By Chijioke Okoronkwo
When the Federal Executive Council approved the upgrading of four pioneer colleges of education to federal universities of education in May, the development elicited extensive commendation.
The upgraded colleges are Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Federal College of Education, Zaria, Federal College of Education, Kano and Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri.
The colleges are currently called Adeyemi Federal University, Ondo, Federal University of Education, Zaria, Federal University of Education, Kano and Alvan Ikoku University of Education respectively.
The academia, observers, students and educationists, among others stakeholders, lauded the development, noting that it would boost the dignity of the teaching profession.
Similarly, the former Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, notes that the upgrading of the colleges will improve quality in teaching service.
He, nevertheless, solicits necessary legislative actions and amendment to the laws establishing the upgraded colleges.
He observes further that the four colleges have the manpower, infrastructure and other requisite criteria to function effectively as universities.
Irrespective of good reasons given for the upgrading of the colleges, Dr Abubakar Haruna, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Federal University of Education, Kano Chapter, alleged that there was a plan to reverse the current status of the universities.
He alleged that the erstwhile leadership of the former four colleges was scheming to truncate the present administration’s acceptance of the new universities.
“Some people are peddling falsehood to misinform the presidency over a well-conceived development that will reduce the burden on other universities.
“We feel that the president must have been misinformed on the objectives for which the colleges were upgraded.
“The damage this decision would do to host communities is better imagined, alleged plan to revert this development, in our opinion, is unpatriotic, counter-productive, obnoxious and retrogressive.
“The nation has reached a stage when university degree in education would become the minimum qualification for teaching in national teacher education policy,’’ he said.
The allegation has sparked off protests from stakeholders who observe that such move is retrogressive.
For instance, workers and students of the Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Owerri, recently protested against the alleged plan to downgrade the institutions.
Mrs Ukachi Wachukwu, the Chairman of ASUU in the institution, said that the protest was to drive home to the presidency that those seeking such reversal were self-seeking and meant no good for the nation’s education sector.
Similarly, the non-teaching staff of Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo, staged a peaceful protest over the alleged plan to reverse the status of the institution.
They observed that some lecturers who had not acquired the required qualification to teach in a university might be supporting the move to downgrade the institution.
“We want our university to remain, we are appealing to the government through this peaceful demonstration that what we want is our university status.
“We are telling President Muhammadu Buhari that we have everything that is required to make this institution a university.
“The president should not listen to people who do not love him, sycophant and those enemies of progress,’’ some of them wrote in placards.
In the same vein, the National Association of Nigerian Students, Zone B, expressed concern on the alleged plan to downgrade the institutions.
Mr Pedro Obi, the Public Relations Officer of the association in Zone B, said the purpose of establishing the universities of education in Nigeria was to promote efficiency in teaching.
“Returning the universities to the old status will greatly affect those who already applied for admission into these institutions with the mindset of pursuing a degree programme.
“We call on the Federal Government to put on hold any such plans in the overall interest of the masses and the educational sector,’’ he said.
Corroborating this opinion, a legal practitioner, Mr Maxwell Opara, said the upgraded institutions have transited smoothly and lots of students have started looking forward to gaining admissions there.
“The government should not allow itself to be used by ill-meaning and selfish individuals and groups’’, he said.
However, stakeholders observe that the upgrading of institutions is a positive development towards repositioning the teaching profession in the country.
They, nonetheless, argue that since the last administration upgraded the colleges of education to universities, there has not been a statement from any government quarters to confirm whether or not there will be a review of the decision.
They, therefore, call on Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission, the body statutorily saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the nation’s universities, to clear the air on the development.(NANfeatures)