TETFund, COEASU Oppose Incessant Conversion of Public COEs to Universities

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have opposed the growing trend of converting public colleges of education to universities.

They described the development as disturbing, considering the important role colleges of education play in producing teachers at the basic education level for the country.

Executive Secretary of TETFund,  Sonny Echono, and President of COEASU, Dr Smart Olugbeko, stated this in Abuja at a three-day national conference and workshop on Digital Pedagogy and Fundable Research Proposal Writing organised by COEASU in collaboration with the Committee of Provosts.

Echono, who expressed dismay at the development, questioned the rationale behind it when existing colleges of education are not producing enough teachers for primary schools in the country.

He urged federal and state governments to prioritise education at the basic level, even as he buttressed his argument with Germany and Japan where their teachers at the basic level earn more than their counterparts at the tertiary level.

His words: “This penchant to want to convert colleges of education to universities, frankly I see no need for it. Universities already have faculties of education. And many of the conventional universities have this already. Why don’t we produce enough for this basic level first? We can have some level of specialisation because improvements come. And some of them already have that. But do we want to convert all our colleges of education to universities when we are not producing enough for our primary schools?

“And you know the concept of the pyramid. The highest number of enrolments is at the primary level. Because people begin to drop out as they move to higher levels. So that’s where we need the highest number of teachers. And in countries that get it right, I can give examples of Germany and Japan. It is the teachers at the basic level that earn more than the teachers even at the tertiary level.”

Also speaking, Dr Olugbeko warned that there would be negative consequences if there were no colleges of education in the country.

The move, the COEASU President argued, is a misplaced priority on the part of government.

The academics called on the government to borrow a leaf from China where universities are being converted to technical institutions.

“Doing that is at the peril of the basic level of education. Because when we talk about colleges of education, they were established to cater to the basic level of education. This is the level of education that anybody who wants to be literate will need to pass through. They are specially dedicated to training people who will teach at this level.

“Therefore, if because our primary schools have collapsed as a result of privatisation of primary schools at the detriment of public primary schools, therefore government because most of them are elitist in their thinking and orientation, what they believe is that tertiary education is all about universities. And that is why they keep on converting colleges of education to universities at the detriment of the system”, he said.

He equally condemned the development in Lagos State where he said all state-owned polytechnics and colleges of education have been converted to universities.

He continued: “In Lagos State today, there is no polytechnic, college of education at the level of the state. They have converted all of them to universities and this will have dire consequences on the state. Why countries that are making waves in technology are converting their universities to polytechnics, as was done in China, instead what we have in Nigeria is the reverse where we see our legislators sponsoring bills to convert colleges of education to universities because they already have existing structures. To us, this will have dire consequences on our education.”

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