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NECO postpones 2024 staff promotion examination indefinitely

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After intervention by the House of Representatives following fear over insecurity by some persons, the National Examinations Council, NECO, has postponed its staff promotion examination earlier scheduled to take place in Minna, Niger State on Thursday and Friday, next week.

To this end, the nation’s secondary schools examinations body explained in a statement by its acting Director, Directorate of Information and Digital Communication, Azeez Sani, that “staff who are due for promotion this year, should note that the exercise has been put on hold indefinitely.”

The terse statement reads in full: “The Management of the National Examinations Council, NECO, has announced the indefinite postponement of the 2024 Staff Promotion Examination earlier scheduled to hold on 14th and 15th February 2024 in Minna, Niger State.

“The postponement is in compliance with the directive of the Committee on Basic Examination Bodies of the House of Representatives as contained in a letter referenced NASS/HR/10/CT.20/64 dated 9th February, 2024 and signed by the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Oboku Abonsizibe Oforji.

“With this development, all NECO Staff who are due for promotion this year, should note that the exercise has been put on hold indefinitely.”

Education

SSANU, NASU issue seven-day ultimatum to FG over withheld salaries

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The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) have threatened to embark on strike over the withheld salaries of their members.

The unions, in a letter issued on Friday by their joint action committee (JAC), said they would go on strike if the government failed to release the withheld salaries after seven days.

In 2022, the salaries of university staff members who went on strike were withheld by the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

In October 2023, President Bola Tinubu partially ordered the release of four months of the withheld eight-month pay of all lecturers.

In the letter signed by Muhammed Ibrahim, the president of SSANU, and Peters Adeyemi, the general secretary of NASU, the unions expressed concern that the government released four months of withheld salaries to members of academic staff without extending the same gesture to non-academic staff.

“While we appreciate the federal government for paying our academic counterpart, we also deem it necessary that our members are also paid,” the joint letter reads in part.

“The various feelers we are getting from our members in the universities and inter-university centres indicate that we can no longer guarantee and be able to sustain industrial peace in the university sector.

“We, therefore, use this opportunity once again to call on the federal government to do the needful within the next seven days.

“The joint action committee of NASU and SSANU should not be held responsible should the wheel of administration and corporate governance be grounded to a halt in the University sector, as we have exercised enough patience.

“If nothing is done by the federal government to positively address this situation and respond to our previous letters to them, the members of the two unions may be forced to meet soon to take all lawful and stringent decisions on the matter.”

SSANU and NASU said they had written a letter to Femi Gbajabiamila, the chief of staff (CoS) to the president, and Tahir Mamman, the minister for education, on February 13, but received no response.

“We are shocked that two weeks after the letters had been sent and received by the appropriate quarters, the federal government has remained quiet and refused to take any step towards addressing this very sensitive issue,” the unions added.

“We like to confirm through this medium once again to the federal government that the pressure on us has intensified and we have done everything possible within our ambit to prevail on our members to maintain industrial peace and tranquillity.”

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British Council increases IELTS fee – second time in 2024

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The British Council in Nigeria has increased the fee for the academic international English language testing system (IELTS) examinations.

This is the second time the council will be hiking the examination fee this year.

Last month, the price was increased by 29 percent from the N107,500 that was being paid for the test.

IELTS on computer academic and general training modules was set at N139,000; IELTS on paper academic and general training modules was pegged at N134,000; the UK visas and immigration (UKVI) was increased to N149,000; Life skills: N130,000; and one skill retake (O.S.R): N87,570.

In an update on its website cited on Thursday, the council said it had reviewed the fees.

The new fee for IELTS on computer academic and general training modules is now N266,000; IELTS on paper academic and general training modules: N256,500; UKVI: N285,500; and life skills: N249,000.

“The above fees will be subject to review based on the prevailing market dynamics,” the council said.

“The change in fees is due to the evolving market dynamics and increased costs in the delivery of our exams.”

The council added that the updated prices for the IELTS range of tests will take effect from March 1.

In September 2023, the British Council increased the cost of IELTS from about N90,000 to N107,500.

At the time, the council said the new prices were necessary to sustain the high quality of standards for the testing experience.

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Australia introduces stricter controls over  student visa applications

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Australia has introduced stricter controls over its student visa applications which limits its post-study work rights policy for international students, which will take effect from the middle of this year.

These measures will ensure that visas are primarily used for education, rather than as a means to obtain long-term residency.

This comes in the aftermath of a major policy shift in December to halve its migrant intake over the next two years, following a record net immigration of 510,000 in 2022-23. 

The projection indicate a reduction to approximately 250,000 in 2024-25 and 2025-26, aligning with pre-Covid figures. 

A report revealed plans to “tighten visa regulations for international students and low-skilled workers” as part of reforming a “broken” migration system, with about 20% of international student visa applications being denied in the latter half of 2023, marking a three-year high. 

Australia had introduced plans on July 1 last year to enhance post-study work rights for international graduates in certain critical skill shortage areas, offering an extra two years on their Temporary Graduate visa to “bolster the pathway to skilled employment.” 

For undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students in specific programs, their stay was extended to 4-6 years based on their level of education. These periods will now be adjusted back to the initial 2-3 years, as declared by Australia’s Department of Education last week.

However, this policy is being reevaluated in light of Australia’s evolving economic circumstances and other factors, leading to the discontinuation of the extension for international higher education graduates from mid-2024.

This decision is part of a larger migration strategy by the Australian government to elevate the integrity and quality of its international education system. 

The current strategy includes the introduction of a “Genuine Student Test,” stricter control over student visa applications, heightened English proficiency requirements, a trimmed list of accredited courses, and limits on changing courses. 

Additionally, the English language requirement for the Temporary Graduate visa will increase from an IELTS score of 6 to 6.5, the age limit for applicants will decrease from 50 to 35 years, and there will be no additional extensions for post-study work rights, except for those who graduate from regional institutions.

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