Teachers carpet govt over rot in education

By Funmi Komolafe
FROM the 36 states and Abuja, they converged in Asaba, the Delta State capital for the 4th quadrennial delegates conference of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT,  one of the affiliates of the   Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.

Nigeria Union of  Teachers,  NUT, is an affiliate of NLC that cannot be ignored.  It is not only the biggest in terms of membership, also, its members hold leadership position in many state councils of NLC.  It is also the union of the current president of the NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed  Ibrahim Omar.

The NUT has had its own share of internal squabbles but this has been managed with maturity and personal sacrifice of many prominent individuals who hold key positions in the union.

Omar, was still president of the  NUT when he got elected president of NLC yet the union remained intact.

Deputy president  of NLC, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, in his solidarity message to the conference, singled out Comrade  Omar for promoting and sustaining a united union.

L-R; Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC President, Prof. Amos Utuama, SAN, Deputy Governor Delta State and Prof. Addison Wokocha, Registrar / Chief Executive ,Teachers' Registration Council of Nigeria. Photo Nath Onojake.

The Swedish Teachers union  in a message signed by its president, Eva – Lis Siren congratulated the NUT for its important work on  the right  to quality education of all children and for the teachers’ professional  and trade union rights.

The National Union of Teachers, United Kingdom in a message signed by its general secretary, Christine Blower  said it “ recognize  the decades of serious determination  and efforts by Union  to establish fair conditions, pay and salary structures for teachers in Nigeria”.

Urge Govt to focus more on education

Then president of the NUT, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar in his address to delegates expressed the views of the union on the state of education in Nigeria.

He said, “ The NUT laments the present state of education in the country especially  at the primary and post primary school levels as education at both levels continue to face serious difficulties following  the uncoordinated nature of government policies and actions, coupled with the absolute neglect of the teachers welfare needs, poor infrastructural facilities and un-conducive learning and teaching  environment..

Presently, education in the country has been balkanized to the extent  that different sets of schools now  exist in the country for different classes of children with some well-furnished , properly maintained and well-equipped to take care of the children of the highly placed in  the society  in the name of private schools, while others exist as public schools  with serious infrastructural decay, un-motivated teaching staff and poor staffing left to be attended by the children of the poor”.

The attitude of the Federal Government -  Omar said, “ Only recently, the  federal government re-echoed  her positive skewness towards this divide and support for elitist schools at the expense  of the public schools when it rejected  negotiating with NUT  on the Enhanced Teachers Allowances geared towards motivating  the public school teachers  for greater productivity in the work place.  The federal government rather chose to allow  the children of the poor to remain at home for over two months  but the intervention of the Governors’ Forum  probably the strike action would have  been left to last for over a year”.

Save education- Urging the federal  and state governments to save the education system from  total collapse, Omar said,  “ The Union therefore calls on the federal and state governments to give priority  attention to the funding of public schools and also stop the growing trend of returning existing public schools  to voluntary agencies instead of providing funds  for the schools to meet up with modern challenges  and the ever growing population of children of school age’.

What the union would do?  Omar who is also the president of the  Nigeria Labour Congress said, “ The Union once again reiterates her determination to continue to resist  any attempts  to price education out of the reach of the poor through commercialization of primary and secondary education under the guise of return of  schools to missionaries and voluntary agencies”.

Education for all by 2015 may remain a dream

The union and its members have a doubt about Nigeria attaining the Millennium Development Goal of Education for all by 2015 and they said it loud for all to hear.

“ Today, more than ever before, happenings in the nation’s education  system indicate that the dream of Education For All by 2015 might not be realized  after all”. Why?  The teachers said “ For the past  four years , rather  than an improvement , public education  has drifted  further into the woods.  Federal and State governments  have failed  to invest reasonable funds  in the sector.  Infrastructural  facilities in schools remain dilapidated all over the country.  Laboratories and Libraries  are not common features  in  schools, instructional materials are grossly lacking while teachers development and welfare are yet to be given due attention”.

Regrettably, there is mass failure of students in school certificate examinations in the country.  This situation  makes our choice of them year’s theme “ Investment  in the teachers’” most apt and relevant”.

The way forward

TThe teachers made suggestions on how to improve the educational system.

“ For the nation to make any appreciable mark in meeting the goals of Education for All ( EFA)  and the home grown  vision 20:20:20, investment in the Nigerian teacher is key.  Government must not pay lip service  to teachers  matters but must develop a robous and practical policy on teachers training and retraining, employment, professional development, remuneration and reward system that will not only promote  job satisfaction and retain certificated teachers on the job but also attract  other brilliant ones to the profession.

That, there is acute teachers shortage in schools all over the country is not debatable.  Poor conditions of work has brought about brain-drain in the education industry and records in our Universities show that many students accept admissions in the Faculty  of Education as the last resort.

This means that if appropriate steps are not taken to improve the status of the Nigerian teachers  and make the teaching profession attractive,  the nation will find it difficult to secure the right quantity and quality of teachers  that will drive the Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme for the achievement of set goals.

It is therefore imperative that governments at the Federal, State and Local levels take  the bold step to revamp the education system  by working towards the UNESCO benchmark of 26% of their budgets to invest in Education and the teachers”.

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