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Crisis Looms In Colleges Of Education Over Conversion To Varsities

Titus Eleweke

The recent announcement by the Federal Government, converting four Federal Colleges of Education to Universities of Education may likely spark off crisis, as stakeholders have faulted the procedure for the conversion and appointment of new management staff. The UNION investigation revealed that, the conversion which was supposed to be a welcomed development among stakeholders in the colleges of education is rather creating disquiet among members.

The finding also indicated that the conversation may be another lee way for crisis as some members of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have faulted the conversion and appointment of principle officers in the affected institutions. The immediate past president of the country, President Goodluck Jonathan had at the twilight of his administration converted four federal colleges of education into universities of education.

The colleges of education converted to universities are, Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, now Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo; Federal College of Education, Zaria ,now Federal University of Education, Zaria; Federal College of Education, Kano ,now Federal University of Education, Kano; and Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri ,now Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri. Making the announcement , the immediate past minister for education , Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau said that these colleges of education were part of the 21 federal colleges of education that had been awarding degree programmes in the last three decades under the close supervision of the different universities they are affiliated to.

Reacting to the conversion, former president of COEASU, Comrade Remi Makinde said that the action lack any known legal backing and cannot be sustained. According to him, the conversion was mere creation of jobs for the cronies of the former president, saying that for there to be any valid appointment for the position of Vice Chancellor of the institutions, due process must be followed.

He said that the former president couldn’t have upgraded these colleges of education to universities without consulting with stakeholders to fashion out ways of transition, stressing that if someone was chief executive of institution that has been producing degree graduates for three decades removing him to appoint another person was an act of punishment and it is unacceptable.

“The federal government cannot punish people for keeping the colleges of education in a good stead for years before conversion to universities. There should be a period of transition and that period should be between four to five years to allow the National Certificate of Education (NCE) students to either graduate from the system or proceed to universities level” he said. The former COEASU boss said this is a democratic dispensation; the president cannot just wake up one day and convert existing institutions to universities and replaced management staff without enabling laws.

Makinde said that COEASU was not against the conversion and quality but only interested in strengthening the process by involving a proper procedure to address the transition. According to him, colleges of education are specialized institutions; brining in somebody from outside who is not a specialist to head them is not possible and cannot work. He stated that it is not possible to remove those who are already in the colleges and replacing them with some other people from the universities to administer the affairs of the institutions.

Makinde said that a chief lecturers in the colleges of education could be made researcher rather than reducing them to nothing in the system they had helped to build over years, adding that the ridiculous reduction in ranking cannot be accepted by the COEASU.

According to him, if these colleges have been preparing and producing degree graduates over three decades, why can’t the same colleges produce degree graduates on their own? He urged the federal government to urgently create laws to enable the transition of these colleges into universities, saying that the laws must spelt out the procedure for transition of these colleges into universities and the laws must give edge to the existing staff. “In Adeyemi College of education, we have a provost who is a professor replaced him with another professor who does not know anything about education? You cannot bring a lawyer to head college of medicine, just like a teacher cannot head faculty of law” he said.

According to him, government cannot bring in a none professional teacher to head colleges of education or university of education, we will resist it Also speaking to The UNION, the former chairman, Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education(AOCOED) ,Ijanikin, Lagos, comrade Adeyemi Adesanya said that what the union agitated in the past was the upgrading of these colleges into degree awarding institution and not necessarily universities of education since they have been awarding degree over 30 years in affiliation with universities.

According to him, the agitation was based on the competency and availability of qualified staff and infrastructure at these colleges, saying that the quality of manpower at these college were enough to make them a degree awarding institutions. Adesanya said that upgrading of these colleges of education into universities and removing the chief executive officers was disheartening and unbelievable and cannot be accepted by the union.

He said that there is nothing wrong if any person wants to upgrade these colleges into universities, saying that what the union is saying is that the conversion must be done through a legal process. “If federal government wants to establish universities of education, there is nothing wrong about it , but upgrading the existing ones into universities without enabling laws is a disasters that cannot be allowed to stand. Upgrading established colleges by law into universities and replacing the established management with new ones, is highly unconstitutional and it will not work. It should not be allowed to work” he said.

He accused the immediate past president of appointing his close political associates as the Vice Chancellors of the so called universities of education. “When a former president upgraded these colleges to universities and went ahead to appoint vice chancellor, even without enabling law is sad and insult to the system” he said.

On what the N500m could do to new institutions, he said that the money would do a lot to improving infrastructure of the institution, because they are already established institutions. According to him, the money is just to build on the existing structure.

“These colleges have all the needed manpower, because they have been preparing and graduating students in degree programmes over the years. What we are saying is that the conversion is illegal and must be reversed, particularly on the appointment of management staff. We will not accept the condition where existing structure are replaced” he added.

He said that there must be a procedure for upgrading these colleges of education to universities of education and the procedure must also address the fates of the existing workers in the institutions. According to him, COEASU started the agitations for the upgrading of some colleges of education in the country to degree awarding institutions and not necessarily universities of education.

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