July 23, 2024
Angered by accreditation withdrawal from Abia State Polytechnic, FENRAD asks; “Is a scholar still in government?”
Angered by accreditation withdrawal from Abia State Polytechnic, FENRAD asks; "Is a scholar still in government?"
– By Alison_Godswill

Kindly Share

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp

Angered by accreditation withdrawal from Abia State Polytechnic, FENRAD asks; “Is a scholar still in government?”

The Attention of Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group was recently drawn to the news making the rounds concerning the withdrawal of accreditation from Abia State Polytechnic, Aba. This is sad and worrisome news considering that the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE gave as a reason for the reaccreditation of the issue of thirty months of outstanding salaries owed staff of the polytechnic by the state government led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Ph.D.

With this, students of the polytechnic will be confined to their homes just like those in the state’s university had been in the last six months following the ASUU strike; and tertiary education in the state, this way, is facing a huge setback. The painful part of it all is that nobody knows how long it will take for the accreditation to be restored. Again, this, FENRAD says, represents a huge disservice to struggling and starving parents and guardians of students of the polytechnic, especially those who had just paid the tuition of their children and wards for the current session before this recent development. Worse is, it is a big minus, and also blow, to the state as students of the said polytechnic are not only those from Abia but also those from outside the Southeast.

FENRAD recalls that in his latest cabinet reshuffle and rejig exercise, Governor Ikpeazu, known by some of his admirers as “scholar in government,” had split the state ministry of education into two; one ministry to oversight basic education (held by Ukwu Rocks), the other post-basic education (held by Barr. Chijioke Mark). Ordinarily, one would think that by expanding his cabinet beyond the size of the local councils (17) in the state, and for creating two cabinet portfolios for the eduction sector, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu really would be bringing to an end all the challenges faced by the education sector which sadly remains one of the most underfunded sectors every budget cycle. Contrary to this expectation, Abians are treated to this sad development of deaccreditation shortly after strike action by secondary school teachers over issue of non-payment of salaries resulted in Abia junior secondary students starting their Junior WAEC examination behind others in the federation. The meaning is that these two ministries have failed Abians, considering that the basic education ministry was to take care of education from primary to junior secondary level and post-basic education ministry from senior secondary to tertiary level. Why are teachers being owed at the both levels under the two ministries?

While some were wont to ask why NBTE would withdraw accreditation from Abia State Polytechnic, it is also necessary that these concerned Abians study the release from NBTE wherein the Board said it went the extra mile writing the governor over issue of non-payment of salaries which affect the Board’s quality assurance visits and performance and competence rating mechanisms. The questions are: how did the governor engage the Board? Were there memos ordering the post-basic education ministry to open a channel of communication with the Board or to look into grey areas of salary arrears by interfacing with state ministry of finance through inter-ministerial engagement? What did the ministry of finance do differently to address this ugly development?

FENRAD regrets that late last year Abia State University Teaching Hospital complained of a 22-month salary arrears owed them and would later embark on a strike last year’s November. Recently, after the Nigeria Medical Association’s (NMA’s) 62nd Annual General Conference of June this year (2023), the Association ordered Abia resident doctors to embark on indefinite strike action with other states briefed to show solidarity. How many Abians can travel abroad on medical grounds or to other states in any health emergency situation should the state healthcare sector collapse? It is our belief that the state doesn’t have funds to cover the travel expenses of her citizens for medical tourism in the face of dwindling revenues.

To think this is affecting the state university’s teaching hospital is to say that issue of outstanding salary arrears is now affecting two key sectors – health and education combinedly. FENRAD is aware that some of the challenges were inherited by the Ikpeazu-led administration but wishes the governor Godspeed in tackling and surmounting these challenges. After all, has not that government failed already and cannot tackle education and healthcare squarely?

Governor Ikpeazu has always made known his “five pillars of development” among which education is a plank for a sustainable growth plan to put Abia on the path of recovery and self-reliance. With this development (deaccreditation), the meaning is that students of the polytechnic will no longer be mobilized for NYSC, and may suffer serious problems in the competitive and shrinking Nigeria’s labor market even as they are already by this same development disqualified from Industrial Training Fund and programs (no longer likely to be hired by firms for the purpose of industrial attachment)!

This is heart-rending, to say the least

FENRAD, lastly, calls on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to show and exemplify the designation of “scholar in government” by intervening to save tertiary education in the state from further disgrace. We are aware that he is a listening governor, a man who has education as part of his five pillar programs for development in the state. Failure to do this might indeed send the message that the governor, who recently was seen in pictures celebrating a fellow governor’s son’s graduation from a UK-based university, is indifferent to the educational needs of his state; and that perhaps the success story of Abia State regarding WAEC and JAMB breakthroughs has more connection with private schools, not the public or state-owned ones. We do not want this to form the assessment/perception of the governor or that of the state under his watch.

Abians, who voted for the governor on the basis of his educational qualification as a Ph.D. in 2015 and retained him in 2019 would want to know why and how exactly salary arrears owed polytechnic staff reached that scale even after numerous bailout and other intervention funds have been sourced from the federal purse in the recent past. Thirty months without pay means the government has not paid her workers for two and half years; a picture that depicts disregard for international labour laws and conventions, even to God’s instruction and other biblical injunctions that they that worked be paid.

We trust the Governor to rise to the occasion as Abia is true “God’s own” beyond appellation.

While the government has come out to say it paid over 7 billion in subvention funds to the polytechnic since 2015, it is pertinent to remind the state that even though it is accepted that the polytechnic is autonomous, this does not yank them off entirely from state government and its numerous agencies. Again, the said 7 billion if true might not have met the current monetary needs of the school in the last two and half years. FENRAD calls on the Abia State House of Assembly, the seventh assembly, to interrogate this as an issue of salary arrears deserves urgent legislative intervention.

Kindly Share

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp

Copyright @ TheDaily. All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from TheDaily

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

📰 Subscribe to our Newsletter

Scroll to Top