For over five weeks, Kwara State College of Education teachers have been on strike over alleged unpaid salaries, non-remittance of subvention, poor infrastructure and the deplorable state of the 45-year-old institution. However, while absolving the present government of blame, the union and management are accusing the Saraki and Ahmed administrations of running the school down. ABIODUN JAMIU, 200-Level POLITICAL SCIENCE of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, reports
It was a sunny morning. At 10am, the sun was already out. The main gate of the College of Education, Ilorin in Kwara State was opened halfway. The once bustling institution is silent as lecture halls are deserted.
A young man in his mid-20s lurched across the class, the nib of his marker dancing on the board. He raised his hands repeatedly in a gesture to emphasize the topic he was teaching and made his way back to the podium.
The fate of the over 20 students in the lecture hall that day lay with Abdulkadir Olaiya, a 200-Level student of Business Education, who was teaching his colleagues, following the teachers’ refusal to call off their strike.
For over five weeks, the teachers, under the aegis of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), have been on an indefinite strike. Their grievances are non-payment of salaries, poor welfare, decayed infrastructure and government’s alleged failure to release the school’s monthly subvention, among others.
COEASU: We Are Dying
COEAU Secretary, Ajadi Mustapha told PEN PRESS that the union embarked on the strike as a last resort. His colleagues, he said, could no longer endure the pains when it was clear that their patriotism had been taken for granted. Management also blamed the immediate past administration for failing to do the needful at the appropriate time.
“It is not just now. Our take-home is zero, but because we continued to be patriotic to the system, we endured the pains; but not anymore. We are suffering; we cannot continue to teach on empty stomach,” Ajadi said angrily.
Speaking with PEN PRESS, Ajadi revealed that the huge backlog of unpaid salaries owed his colleagues by the immediate past administration, coupled with the seemingly indifference of the incumbent Governor AbdulRahman Abdulrasak to their plight, informed the strike.
“We don’t have any grievances against the new administration, but our concern is the continued silence of the new administration over our plights. Look (referring to the PEN PRESS reporter), we are bedeviled with non-payment of salaries and arrears of promotions.
Ajadi continued: “Presently, promotion has been halted since 2017, and non-cash backing of promotions since 2015. Similarly, government has not released our subvention since September 2018. We collect amputated salaries. Here in the college, we are being paid 60 or 70 per cent of our salary since 2015. We are running into the fifth or sixth weeks of the emergence of this government; yet all our efforts to meet them have not been fruitful.”
The union lamented that most members are now literally beggars and debt-ridden. Ajadi appealed to students, who are direct victims of their action to bear with them, adding that the struggle is to ensure a better future.
“If we don’t agitate for what is ours now, what would be the fate of the future?” Ajadi asked rhetorically.
“We truly sympathize with the students. We are dying; many of our members are suffering. We have heard of non-payment of salaries and death-related issues. We equally have families. I have two kids in this college. I cannot circumvent their school fees because we have not been paid. Most of the lecturers no longer use their car; there is no money to fuel them. Or do they want my wife to be taken over by another man because I cannot fulfil my responsibilities?”
Ajadi consented that the strike would be called off when the union is paid. He, therefore, reiterated the union’s willingness to have a round table with the new administration so that academic activities would be back in full swing.
Management Backs COEASU
The College Provost Dr Yusuf Abdulraheem, likened the strike to “an inheritance” and absolved the present government of blame.
“The strike is not a baby of this administration; it can be traced to the inability of Abdulfattah Ahmed (immediate past governor of the state) to fulfil his promises. His government made several pledges to pay our subvention, but nothing came out of those promises.”
To Yusuf, the shortfall in subvention compounded the infrastructure lacuna of the 45-year-old college and played a role in the industrial action by COEASU.
“The last subvention we received was in September last year. The government pays subvention
amounting to N428million annually. However, since the beginning of the current academic session (2018/2019 academic year) we have only received N60 million.
“We have been using the school’s internally generated revenue (IGR) to pay the staff up till March when it became very difficult for us. The union then got involved because we needed to let the public know that the government is failing.”
He said the college trusted every word of the immediate past government until the 11th hour when it dawned on them that it was merely a prank.
“We thought the former governor would honor his promises. Whenever we visited him, he would promise to even pay in advance before his tenure elapsed and that made everybody to look quite hopeful. We all believed in him until it remained about two weeks to the expiration of his tenure that we knew there was fire on the mountain”
College In Sorry State
Established in September 1974 by the Kwara State government, the college has steadily become a shadow of itself over the years.
Most of the lecture halls have broken ceiling and chairs, empty windows, leaky roofs and broken chairs. The college auditorium is another eyesore.
Yusuf told PEN PRESS that most of the surviving infrastructure in the college are courtesy of the intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Funds.
“If you look around, more than 90 per cent of the infrastructure that we have here are products of TETFUND. TETFUND is what keeps the college alive,” Yusuf lamented.
He added: “In fact, people call our institution: ‘TETFund College of Education’ because since 2003, no governor of this state has built a single structure in this college.
The Provost implored Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq to rescue the institution and revamp her lost glory.
Govt shells out N250m
Last week, Kwara State shelled out N250million to offset part of the accumulated unpaid salaries of the six state-owned colleges. They include: Kwara State College of Education, Oro; Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin; and Kwara State College of Education (Technical) Lafiagi. Others are Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies (CAILS); and Kwara State College of Nursing and Midwifery, both located in Ilorin, as well as Kwara State College of Nursing, Oke Ode.Government also paid additional N50million to secure re-accreditation for two of the colleges.
Nonetheless, COEASU described the money as a ‘drop in the ocean’, considering the magnitude of challenges to be addressed.
“They have not even credited us. The money they tabled is not sufficient to cover two months’ salaries in our college. If we have been using N60 million to cover payment of a month, how do we now cope?
“The money is for all state-owned colleges of education. The sharing formula is currently the grey area that must be cleared. Of course, other colleges might be comfortable with what is tabled, but it is not sufficient for us here.
Marshalling his thoughts, the union’s secretary revealed that other grievances of the union that are yet to be addressed include: restoration of monthly subvention; downward review of the N60,000 tuition fee; payment of backlog of 91 per cent for 2017; a clear retirement age and duration of service to be gazetted; inclusion of infrastructural development in the annual budget; and cash backing of promotion exercise since 2015.
“We would have appreciated the state government to take over the income and expenditure of the college if that would ameliorate the miserable state the college is, as we don’t have a sufficient revenue-generating base
“We urge the government to review downward the college’s tuition fee. For God’s sake, this is a social service. In the nation, college of education, Ilorin is among the colleges whose tuition is quite beyond the reach of the common man. Even our neighbor here (referring to University of Ilorin) does not charge 60,000 naira.”
A lecturer in the School of Languages, Mr Babatunde Muhammad bemoaned the moribund state of infrastructure in the school.
“Aside the fact that our welfare is zero, look at the state of our offices. The classrooms are no better. No windows, the ceiling fans are rusty. This is what we are enduring here.
“Yes, we heard on radio and social media that the state government has released certain amount to lecturers of colleges of education in the state, but to me, we are only paid the very day we are credited by our various banks. For now, we are only paid on social media.,” said another lecturer Dr Bello Adebayo, from the Department of Integrated Science.
Another teacher in the Department of Computer Science Mr Amao Habeeb, praised the students of the college for shining like a million stars in the face of declining infrastructures.
“Despite the poor infrastructure, we still have graduates who are good ambassadors in the various institutions they proceeded to, all because we never relent in our duties. We would have given more, but there are no facilities to accommodate effective teaching and learning,” he lamented.
Abdulkadir Olaiya, a 200-Level Business Education undergraduate, bemoaned the incessant strikes in the college. He urged the warring parties to consider the students who are at the receiving end of the tussle.
“It is often said that when two elephants fight, it is the grasses that suffer. We are actually the one who bear the brunt of the strike. We ought to be preparing for exams now if not for the strike. Whatever their demands are, they should be fair to us,” Olaiya pleaded.
Gbemisola Abdulqodir, a final year student of Biology/Integrated Science, noted that spectacle of the hostels and lecture halls are not befitting of a state-owned tertiary institution.
She said: “We live together with rodents and reptiles in the hostel. We are not even safe in our rooms. Some of the lecture halls leak whenever it rains. This should not be heard of in a state-owned institution”
Also speaking with PEN PRESS, a 100-Level undergraduate of Business Education Abdulhakeem Abdulraheem, frowns at the ineptitude of the previous administration to the plights of students in the state.
“It is the governments that actually turned the fortune of the college upside down,” Abdulhakeem said.
“They run education in the state like a business organisation. They are so keen on the money they would generate from the college, but cannot reciprocate their own part of the contract. The college cannot bear the responsibility wholly.”
SU To The Rescue
The Students’ Union’s president, Akanbi Muhammad Shitta, says tutorials are being organised to compensate for lost hours.
“We discovered that we are losing. We consulted leaders of various students’ associations on campuses. We then decided to organise tutorials for students. The lecturers wouldn’t come to class. On our part, we cannot stay idle; so we encourage students to come to school pending the time everything would be resolved,” Shitta concluded.