By Adesina Wahab
The education sector in the country in 2019 did not fare better than any time as in the past. If it is about funding, no tier of government allocated up to half of the internationally accepted benchmark of 26 percent of budgetary allocations to the sector, leaving inadequate funding of the sector as a continuous matter for discussion.
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However, a number of developments and happenings in the sector, through policy formulations and decisions, affected the sector in the year and many of them would still have effects on the sector for years to come unless modified or stopped. Some of the policies and developments would be highlighted.
Registration of teachers
The Federal Government, through the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, gave December 31, 2019 as the deadline for teachers in the country to be certified and registered. Teachers in private and public primary and secondary schools are included. The main problem with the exercise is lack of database for knowing how many teachers we have in the country and then knowing how many are qualified.
The fear of people about the exercise and its workability, is expressed by the National President, Association of Nursery and Primary Education Instructors in Nigeria. ANPIEN, Mr. Sunday Fowowe, who said the deadline and the exercise might not work. Fowowe, a Lecturer at the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Otto/Ijanikin, said that there were not enough arrangements put in place to cushion the effects of a mass sack of unqualified teachers.
” Apart from that, do we have accurate data base of teachers in the country, both in public and private schools? The data of teachers in public schools can easily be gotten from teaching service commission, SUBEB among others, but what about private schools. The truth, however, is that teachers in private schools are more than those in public schools. How many primary and secondary schools are governments at all levels setting up? In those days, local councils did set up primary schools but not now,” he said.
However, the Registrar of TRCN, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, as at press time, insisted that the deadline would not be shifted. The council has only got figures of number of teachers in only six states of the federation.
University workers’ earned allowances brouhaha
Mid 2019, the university community in the country, especially Federal Government-owned universities, experienced industrial disharmony courtesy of the fight between academic and non-teaching staff over the payment of Earned Allowances. Initially, both sides took on the government to make it pay the allowances, but when funds were released, the story changed. The Federal Government reportedly gave the N100 billion to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which allegedly took about 80 percent and left the remainder for the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU and the National Association of Technological Staff, NATS.
The non-teaching staff formed a Joint Acton Committee to get a better deal on the issue. They embarked on a warning strike over it too. The matter is still being kept in view.
Formation of CONUA
Still in mid 2019, a breakaway group from ASUU emerged, it was the Congress of University Academics, CONUA, with Dr Niyi Sunmonu of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State as the National Co-ordinator. It took off with presence in five universities, which cut across state and federal universities, and by the end of the year, increased its presence to seven universities.
On the formation of CONUA, Sunmonu said ASUU has lost focus and is being run like a fiefdom by some people. He accused the leadership of ASUU of feeding fat on the sweat of members. Many see the coming of CONUA as the start of the end of the spirit of oneness among lecturers in the ivory towers.
Enrolment of university workers on IPPIS
In 2007, the Federal Government started the enrolment of its workers on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS. However, university workers, teaching and non-teaching initially opposed the idea. Their main grouse then was that it would erode the autonomy being enjoyed by the varsities. With the bad blood generated over the disbursement of Earned Allowances among teaching and non-teaching staff, when the FG insisted in October that they should all enrol, ASUU became a lone opposition to the policy.
Gladly, SSANU, NASU, CONUA and NATS agreed to the policy.
The consistent cries by the National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, and his team that IPPIS would do more harm than good to the system did not change the minds of other unions to support the fight.
Now, President Muhammadu Buhari has said from December 2019, any federal worker not enrolled would no longer receive salary. ASUU said it has developed an alternative to IPPIS, but the FG is yet to budge, while ASUU is threatening strike.
Abolition of Catchment Areas Policy in university admission
During the recent convocation of the University of Benin, UNIBEN, President Buhari, in his message, said the catchment areas policy in university admission would stop as from next year. He said the policy has turned some universities to local schools, not being federal in nature. Before the announcement, universities admit students on the criteria of merit, Catchment Areas and educationally less developed states. The merit criterion is one in which 45 percent of applicants are taken in, catchment area for 35 percent of admission seekers and 20 percent for educationally less developed states.
The fear about the President’s pronouncement is that on which of the two remaining criteria will the 35 percent catchment areas policy be spread.
No doubt, some of these developments will influence what happens in the sector in the new year, as they were left hanging in 2019.