FUTA vs striking Unions: Who Blinks first?
By Dayo Johnson
THE face off between the authorities of the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA and the National Officers of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities SSANU and the institution’s chapter of the Non-Academic Staff of Universities, NASU, is taking its toll on over 600 pupils of the University staff primary School. Members of the two unions have downed tools since the crisis started thereby paralyzing most activities in the institution. They have vowed to fight the authorities until it rescinds the “ offensive circular”.
FUTA Staff Primary school was established in 1983, three years after the University took off. The pupils have been unceremoniously sent home and their classrooms put under lock and key in the last four weeks following the disengagement of their teachers by the authorities who said it was acting on order from above. But the teachers through the unions kiccked against the hasty decision of the Vice Chancellor to implement the Federal Government’s decision on the disengagement of teachers in federal universy staff schools across the country.
The popular axiom that when two elephants fight, the grass suffers is apt in the case of these hapless pupils who for the fourth week running have been sent home sequel to the hardline stance of the authorities and that of the teachers. The pupils are like sheep without a shepherd even as their parents are aggressively looking for alternative schools in the neighborhood for their wards.
Consequently, proprietors of schools around the FUTA premises have hiked their school fees ostensibly to cash in on the situation to make brisk businesses. Eighty percent of the pupils in the school are children of FUTA staff. Speaking with Vanguard some parents said they have paid school fees before the January 4 resumption. “ Now we have to pay another school fees in our new schools, buy books, uniform. We do not know the fate of those that are writing common entrance.
Vanguard gathered that while the Management of the University asked the teachers to reapply following a circular from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission directing Vice Chancellors of federal universities to remove the personnel costs of the University Staff Primary School Workers, they reportedly ignored the advice. The union leaders wondered why it was only FUTA that has carried out the said Federal government directive. They alleged that their Vice Chancellor being the Chairman of the. Committee of Vice Chancellors wanted to use his university as a guinea pig so that others will follow suit.
But the Vice Chancellor Prof Adebiyi Daramola denied saying that three Universities have since implemented the Federal government directive- University of Lagos, Usman Dan Fodio University Sokoto and the University of Nigeria Nsukka. It was gathered that only the head teacher and his assistant actually re-applied and were re- absorbed while others stayed away. But the teachers said that the two are not teaching staff but management staff who have no choice but to join forces with the authorities of the institution.
They equally alleged that some management staff “ wanted to kill the staff school to pave way for their newly established private schools scattered in Akure, the Ondo state capital”. New sets of teachers were later recruited by the management following the refusal of the teachers to reapply even after an assurance that all of them would be re-absorbed and their salaries paid till December last year.
But the union leaders said the disengagement was done by the authorities to pave way for their relations, girlfriends and family members. The disengaged teachers laid siege on the school on daily basis preventing the newly recruited teachers from functioning while the university security personnels equally keep vigil. Several protests have taken place on campus by the two unions to make the authorities rescind the order dis engaging the teachers. In fact they have pointedly called for the sack of the Vice Chancellor Prof Adebiyi Daramola.