• Says though system will change, govt has not addressed other outstanding agitations of varsity workers
Recently, the Federal Government announced its promise to release N800 billion intervention fund to improve teaching, learning and research in the various tertiary institutions across the country…… Continue Reading>>>
Has the said money been received by the expectant institutions? How will the said money change the colour of things in the institutions that have been agitating for it? Will it see to the end of strikes, which have sadly become recurring decimal in the institutions? Then how will the money be utilized?
These and more are the issues discussed by Dr John Edor, chairman of Academic Staff of Union Universities (ASUU), University of Calabar (Unical) branch. Excerpts.
N800bn FG’s tertiary institutions intervention fund why now?
I have not really given a thought to the timing of the release of the intervention fund. I have not contemplated on why the government waited until the time it made the announcement recently. That is why it is difficult for me to give any appropriate answer to this question Continue Reading>>>
Damage done to university system following paucity of funds
To be honest with you, a huge damage had been done to the university system before now. You will recall that we have been agitating for this. After all, what is the intervention fund supposed to be if not for improvement of the education sector? And then they had to wait until we embarked on strike; academic activities were stalled and to say the least, frustrated before they could come up with the intervention fund. If the intervention came earlier, imagine it could have prevented quite a lot of things from going wrong.
If the TELFUND intervention came earlier – if the others that have not even come at all such as the improvement of the salary package of university workers, payment of Earned Academic Allowances, payment of arrears of salaries and other emoluments that are owned the academic staff – if they had come at all, they would have gone a long way in improving the academic sector. If they came earlier, they would have saved quite a lot.
That is why I found it difficult to answer the first question. ‘How do I see the timing of the intervention fund?’ I mean what then do I say about the other funds to which nothing has been done at all in spite of the timing?
Has the FG’s proposed intervention fund started rolling in?
Not to the best of my knowledge; I’m not aware.
By the time the money comes in, what sort of improvement will it usher in the system?
The money will help to accomplish a lot. Recall that quite a lot of us are working in very debilitating work environment, we are working in conditions that are not conducive at all. Some lecturers in many universities have no office spaces; we don’t have instructional materials. Many of us don’t have reagents to work with; we don’t have laboratories. Some of us don’t have libraries; we don’t have what we need to deliver quality services to our students and the society. That is why we expect that when the proposed fund comes, it will be directed to the right areas so that the identified needs will be adequately addressed. We have been agitating that this fund should be directed to address the pressing needs in the system.
So, we call on university administrators to prudently handle and manage the incoming funds for the betterment of the academic system.
How have you been able to patch up with the academic calendar?
In University of Calabar, which is my branch, for example, we virtually covered up all the backlog of work that was left undone as a result of the strike. Yes, we did that; and now, we are going have our convocation in the first week of May. It is going to be a combined convocation of people that had earlier been graduated and those that are just graduating. It is a combined convocation of about three classes. The fact speaks for itself. The fact of the combined convocation of those graduands shows that the backlog of work in the university had been concluded. And we are happy that the students are graduating.
But what about standards; what’s the assurance of quality?
There was no compromise of standard to the best of my knowledge. None of that happened. Our quality assurance test speaks about excellence.
For those who might feel otherwise, if they have any scientific evidence to prove their point, let them adduce them. They can bring them on for us to see. If there is a need for us to make an adjustment to our system perhaps we will do that.
But generally, strikes are not the best thing to embark upon; they are not. They affect the lecturers; they affect other workers in the universities; they also affect the students. They affect the parents; they affect the society. That is why we cannot justify a strike unless the government pushes us into it.
With FG’s intervention funds, are we seeing the end of strikes?
Have we spoken about the salaries of the academic staff that are still being owed to them? Has there been any thing done about them?
When President Muhammadu Buhari presented his budget sometime in October 2022, he specifically stated in his budget speech that additional funds had been appropriated in the 2023 budget for the enhancement of the salaries of university workers. Now, we have entered the second quarter of 2023. Yet, we have seen none of that. Rather than seeing that being paid, our salaries are dwindling. Our pay is going down.
First of all, right now, we are not being paid the right salary. The issue of the value of the money we are paid is going down; that is general. It affects everybody, university workers and everyone alike. So, that we know is a national issue because the value of money everywhere has depreciated.
But in our own case, we are not even being paid the right salary unlike in the past. A university worker who formerly was earning let say a N1,000, is now being paid N800. That is exactly the situation; that is exactly what I mean.
Our salaries are being arbitrarily cut. We are being shortchanged.
The introduction of IPPIS is the cause of all that. If you ask me where the balance is being channeled to, I will direct you to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation or probably to the Director of IPPIS. They have to explain that.
What will ASUU do differently when the proposed intervention funds comes in?
The promise is simple. We will put all that is provided into judicious use for the improvement of learning and teaching, the improvement of the academic environment and the quality of our researches.
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