joining in writing of the examination.
The principal of the school, Mr Lakereks Kwali, expressed happiness over the exercise and the commitment of HHSS, saying that the secretariat had provided all what was needed to aid the resumption of the students.
He noted: “The HHSS has provided all that is needed for the prevention of COVID-19, what we are waiting for now is a directive of the Federal Government to allow us to resume fully.
“My feelings about this exercise are too evident; I am very happy about the exercise, the HHSS is really in support of the preventive measures of COVID-19.
“This school is a pilot place, all eyes are on the school, so everybody is going to be on ground by Monday, ready and set for the exam”.
Mr Abana Lawan, the vice principal, Administration, FCT School of Midwifery, stated that the exercise had further shown the seriousness of the government to curtail spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawan, however, appealed for the provision of a Solar Panel to help in the improvement of lighting in the school and to ensure adequate security for students.
He added that more structures like school auditoriums and others were also needed to make for ample space when students write their examinations, especially now when admission for students had increased.
Mrs Safiyya Uthman, the Hostel Matron, School of Nursing and Midwifery, also appealed for adequate supply of water, adding that the school was short of water supply. (NAN)
Kogi Gov Signs Confluence University, Reference Hospital Bills Into Law
Meanwhile, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, at the weekend assented to the bills for the establishment of the Confluence University of Science and Technology, Osara and the Central Reference Hospital, Okene which were recently passed by the State House of Assembly.
The governor, while performing this statutory function in his office, said the importance of education and health to the society cannot be overemphasized.
Governor Bello said his administration is people-driven and would devote the much needed resources, time and dedication to ensure that the people-oriented project is commissioned before the expiration of his tenure.
The governor also signed the bill for the establishment of Central Reference Hospital Okene as part of his administration’s efforts towards boosting healthcare delivery in the state.
Bello said he had earlier signed into law the Kogi State Health Insurance Scheme which he said would guarantee every citizen of the state access to quality health services within the state.
Earlier, the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Mathew Kolawole, said the two bills were of immense value to the people of the state, just as he commended the governor for assenting to the bills while thanking members of the assembly for meticulously working on the bills for swift passage.
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