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ASUU Strike, Nigerian Youths and 2023 Politics

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By Emeka Alex Duru

On Thursday, April 28, social media platforms were lighted with pictures of Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai and his son, Ahmad in obvious excitement. Ahmad bagged a degree from one of the universities in London. To celebrate the feat, El-Rufai was in London for the graduation ceremony. The governor was overtly happy.

Having his son graduate when there are stories out there of youths abandoning their programmes of studies for social life, earns him a bragging right.

Importantly, in a system as ours where having children in foreign schools or seeking medical attention abroad, has become status symbol, the governor needed to assert his membership of the elite class.

From President Muhammadu Buhari to Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, down to the governors and the lawmakers at the states and national assembly, there are just few public office holders that do not have their wards studying abroad.

Five of the President Buhari’s children attended prestigious universities in the United Kingdom – Buckingham University, University of Plymouth, University of Leicester and University of Surrey.

Osinbajo’s son, Fiyinfunoluwa graduated from Warwick University. Their predecessors also had their children educated abroad. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, had in 2016, celebrated the graduation of one of his daughters from a foreign university.

Erstwhile Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who also served as governor of Kwara State, celebrated the graduation of his son from the London School of Economics. So, El-Rufai was not being out of tune.

To be sure, it is within their rights to train their children wherever they choose, as long as they have the means. Buhari put it more direct, when in response to a question by a foreign news medium on why his children were schooling in foreign lands and not in Nigerian universities, he said: “Because I can afford it.” Yes, he can afford it; yes, other office holders can afford it. But it goes beyond that. Education is a right and not a privilege. There are millions of Nigerians who do not have the opportunity or resources to send their children to schools abroad. There are over 11 million out-of-school Nigerian children out there in the streets, begging or doing odd jobs.

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These are the people bearing the brunt of the caricature that the public education sector in Nigeria has been reduced to. It is for such Nigerians that the face-off between the government and the Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU), matter a lot. The people at the receiving end, of course, may not matter to members of the political class. That is why, even with the lecturers in public universities in the country being on strike since February 14, no meaningful efforts have been made by the government to bring them back to the classrooms.

The much the government did in addressing the situation was in the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, walking out on the students who had visited him to find a solution to the crisis. All that bothers the average politician is what to joggle or maneuver in the run up to the 2023 general elections. No society develops on that curve.

Former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, put it succinctly that the society, the youth that are being neglected and abused today, will take revenge tomorrow. There is danger in pretending that the universities remaining closed and the students roaming the streets, do not matter. They do, on the contrary.

We run on an estimate that puts Nigeria’s population at 200 million. The youths are approximated to constitute 60 percent of the number. In ordinary mathematical form, this is about 120 million. Out of the figure, 35 to 40 percent of the youths are said to be unemployed.

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The ones in school are currently on the streets due to the industrial action by their teachers. This is a clear and present danger to the country. The #EndSARS protest of 2020 by the youths against the highhandedness of the police and sundry incidences of poor governance in the country, should have been enough to teach some lessons to the authorities. The impacts of the protest still resonate in many parts of the country.

The mismanagement of the protest leading to the exercise being hijacked by hoodlums, accounts for the rising security challenges in many parts of the country, today. Anything nearer to that experience, may pose more problems to the nation.

The ongoing strike is the 17th in the series by ASUU since the commencement of the present civilian dispensation in 1999. It has to do with the failure of the Federal Government to renegotiate the agreement it signed with the teachers in 2009, the demand by the lecturers for the replacement of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), as the payment platform in the university sector, among others.

The teachers insist that IPPIS has never been implemented in any university system anywhere. Among its drawbacks, they say, is that it will shut the door against foreign scholars, contract officers and researchers needed to be poached from existing universities to stabilize new ones.

But the Federal Government insists that the payment system is for transparency and neither intended to trample upon university autonomy nor designed to subsume the university into the civil service.

These are issues that can be resolved with openness of mind and sincerity of purpose by the two parties. But this is not the case. It is rather a matter of ego and haughty carriage by government officials detailed to negotiate with the striking lecturers.

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We had argued in this space that Nigeria has become a classic case of where the leaders do something same way repeatedly and expect a different result. Such has never worked anywhere. Allowing the ongoing strike to linger, portends danger for all. Apart from the students losing years and interest in their studies, standard is affected, also. Above all, the society suffers.

What the government is doing by appearing ignorant of the students staying at home or loitering the streets, is exposing them to traits that were not originally in them. We may take it or not but when we talk of the rising culture of insecurity in the land, occasioned by the ravaging insurgency and terrorism in the North East, banditry in the North West, intermittent clashes in the North Central, kidnapping and ethnic nationalism in the South West and South East or militancy in the South-South, all boil down to the youth unleashing their anger on the nation that has neglected them for a long time.

It beats common logic that politicians, especially public officers are rushing to pay N40m and N100m for presidential nomination forms from the two leading political parties – the PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively – while the demands of the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), are not being attended to. That shows the extent the Nigerian system has shrunk on the value it places on its youths and their future.

Bad enough, the National Chairman of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, has declared that the strike will be extended if the Federal Government refuses to attend to the Union’s demands. That means more danger ahead. That should give every Nigerian serious concern.


Duru is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos. (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)(Photo credit: music-wap)

Education

 UNICEF Reveals 226,000 Grave Violations Against Children

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By Evelyn Terseer, Abuja. 

Between 2005 and 2020, the United Nations verified over 266,000 grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America,

 According to UNICEF, this figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain, and fear that child and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.

West and Central Africa is the region with the second highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally. In the Central Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), conflict and insecurity have been major drivers of population displacement, which has put children further at risk of grave violations.

In these three countries, the number of verified grave violations increased by 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the last quarter of 2021. Hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed in recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. 

UNICEF emphasized that 25 years of children and armed conflict:Taking action to protect children in war – found that between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict; over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to conflict; at least 4,800 children have been verified as abducted by parties to conflict; parties to conflict have raped, forcibly married, sexually exploited, and committed other grave forms of sexual violence against at least 8,000 children.

 The United Nations verified more than 2,500 incidents of attacks against schools and hospitals and verified no fewer than 1,900 incidents of denial of humanitarian access for children since 2005 in West and Central Africa.

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In Nigeria there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children. These violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.

In most conflict areas in the West and Central Africa region, civilians continue to be targeted. This includes the deliberate targeting of frontline humanitarian workers who are finding it more difficult to deliver life-saving services and supplies to children in large parts of the Central Sahel and other conflict-affected areas of the region.

“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the wellbeing of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Based on sixteen years of data from the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, the report illustrates the impact that armed conflicts have had on children, by presenting trends of grave violations across the world and over time. The report examines how information on the documented patterns of grave violations is being used to respond to children’s needs and how engagement with parties to conflict – State and non-State actors alike enables ending and preventing grave violations.

The annual number of verified violations in the world has gradually increased since 2005, surpassing 20,000 in a year for the first time in 2014 and reaching 26,425 in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, the daily global average of verified grave violations stood at an alarming 71 violations. The elevated number of violations observed in recent years demonstrates the dramatic impact that armed conflict and increasingly complex and protracted protection crises have on children.

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The report notes that many children suffer from more than one violation, increasing their vulnerability. For example, abduction is often combined with or leads to other violations, particularly recruitment and use and sexual violence. Children especially girls who have been abducted and/or associated with parties to conflict are exposed to elevated risks of sexual violence, including rape, sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

The report found that grave violations against children were committed by States and non-State actors alike underscoring the importance of engagement with all parties to conflict, to meaningfully end and prevent violations against children.

In order to bolster accountability, parties to conflict listed in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict develop and implement Action Plans with specific, concrete, and time-bound actions to establish sustainable measures to protect children from the impact of conflict. Between 2005 and 2021, a total of 16 Action Plans have been signed by parties to conflict in 6 conflict situations. 

14 Action Plans were signed with non-State actors, with the remaining 2 were signed with State actors. The report lays out several examples highlighting the critical value and impact of Action Plans in bringing about positive change for children, both in the immediate and long terms, as well as outlining challenges and obstacles.

The ever-growing number of armed non-State actors, the development and employment of new means and methods of warfare, the use of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons, particularly in populated areas, are just some of the many factors contributing to the creation of unprecedented challenges for the protection of children in situations of armed conflict.

It is important to note that the increase in verified violations over time also underscores the increasing strength of the monitoring and reporting mechanism over the years. The development of guidance on monitoring and reporting, the training and capacity building of UN and its partners’ staff on documenting grave violations, and the awareness raising of families and communities on the protection risks for children, have all contributed to strengthen the mechanism and enabled it to collect increased information on grave violations against children.

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Whilst the overall ability of the United Nations to document and verify incidents of grave violations has increased over time, it has fluctuated from one year to another, from one situation to another, and from one violation to another. In this regard, and based on all of the above, direct comparisons between situations, years, or violations should be undertaken with caution.

“Major humanitarian crises continue to unfold across West and Central Africa. The situation in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and multi-country emergencies, including crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin region, are having devastating consequences on children and communities. Beyond the consequences for the victims, grave violations of children’s rights are often accompanied by massive population displacements that increase the vulnerability of thousands of people and expose more children to other risks of violence,” said Ms. Poirier.

The report recommendations, based on the evidence and analysis presented, aim to mobilize all concerned stakeholders, including parties to conflict, States, and the UN Security Council, to effectively and sustainably protect children and to accelerate action at local, national, regional, and global levels.

In addition to calling on parties to conflict, and states, to abide by their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, the report includes recommendations on how to better provide adequate care and response services to children affected by conflict,ways to improve data disaggregation and analysis for better response and prevention,how to support Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMRs) to accelerate action, and improve CTFMR engagement with governments and ways to better engage with parties to conflict to develop Action Plans and sustainably protect children.

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Education

‘Removing History from School Curriculum was one of OBJ’s biggest Errors’ – Prof Ukase

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From Ibraheem Hamza Muhammad & Idris Umar

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was misled to cancel the study of History and International Studies from school curriculum in Nigeria during his administration as Executive president.

A Professor of History and International Studies with Kogi State University, Anyingba, Professor Patrick Ukase said at the 5th anniversary roundtable of Daily Asset Newspaper in Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja with the theme: The Media, National Economy, Politics and 2023 Elections, that the presidential order at that time was ill conceived and ill motivated to a developing country with rich and diverse History.

According to him, ” Historians, academics and concerned Nigerians were really disburbed when the presidential order was announced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that History was cancelled from the curriculum of Nigerian schools.

” Historical Society of Nigerian and many stakeholders fought the unfortunate presidential order by stating that if the younger generation didn’t know the History of the pre and post independence struggle, they wouldn’t learn, cherish, tolerate and strive towards moving the country forward.

” I once told an Engineer that History is just like the rearview mirror that guides motorists to drive safely and without it, driving would be fatal” He said.

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Professor Patrick Ukase enjoins policy makers to always consider and adopt issues to do with national interest without prejudice to avoid the embarrassment that followed the cancellation and later reintroduction of History into Nigeria’s school curriculum.

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Education

NUT Threatens Strike Over Sack of 2,357 Kaduna Teachers

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The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has rejected the recent sack of 2,357 of its members in Kaduna State.

The Union has therefore said it will embark on a nationwide strike should the Kaduna State government refuse to reverse the decision.

It would be recalled that the teachers in Kaduna state, including its National President, Comrade Audu Titus Amba were sacked by the Kaduna State government for failing a purported competency test.

But addressing neewsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, the Deputy President of NUT, Dr Kelvin Nwankwo said its President, Amba did not fail test as announced by the state government and therefore remains its national president.

The Union also said the action of Governor Nasiru El-Rufai is clearly to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria, and accused the governor of using the tactics not to pay owed salaries.

The NUT NEC urged Kaduna State government to rather embark on continuous Teacher Training Programme, which would at the end of the day improve knowledge and service delivery by Teachers in the Public Schools of Kaduna State as obtains in other professions such as Nursing, Medicine and Law. 

“The very concept of competency test is an aberration and absurd having regards to the fact that the teachers in Kaduna State have prior to their recruitment in the State Public Service attended schools and institutions statutorily saddled with the responsibility of Teacher education and these institutions have certified them to be competent, fit and proper to be Teachers. 

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“In addition, the selfsame Kaduna State Government had subjected the teachers to scrutiny and test to ensure their suitability or otherwise for employment as Teachers before they were recruited by it.

“It is in the context of the above that the whole concept of a competency test which is only peculiar to Kaduna State is akin to a cocktail of absurdities and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, thereby validating the position of NUT that the intentions of the Kaduna State Government on this issue is everything but altruistic.”

Nwankwo further said Kaduna State is the second most indebted State in Nigeria and the State Government is on a free roller coaster move to satisfy the conditionalities handed down to it by its creditors, which normally includes downsizing of the public service without even the remotest regards to our peculiar circumstances. 

“The whole concept of competency test was designed by the Kaduna State Government to achieve its inglorious aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State.

“Otherwise, how else can one attempt a rationalization of the fact that the selfsame Kaduna State Government in the year 2018 dismissed/retired in one swoop 21,780 teachers purportedly for not passing its unilaterally and arbitrarily administered competency test and purportedly in replacement thereof recruited about 20,000 new teachers, who according to it were subjected to vigorous test and confirmed to be competent before they were recruited into the Kaduna State Public Service.

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“In accordance with the Kaduna State Public/Civil Service Rules, these purported 20,000 Teachers were employed on a temporary basis and placed on a ONE YEAR probationary period.

“Their appointments were to be made permanent and pensionable after the one year probationary period.  However, rather regrettably five years down the line, these teachers are still under temporary appointment with the result that the Kaduna State Government can whimsically and shamelessly ask them to leave the public service without any terminal related benefits. 

These selfsame 20,000 constitute the bulk of the 2,357 teachers, who are said not to have passed the latest in the series of competency test in Kaduna State,” he said.

The NUT scribe added that the manifest intention of the Kaduna State Government is to prey on the rather unfortunate existing non employment status of our teeming school leavers by recruiting them as teachers only to subsequently subject them to the raw deal it subjected the purported 20,000 teachers, thereby achieving its aim of casualization of the teaching profession in Kaduna State. 

The Union also said the case of its dear President, Amba clearly establishes the fact that the whole concept of competency test in Kaduna State is arbitrary and lacking in certainty.

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“He was not dismissed then for failure to write the competency test.  The question that readily agitates the mind in the circumstance is, what has changed in 2021/2022?

“It is also rather very sad and curious that the dismissal letter relative to the NUT President was in the Public domain via the social media even when it has not been served on him. 

“The intention clearly is to intimidate the NUT President and embarrass the Teachers in Nigeria.  This like other anti labour and people policies of the Kaduna State Government has failed on arrival. We got news for His Excellency Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai and his co-travelers to wit:- power is transient,” the union stated.

NUT therefore,  reaffirmed its commitment to stand with its revered President Comrade Audu Titus Amba and all the teachers in Kaduna State, who have fallen victim of the anti labour policies in Kaduna State and which policies have defied all logic and lacking in milk of human kindness.

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