The Provost of Abia State College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu (ASCETA), Dr Phillip Nto, says the ongoing moves to upgrade the institution to a university of education were the only way to save it from total collapse as the beleaguered institution battles with low student intake.
He said this in a chat with journalists after leading them on a facility tour of the projects completed by his administration in the face of the many challenges, including non-payment of salaries, weighing down the state-owned institution.
But the provost identified the low student population as the most debilitating problem affecting the institution, insisting that the problem would be resolved when ASCETA becomes a university.
“ASCETA is to be upgraded to university since NCE (National Certificate of Education) is being scrapped,” he said, adding that the institution has stopped awarding degrees (with affiliation) as directed by the federal government, pending when it would become a full-fledged university.
The provost, who has served seven out of his eight years of two tenures in office, added that he was determined to work hard to ensure that the upgrading of ASCETA to university was realised, adding that he would count it as his biggest achievement.
He said the bill, which, when passed into law, would make ASCETA a University of Education, is already before the House of Assembly, and a public hearing has been conducted as part of the process leading to the enactment of the enabling law.
Nto explained that the envisaged enabling law provides for the University of Education to be operated under a public, private partnership (PPP) to give room for the smooth running of the university.
He stated that ASCETA has largely overcome its infrastructural deficit under his administration through prudent use of the funding facilities provided by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
“There was no office for the provost when I assumed office,” Nto said, adding that with the 2019 TETFund high-impact intervention, he has succeeded in giving ASCETA a befitting administrative block.
On the sacking of the chairman of the ASCETA chapter of the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Dr Kelvin Egesi, the provost said that he was “disciplined for being redundant.”
He noted that the process of weeding out redundant staff started two years ago, and “those that challenged it in court lost.”
The ASCETA chief executive further explained that Egesi could have been given a soft landing despite his redundancy, but the union leader overstepped his bounds by participating in partisan politics and organising town hall meetings with governorship candidates.
“For a staff under me to engage in partisan politics? No way,” Nto asserted, adding that since it is against the rules and regulations of ASCETA for its staff to be involved in politics, “we have to free them (sacked persons) from being ASCETA staff in order to face politics.”
While admitting that the institution is still reeling under the weight of unpaid salary arrears, the provost said Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration was committed to clearing the backlogs before the end of the administration.