…There was no need to paralyse the activities of the College
Academic staff of the Federal College of Education have disassociated themselves from the three weeks warning strike purportedly declared by the Chairman of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU). They also denied report by an online newspaper that lecturers in the institution protested on Monday.
Some of the lecturers that spoke with our reporter on Monday, including Chief Lecturers, Heads of Departments and others denied any strike in the College and distanced themselves from surreptitious attempt to discredit the College Management and plunge the institution into crisis. They insisted that the charade exhibited by COEASU Chairman, Dr Churchill Okonkwo and his cohorts did not reflect the wishes of majority of COEASU members in the College.
A Chief Lecturer and member of the College Academic Board, Dr Nwike Matthew said the College Management has made geniune efforts to clear backlog of allowances, including 14 months salary arrears inherited from the previous administration. He expressed disappointment that despite appeals to the leadership of COEASU to understand the financial state of the College, they demanded for immediate payment of Teaching Practice Mobilisation.
“I do not believe that compelling the College Management to borrow money to make a non-statutory payment is the right approach. Since the College Management pleaded for understanding and patience from the union, my colleagues should have taken the Management by her words,” he said.
Dr Nwike argued that there was no need to paralyse the activities of the College at a time when students were writing their First Semester Examination. He urged those on warpath to rescind their decision and return to the dialogue table with the College Management, which has demonstrated geniune interest in staff welfare.
Also speaking, another lecturer, Mr Kenechukwu Agajelu of the Political Science Department, frowned at the picketing approach adopted by COEASU Chairman and his allies. He said COEASU has no mandate to run to the media to ask parents to withdraw their children from the College. He further kicked against moving into classrooms and examination halls to forcefully drive lecturers and students away. He described such illegal acts as a contravention of labour law.
Agajelu warned COEASU against intimidation and harrasment of lecturers that are conducting their examination, noting that their refusal to join the strike was based on good judgment.
“You called for strike but did not call for picketing. Why are you picketing? Why are you preventing others from going to work through social media posts, phone calls, and physical abuse?
Anybody who is your member is free to join your strike but anybody who is not should be allowed to go on with his/her work. You cannot bring down a College which has other Unions like SSUCOEN, NASU,” he warned.
Agajelu explained that the College was bigger than any personal interest, and condemned in strong words the personal fight hidden in the garb of unionism. He frowned at attempts to use the Union to pursue selfish interest, and insisted that many lecturers were conducting their examination and refused to participate in the strike.
The Head of Department, Education Foundation, Dr Jideofo Ezewuzie said the College defaulted in TETFund Teaching Practice Allowance during the previous administration due to the action of COEASU, but the present administration was able to sort out the issue and payment has resumed. He expressed joy that the first batch of payment has been made, and noted that a fresh payment would soon be made by TETFund.
“TETFund has an existing template and institutions that fail to comply to this template are prevented from accessing further intervention. During the previous administration, there were some breaches of this guideline because of the action of COEASU and the payment stopped. In the first place, the stoppage of payment was caused by the action of COEASU. When the current administration came in, serious efforts were made to resolve this problem and we were happy when the payment started,” he explained.
Dr Ezewuzie admitted the funding challenges facing Colleges of Education, and urged his colleagues to show understanding.
Another lecturer, Delphine Emere of Home Economics Department, who graduated from the College, said the institution has enjoyed uninterrupted academic calendar for more than 10 years now, and disclaimed the purported strike by the Union.
She said the Provost of the College, Dr Okoli was conferred with a Labour Friendly Award by COEASU, South East Zone for staff welfare policies and wondered why some individuals suddenly rose to discredit her administration.
She distanced herself from any insidious plot by some individuals to destroy the peace of the College, insisting that stampeding the Union to strike was detrimental to the students already writing their First Semester examination.