Comrade Eteyen Uko, Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) at Akwa Ibom State Polytechnic, Ikot Osurua chapter, firmly stated that the Union stands unwavering in its opposition to the contentious scheme of service recently introduced by Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, Head of Service of the Federation. According to Uko, ASUP members were not consulted during the formulation of this scheme, which has sparked widespread dissatisfaction among polytechnic educators nationwide.

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Speaking to thepaan on Thursday at the campus, Uko emphasized the Union’s call for the federal government to dismiss Prof. Idris Bugaje, the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), alleging collusion with the Head of Service in implementing the divisive scheme. He expressed dismay over Bugaje’s failure to advocate for polytechnic lecturers, instead attributing vexing clauses within the new service guidelines to his actions.

Uko highlighted the perpetuation of the BSc and HND dichotomy, a longstanding issue addressed by a bill currently progressing through the National Assembly. He underscored the disparity in career progression timelines, noting that while university lecturers can attain professorship in 18 years, polytechnic lecturers must endure a 26-year journey to reach the equivalent rank of Chief Lecturer.

“The scheme of service, previously established in 1989 and subsequently renewed in 2013 and 2019, underwent unilateral revision without our input,” Uko remarked critically. “This unilateral action by the Head of Service, who lacks jurisdiction over polytechnic education, was highly improper.”

He identified several contentious aspects of the new scheme, including the division of senior lecturer levels and the elongation of the lecturer cadre structure to nine steps, demanding a minimum of 26 years to reach the pinnacle of the polytechnic career ladder. Uko lamented the practical implications for graduates, who might not achieve Chief Lecturer status within their working lives under the current framework.

“Our concerns are rooted in fairness and equity,” Uko asserted. “The polytechnic sector, geared towards technological education, faces unique challenges distinct from universities. We question why polytechnic lecturers endure longer timelines in lower ranks compared to their university counterparts.”

Addressing the broader implications, Uko criticized what he viewed as preferential treatment towards university graduates over their polytechnic counterparts. He urged the federal government to establish a National Polytechnic Commission akin to existing university oversight bodies, advocating for parity and inclusivity in educational policy.

“In addition to our immediate concerns, we urge the federal government and NBTE to suspend the controversial scheme of service promptly,” Uko concluded. “Failure to address these issues jeopardizes the future of polytechnic education, dissuading potential students and educators alike from participating in our vital sector.”

Uko’s impassioned plea reflects ASUP’s ongoing commitment to safeguarding the integrity and viability of polytechnic education in Nigeria, amidst growing concerns over discriminatory practices and administrative overreach.