President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to consider the plight of students and call off the ongoing strike.
At the 19th National Productivity Day at the State House, Abuja on Thursday, the President also urged students of Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as the government strived to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.
The event also featured the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award to 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors in recognition of their high productivity, hard work and excellence.
In a statement by presidential media adviser, Femi Adesina, the President recalled his earlier directive to his Chief of Staff; the Ministers of Labour and Employment; Education; Finance; and that of Budget and National Planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU, and all other university-based labour unions.
On the theme of this year’s celebration ‘‘Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System,’’ the President pledged that the Federal Government would continue to do everything possible to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country.
He added that his administration recognised that the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system.
‘‘Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority”.
Highlighting notable achievements in the education sector, including the drastic reduction of the number of out-of-school children from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, automatic employment for graduates of education, review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, among others, the President said more still needs to be done.
President Buhari said: ‘‘Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens. Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.
‘‘It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.
‘‘Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system’’.
To address these challenges, the President said his administration had reviewed the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, while years of service have now been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.
Similarly, he said the government had also approved a special salary scale for teachers in Basic and Secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, Science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance, while prioritising timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.
Furthermore, the President said the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and Colleges of Education comes with the assurance of automatic employment upon graduation as well as payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students.