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Reflection on the quest for industrial harmony

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
22 November 2021   |   3:55 am
Among the fundamental problems facing education globally is the question of whether education should be free or commercialized; in other words, education as a commodity or public good.

Among the fundamental problems facing education globally is the question of whether education should be free or commercialized; in other words, education as a commodity or public good. Policy-makers in the education sector in Nigeria have had to grapple with this question in several ways. One is to make education free at the primary (universal primary education) level and the payment of a moderate fee at the secondary and tertiary levels. There has been a transition to Universal Basic Education (UBE), which is somewhat free at the primary and secondary levels while user-fee is paid at the tertiary level. These policies fluctuate based on the governmental regime. But the private schools charge user-fee all the way.

Nevertheless, the education sector suffers perennial underfunding. This crisis of underfunding undermines commitment and quality of education with perpetual industrial actions and consequent brain-drain. Presently, there is a third wave of brain drain going on with the emigration of Nigerian intellectuals to Ghana, South Africa, Canada, United States, Europe, Australia, The Caribbean, and New Zealand among other countries/regions. In the presence of state rhetoric without commitment, stakeholders in the sector, especially the academic and non-academic staff, have had to use the strongest weapon of labour in the bargaining process, namely, industrial actions.

It should be noted, however, that there is no public institution in Nigeria today that is self-funding; they all rely on subvention from the state, at both the federal and its component units. Internally generated revenue (IGR) that comes from the user-fee is little and could hardly bridge the gap between the government subvention and internal sources. This takes place within a global political economy in which Nigeria and other third-world countries are at the margin battered by the debt burden that they carry. Nigeria with all the potentials of being a regional power is equally undermined by poor leadership and fiscal rascality. Within this matrix, the management panders to the whims and caprices of the visitor, that is, the state; and in the process they become monsters. According to the late Festus Iyayi, “Like Odysseus Monster, our Campus Monsters also have eye and they eat people for meals. Their one eye is the eye of power and the privileges power provides. Academic staff, non-academic staff and students who would rather that this eye be turned to in the direction of responsibilities and grandiose visions provide the ingredients for the meals of the Campus Monster. With their eye on power, they throw out, sack, attack, humiliate, hand over to the ‘State for safe keeping’ all those that seek to their eye towards the responsibility of power”.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the stakeholders in the education sector, namely, the state, management, academic and non-academic staff, and students operate within what might be called a crisis of state the Nigerian state is peripherally located in the global political economy, rentier in nature and reproduces itself at various levels of institutions of the state. This state of the state engenders indecision about what to make of education.

However, knowledge of the domain is central to a harmonious co-existence of the stakeholders in our higher institutions of learning. The domain in this respect is the enabling edict, terms and conditions of service, the vision and mission of the institution. We do know that Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED) was established in December 1994 for pre-service and in-service training and certification of graduates for the Primary School system. Indeed, it was established in the context of the National Policy on Education that required the Nigeria Certification in Education (NCE) as the basic qualification for teaching in Nigeria by the year 2000. So we may ask: what is the core mandate of MOCPED? It includes the following:

Provide courses of institution leading to National Certificate of Education (Primary) diploma and other distinctions in Primary Education and such related studies as may be prescribed;

Provide special training courses in educational and related courses, whether leading to College distinctions or not for such persons as may be prescribed, taking into account at all times the requirements of both the Federal and State Ministries of Education;

Provide an adequate supply of well qualified non-graduate teachers in accordance with the requirements of both the Federal and State Ministries of Education;

Conduct research with particular reference to education;

Arrange conferences, seminars, courses, study groups and for the purpose of improving instructions and learning in the Lagos State School system; develop and propagate a professional code and inculcate in its students the ethics of the profession;

Perform such other functions as may be conferred on it by this Law.

The next pertinent question is: does the industrial climate, in other words, acrimonious academic environment, advance the above mission of the institution? First a recall of the lines of William Butler Yeats in his poem, The Second Coming: Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.

The matter with MOCPED can be identified along three nodes. One is the institution’s crisis is the face-off between the management and staff unions. The faceoff between the management and the staff unions is primarily hinged on the allegation of high-handedness and draconian manner of running the College. The Dr. Nasiru Onibon-led management is accused of meddlesomeness and victimisation of union leaders who allegedly were sacked without due process, reinstated in some instances with pegged salaries in defiance of the Council’s directive on the full payment of the salaries of the suspended union leaders. To be sure, the management meddles in the union activities in ways that undermine the union.

Earlier in 2016, under Prof. Olu Akeusola-led mangement, the union demanded the payment of the controversial un-remitted pensions to the Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) ‎after the State Government increased the institution’s subvention in 2013. Despite the government financial bailout ‎to enable the college management to fulfill its financial responsibilities, the bailout was allegedly misapplied. Besides, it was also alleged that the retirement benefits of retired members and deceased ‎staff were not been paid or updated and that college property funded by both the state government and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) were converted to personal use. The management was accused of arbitrary appointment of persons into the position ‎of authorities, and the discontinuation of the degree programme with Ekiti State University. Reportedly, the management did so due to insolvency and the National Universities Commission’s (NUC) requirement to end the affiliation with ‎EKSU because the distance between the institutions exceeded 200 km.

To be continued tomorrow

Professor Akhaine, delivered this keynote address at the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education Stakeholders’ retreat, organised by HRBP Limited, saturday 13 November.