By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Although public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State resumed for the 2009/2010 academic session on Tuesday this week following the suspension of the strike by the members of the state wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the state government may have to contend with another disruption of its schools if it fails to honour its promise to the teachers.
Before the teachers agreed to suspend the strike, they had asked for the specific month that the state government will commence the implementation of the enhanced Teachers Special Allowances, and government promised them to start its payment by the end of January next year.
As teachers in many states of the Federation had long started enjoying the pay rise after their governments started implementation, Lagos State teachers are not likely to remain in classroom a day after January ending if the state government fails to honour its pledge.
The teachers are particularly unhappyÂ that the Fashola-led administration has not yetÂ implemented the pay rise despite the fact that it was incorporated into the state Appropriation Budget for year 2009, adding that states like Ondo, Kwara and Ekiti among others, which have implemented the wage increase, are not as wealthy as Lagos State.
To the teachers, the Fashola-led government is not doing enough to address the rot in the education sector. The chairman of the state wing of the NUT, Comrade Idowu Samson Kayode says: â€œOur (NUT) national officers see Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola as altruistic but teachers could assume they are not his favourites.
We are not even seeking favouritism but fairness and justice, where an agreement has been reached. We cherish his administration but we cannot love the governor more than ourselves because it is even unscriptural.â€
Kayode continues: â€œIf we pay lip service to education and see the concept as limited to building structures alone and fail to see the education project holistically, with the need to pay the teachers who are the managers well, can we achieve the global desire?â€
Although the officials of the teachersâ€™ umbrella body at the national and state levels have been meeting with the state government over the pay rise, the latter did not, for long,Â make a categorical statement on when it would pay the allowances. The state government maintained this posture at a meeting it had with some executive members of the national body of NUT on September 17, 2009.
According to Samson Kayode, the state government is giving the impression that it will include the allowances in next yearâ€™s Appropriation Budget, adding that teachers are not going to be deceived to call off the strike until the state government issues a circular on when it will pay the money.
While the strike was still on-going, KayodeÂ decried the threat by the state government to sack the teachers if they refusedÂ to resume work, explaining that employing arm-twisting tactic negates the democratic dispensation in the country.
â€œWe have been pushed to the brick-wall. Our demand is not a mountain that cannot be climbed or a mission that cannot be accomplished by the state government if there is the willingness. Teaching has been professionalized and our demand merely encapsulates the perks or pecuniary substance of our job. The next line of action is to put our destiny in our hands and fight till the last man standingâ€, says the NUT chairman.
The current demand for pay rise by teachers in many states of the federation emanated from the agreement between the 36 state governors and the NUT on August 6, 2008 to implement 27.5% Teachersâ€™ Special Allowances.
The failure by many state governors to implement the agreement have triggered off a series of strike actions by members of the NUT.
On July 3rd, 2009, the National Executive Council ofÂ NUT directed teachers in states where the allowances are not paid by September 1, 2009 to embark on an indefinite strike.
Right now, teachers in some states are on strike to press for the implementation of the agreement, an ugly scenario which is playing out at a time the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are also on strike over an agreement it reached with the Federal GovernmentÂ in 2006.