“I begged. I suffered. Even as I am now, I’m not composed because things are getting out of control for me.
Those were the words of Owolabi Ismael*, a part-time lecturer at Kwara State Polytechnic, as he recoiled in despair following the refusal of the management of the state-owned tertiary institution to offset four-months salary arrears of the staff.
Owolabi’s agony began when the Federal Government ordered the closure of schools to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic more than six months ago.
Aside from his part-time job at the tertiary institution, he also teaches in a private secondary school where he earns N14,000 monthly to complement his salary but his income at the school also paused with the closure.
When the pay from the secondary school was suspended, he was not so worried as he believed his salary from the tertiary institution could support his family.
The month of April came, May’s followed. But June, July, and August salaries failed to and he became a stranger in his home.
On September 11, 2020, when doctors at the Kwara State General Hospital, Ilorin, told him his wife would have to undergo a caesarean section to be delivered of her baby, Owolabi was dumbfounded.
He stared into the void in hopelessness.
It has been four months since he was last called to receive his salary, he felt so dismayed that he had to go borrowing from close associates to keep his wife and unborn child alive.
“It was very hard for me” he stated matter-of-factly “My wife put to bed through CS at the general hospital, Ilorin. We spent nothing less than N150,000. The first bill they gave us was N78,000, followed by another N40,000 and some other bills of N20,000, N10,000. Before we knew it, we had spent almost N150,000”
“I had to borrow from families and friends before I got the money. Had it been we were paid or the pandemic never happened to the world, it would have been minimal. Or ordinarily, if she gave birth to the child naturally, I’ll be able to bear the responsibility. But the situation we found ourselves was not part of our plans. It was pathetic.”
Even so, Owolabi who earns N12,000 as a part-time lecturer in the school is now being haunted by hunger. The father of three who also takes care of his parents is now being fed by them as events turned sour for him.
“Apart from the fact that my wife put to bed, feeding my family has become very hard. It was from this money that I buy foodstuff, but since our salary stopped about four months ago, my parents now feed my wife and children.
“The person we give now gives us. I’m not the type that relies on my parents for food, but the situation has become unbearable. It’s not because of me, but my wife and children.” He said, his voice fading into silence.
The appointment requires the appointee to prepare and deliver lectures to students; assess students’ scripts and perform any other relevant academic duties that may be assigned to the lecturer by the head of a department and director of an institute from time to time.
The breakdown of the monthly salary is as follows: a part-time lecturer in the institution is paid N500 per hour but cannot put in more than a maximum of 24 hours a month. To claim their payments, part-time lecturers get cleared by their head of department and director of the institute of the bursar for settlement.
Most of the part-time lecturers who spoke with the reporter have been with the institution for over seven years without increment in their salaries.
Damned Report, More Pains
A report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) tagged ‘COVID-19 impact monitoring report’ examined the social-economic impact of the pandemic on Nigerian households. According to the report, the pandemic poses immeasurable health and financial threats to many Nigerians, especially as it relates to employment and income in the country.
It stated that 42 per cent of respondents who were working before the outbreak of the pandemic had stopped working. Also, a high rate of households reported income loss since mid-March. About 79 per cent of households reported that their total income decreased.
Income from all sources was affected by the pandemic and reported to have decreased since mid-March. However, the rate was highest for income from non-farm family business (85 per cent) compared to household farming, livestock or fishing (73 per cent) and wage employment (58 per cent).
Ibrahim Muhammad*, another part-time lecturer at Kwara state polytechnic, shares a more excruciating burden of the NBS report. The lecturer who has spent seven years in the institution as a part-time lecturer is currently a void of brokenness as he could no longer meet up with his responsibilities at home.
He also teaches in a private secondary school to augment his monthly salary as a lecturer in the institution, but the closure of schools swatted his earnings that he now slights hands to close associates for help.
Amid this shock, the management of the institution also failed to pay their salaries since June.
“Before COVID-19, I was able to use the salary to augment the money I get at a secondary school where I teach to earn a living. But the lockdown affected it because students were holed up in their houses. Things were very hard for us. It was while we were battling with the lockdown that the management also stopped our salary.”
“After collecting our May salary, the money has not been forthcoming. I have been under duress because I have not been able to meet up with my duties at home”
Although the lecturers, according to the agreement letter, are to work for 24 hours per month, that is only on paper. During examination periods, lecturers who spoke with the reporter said they supervise exams for three hours per day.
This runs to the tune of 15 hours per week, totalling 39 hours per month. Under this arrangement, most part-time lecturers in the school spend more than the required 24 hours in clear violation of the contractual agreement they had with the institution.
Not Only Kwara Poly
The story of Associate lecturers at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, is not different. Just like Kwara poly, many of the lecturers have been working under a renewable contract for as long as ten years without an increment in their pay.
For Master degree holders, they earn a fixed salary of N40,000 while first degree holders earn N30,000 monthly.
The lecturers who work under the same conditions as the institution’s regular staff are also to perform other duties assigned by their heads of department.
More pathetic: they are not only excluded from accessing grants or publishing books, but also subjected to poor working conditions with no welfare packages.
In the midst of these travails, the lecturers have also not been paid since June despite the economic shock of the pandemic on households in the country.
The last time Oluwatunji Ariledesi*, a lecturer at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, smiled at the bank was four months ago. He joined the institution in 2015 with the hope that the grass would become greener once he took a lecturing job in the forty-one years old institution after spending years selling shoes on the street of Lagos.
He was brimming with excitement that he would be able to pursue his PhD programme sooner, but he was wrong. The dream never came alive. Today, he is shuttling between lecturing and tailoring to survive.
“It has not been easy. The bulk of the job for Associate Lecturers in the institution is humongous putting into consideration the number of students in the institution, practically speaking it’s impossible for any Lecturer to have any other engagement aside teaching but since the economic reality has dawn on us all, it’s reasonable for one to have alternate source of income. Like myself, I have a tailoring shop where I manage to make ends meet for our immediate families.”
Moonlighting activities, according to a study, are on the increase among lecturers of Nigerian tertiary institutions. The phenomenon which is now prevalent is largely a mirror of conditions of service (remuneration) and the need to remain afloat financially.
According to the study, crisscrossing between their regular jobs and other part-time engagements put a lot of strain on the lecturers and take a toll on their physical health and sometimes mental health, which can cause a decline in productivity or failure to meet their performance standards
“Associate Lecturers in my category performed almost 80% of academic responsibilities in the school but sadly the salary of these people are not reviewed and many have been in this position for close to a decade. No doubt this can have significant effects on academic productivity expected to be discharged on the students.” Another lecturer of the institution who did not want his name in print chipped in.
Many of the lecturers who are desirous of furthering their studies have dropped the idea due in large part to the poor remuneration.
Among them is Kolawole Ishola (name changed) who has been in the school for eight years. He revealed that those who stood against the poor working condition were “technically” disengaged without notice.
“We aren’t sure of securing a job in the system because the management is not even considering employing any. They have used many and dumped some. Some were technically disengaged recently without notice for demanding for change in status. They were not given renewal letters.
“Some of us who are between the age bracket of 40+ to 50 are disturbed about what the future has for us. We couldn’t pursue our postgraduate PhD programme due to lack of funds,” he added.
Atrocious Working Conditions
Apart from the poor working conditions, a letter of appointment of The Moshood Abiola Polytechnic sighted by this reporter also barred the Associate Lecturers from membership of any trade union on campus. This is to enable the lecturers to work independently of any industrial strike that may be declared staff unions in the polytechnic.
This, however, violates section 40 of the 1999 Constitution which provides that every person shall be entitled to assembly freely and associate with other persons, and in particular form or belong to any political party, trade union or any association for the protection of his interests.
Also the lecturers are unentitled to authorised leave until the end of the session break. “…you can only enjoy a deserved rest as the demand of the work may allow during the long vacation i.e at the end of each session” it states.
The Rector of Kwara State polytechnic, Dr Abdul Jimoh Muhammed, in a text message sent to this reporter said the part-time lecturers are not entitled to be paid since they did not work during the closure of schools in the country.
“Part-time lecturers normally are to be paid based on hours of lectures delivered, but the management has been magnanimous in paying them during lockdown (up till June) when they are not entitled to the pay,” he said pointedly.
Further questions sent to the Rector on the claims made by the lecturers that they are being overworked in clear violation of the contractual agreement they had with the institution were not replied. The reporter also put a call across to him but was ignored.
But the Public Relation Officer of Mashood Abiola Polytechnic, Yemi Ajibola, While speaking with the reporter stated that the myriads of challenges faced by the institution is as a result of the conversion of the Polytechnic to a university by the last administration which thereby worsened the financial status of the institution.
“We have some challenges, and presently we are not still out of the situation. MAPOLY has been working round the clock after the governor returned the institution to its status quo – polytechnic – and approved four months salaries for us. And if not for COVID-19, Mapoly would have been stabilised and everything would have gone back to normalcy. We are just coming out of the problem we got ourselves into by the last administration for trying to make MAPOLY a university.
He continued, “it is only when you have money that you pay. It is just demand and supply. Ability to pay is one factor that determines demand and supply. It is not that the management does not want to pay, but it is because the money is not there. We are struggling to ensure that the salaries are paid.”
When contacted, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic, Mashood Abiola Polytechnic Chapter, Babatunde Osinfalujo, asked the reporter to call back later in the evening.
However multiple calls and texts forwarded to him were ignored as of the time of filing this report.
The reporter also forwarded the text to his Whatsapp line, it was also ignored despite reading the message.
* The identities of the lecturers have been hidden for fear of victimisation
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