For thousands of students in polytechnics and colleges of education nationwide, the turn of events in the last one week, which happened a few days apart, was a welcome relief.
Last week Saturday, after 10 months of inactivity, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics suspended its indefinite strike action for three months to the relief of their students.
The suspension, which was announced after the National Executive Council meeting of the union, was the aftermath of an earlier meeting with the newly appointed Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Students of the Colleges of Education did not have to wait too long as this was followed on Tuesday by the announcement that the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union has also suspended its eight-month strike in principle.
This was after the intervention of the Chairmen of Governing Councils of Federal Colleges of Education.
While ASUP had been on strike since October, 2013; COEASU embarked on a strike in December, 2013.
In both meetings with the unions, both ASUP and COEASU were given assurances that the thorny issues that led to the strikes would be resolved.
“We believe that, considering the pedigree of the minister, the promises he has made, and the testimonies we have received concerning him, we have no reason to doubt his integrity and capacity to actually bring a lasting solution to the issues,” the President of ASUP, Chibuzo Asomugha, who confirmed the suspension of the strike, told schoolwatch.com.ng grapevine last Saturday.
It was the same view expressed by the President, National Association of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, Mr. Asagha Nkoro. Nkoro later told our Correspondent that he hoped the issues which led to the strike would be fully resolved.
For students, their relief was evident as academic activities picked up in their various institutions.
At the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, students expressed their feelings to our correspondent who visited the institution during the week.
For a National Diploma student of the department of Arts and Design, Mr. Emmanuel Oladele, it was mixed emotions.
“I am happy on one hand and sad on the other hand that the strike has been called off. This is because, although the strike has been called off, the school has not resumed fully. I don’t see the essence of calling the strike off if lectures will not commence fully. I went to my Head of Department and he said the Federal Government had to pay three months of their salaries first before they start anything. We hope that the money is paid to them and we can begin lectures in earnest,” said Oladele, who added that he used the period of the strike to develop his graphic skills.
Another National Diploma student of Mechanical Engineering, Mr. Segun Badmus, also echoed similar views. He said, “I’m glad the strike has been called off. I enrolled in a computer school for three months during the period. But when we started receiving several rumours that they would call it off, I decided to sit at home. So, far, students are turning up gradually. It’s good the strike was suspended for three months; we hope the government can meet all their demands before then.”
For some, they could only hope that there won’t be another strike in the near future.
A year one student of civil engineering, Mr. Wole Oyi, said that although he was glad the strike had been suspended, the time lost by the students can never be regained.
“I am happy that I’m back in school because sitting at home for 10 months was not funny at all. If not for the strike, I would have been in ND II by now. I pray the strike is completely called off. It has not only affected our school calendar, it is also affecting our future. We don’t want strike anymore. It is not possible to go for the National Youth Service Corps scheme this year because of the strike,” he told schoolwatch.com.ng grapevine.
Luckily, for Ms. Glory Udoh, she graduated just before ASUP on strike started last October. Udoh, an HND graduate of Microbiology from Yabatech, said she came to start her clearance to make the NYSC batch in August.
“The strike affected us students, especially those who had carry-over courses. They can’t meet up with the service batch in August because of those courses they have not written. So, they have to wait till next year. Also, ordinarily, a student should be able to say he or she can graduate at a particular year, but these academic strikes disrupt that plan and one can’t predict one’s year of graduation,” she said.
In her view, ASUP should have called off the strike totally rather than suspend it for three months.
“After 10 months of strike, I don’t see the essence of the three-month suspension. They (the union and Federal Government) ought to have settled everything by now, call it off totally and move on. This is because the future of the students is at stake.
Students also have other important things they want to do with their lives after their education,” she added.
Many other students lamented the fact that the academic calendar has been affected by the strike and would need to be re-arranged. “I just hope lectures can start soon enough,” said Ms. Sholape Olufade, another student.
However, some polytechnic students like Mr. Ugochukwu Nwaogbo of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, did not feel the brunt of the ASUP strike.
He said, “My school was not involved in the ASUP national strike because it pulled out from the union’s national body before the commencement of the strike. Their own internal strike started about a week now over the payment of their salaries. But I’m optimistic it would be called off soon. My friends in other polytechnics affected by the ASUP strike are happy the action has been finally suspended.”
It was the same song of relief at the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Lagos, where students expressed their delight at the suspension of the COEASU strike, especially those that are in their first year.
A student of the Department of Integrated Science, Mr. Anthony Gemadu, said he had already started processing his admission into the National Open University of Nigeria when he heard the news that the strike had been suspended.
“Now that the COEASU strike has been suspended, I will continue my studies here at FCE and drop NOUN. But the Federal Government should find the best solution to these strikes. The FG should meet the demands of our lecturers fully for the good of our education,” he told our correspondent.
“I don’t want to waste any more time at home, because I spent two years at home before I gained admission into the polytechnic,” said another year one student, Mr. Emmanuel Tosin, who said he spent most of his time playing the viola and going to choir practices in church.
“Staying at home for this long has not been easy. Our lecturers should just do what they need to do and reach a concrete agreement with the government, let them come back to work, we are really missing them,” said another year three student, Mr. Peter Abbey.
Abbey and his fellow students won’t have too wait for too long.
“Following the minister’s intervention, COEASU strike was suspended for three months with effect from Monday, July 21,” the General Secretary, COEASU, Akoka chapter, Mr. Oje Ebenezer, told our correspondent.
In the same vein, a lecturer in the department of statistics and chairman, ASUP, Yabatech chapter, Mr. Adeyemi Aromolaran, told our correspondent that academic activity would begin soon.
“I am yet to see the school calender, but I’m aware that the academic board met on Thursday; and the college management is making efforts to ensure that the school resumes for academic activities,” he said.
For students of polytechnics and colleges of education, one thing is clear, they cannot wait to go back to the classrooms.
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