NLC carpets govt over recession Saraki wants teachers’ welfare nationwide
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja, Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba and Paul Obi in Abuja
As the World Teachers’ Day was marked wednesday, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has threatened the federal and state governments, that it “will embark on a nationwide strike if salaries of teachers across the country are not paid urgently.”
In a similar celebration in Asaba, the Delta State chapter has identified gross understaffing of primary and secondary schools as one of the major problems bedeviling the education sector in the state, thereby calling for immediate recruitment of 10,000 competent teachers.
Apparently disturbed by the worsening conditions of teachers nationwide, the Senate President, Sen. Abubakar Bukola Saraki appealed to governments at all levels “to prioritise the payment of salaries and general welfare of teachers with a view to securing the future of Nigeria.”
In Abuja where labour activists converged to mark the 2016 World Teachers’ Day, however, both the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah were conspicuously absent.
The absence of the two ministers sparked disapproval among the labour leaders at the celebration with the President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba lampooning the federal government over the mishandling of the current economic recession.
In a rather graphic manner, the NUT President, Com. Michael Olukoya critically dissected intractable crises, which according to him, had distorted and dislocated the country’s education sector, especially under the government of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over last year, Olukoya explained how three tiers of governments “have failed woefully to address the plights of teachers,” which he said, called for real concern.
Speaking on a theme of the 2016 celebration, “Valuing Teachers; Improving their Status,” Olukoya said the situation especially under this economic recession “is nothing to write home about.”
At this instance, Olukoya, rhetorically asked: “How do we explain states where teachers are paid only in percentage? How do you describe a situation whereby teachers work for 35 years only to be owed gratuity, emoluments and entitlements at the end of the day?
“How do you describe the situation whereby teachers retire into penury and poverty…? It is not Uhuru. Freedom is still very far from the realm of teaching. It has not improved. You find government these days always blaming this and that, enough of rhetoric. Sit down and plan.”
He, therefore, acknowledged that it was time “to take the bull by the horn. I want to assure you what is customary is two weeks after our teachers’ day. We hold our meetings and we call for situation report state by state pertaining to the demands of the Nigerian teachers.
“If in two weeks, we meet and nothing positive has happened, do not wait for any other directive, we will call Nigerian teachers out on strikes,” the NUT president explained.
Also in Abuja, Wabba said the case of Nigeria “is peculiar. We must not lose sight that peculiar situation needs the attention of all of us. We must not lose sight of what goes at the helm of affairs and the unions which are there to advance the interest of our members and the society at large.
“We must work towards resolving those issues, because one thing that has come to our attention is the fact that the problems have continued to mount on without solution. In fact, it is a very common saying now. Some few years, settlement of salaries was not even an issue.
“That era will be said to be much better than the situation that we are passing through now. Countries will pass through recession but I think the idea is to have prepared beforehand. We know that economies will always burst, but preparation is what is always lacking.”
Consequently, according to him, it will be our responsibility to continue to task our political elite on how best to continue to plan. We must have medium, long and immediate term to address some of these challenges and continue to drive our development plan.
At a remarkably low-keyed celebration in Asaba, the chapter expressed concern that new hands were yet to be recruited to replace teachers who retired from the classroom across the state in the last four years.
The Chairman of the chapter, Com. Jonathan Jemirieyigebe lamented that the shortage had created a situation whereby one teacher is compelled to man a classroom with over 70 pupils or students all alone.
Jemirieyigebe, therefore, called for the immediate recruitment of 10,000 teachers to ameliorate.
He added that practically all the public schools “are seriously dilapidated,” thus calling the state government to take over secondary schools handed over to religious mission bodies without further delay.
In a statement by his Special Adviser (Media and Publicity), Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, the Senate president restated the need for the inclusion of teachers’ salaries as one of the items in the capital vote of the annual budget to enable them receive their salaries and allowances as at when due.
He congratulated Nigerian teachers and their counterparts across the globe for what he described as their sacrificial contributions to knowledge advancement and world civilisation and development.
“There is an overarching need to prioritize teacher’s welfare so as to enable them continue to discharge their duties creditably and effectively particularly in this age of knowledge. It is only by doing that that we eliminate a situation where people either reluctantly go into the profession or go into it as a last option
“It is a well-established fact that teachers occupy a pristine place in our drive towards progress and development as a nation. Moreover, Teachers are the custodians of the repository of knowledge and as such should be seen as an integral partner towards an enduring development of our educational sector.
“Issues of capacity building, training and re-training of teachers across the various tiers of our education architecture must form a fundamental aspect of our policies and national strategic plans. We must make deliberate and concise effort to boost teachers’ confidence and welfare.
“Every teacher must be assured of a minimum safety net during their pre and post retirement life. Our teachers must be effectively protected by the existing pension schemes irrespective of their level of engagements i.e. Federal, State and at Local Government levels. Our teachers remain critical to the change we most earnestly desire in our educational sector in particular and the nation in general. We cannot afford to treat them any less,” he said.