BY DAYO ADESULU, IKENNA ASOMBA, MOSES IKEBELI & NDIDI UCHE
By Tuesday night, the strike action begun by teachers in public schools in 18 states of the federation had begun to falter; teachers in Lagos State called of the strike action. This was after a commitment was entered into by the Lagos State Government in a bid to keep schools open. The teachers had begun the action over failure of government of these states to implement the new Teachers Enhanced Salary Structure (TESS), primary and secondary schools have been put under lock and key by the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
Announcing the Commencement of the strike in Abuja, last week, president of the body, Comrade Michael Olukoya stated that the impending industrial action was as a result of the failure of government to fully implement the 27. 5 per cent increase in salaries as agreed. He also revealed that the strike was supposed to commence in 14 states on the 23rd of July, but it had been postponed to September to enable students take their examinations.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 81st Founders’ Day celebration and the 2nd Annual Memorial Lecture of Rev Israel Ransome-Kuti entitled; The Challenges of Students’ Under-performance in Secondary Schools Certification Examinations: The Way forward, Olukoya stressed that the strike action was inevitable following the agreement reached between the teachers and state governors in 2008, but took effect from 2009 for which the affected state governments are yet to implement.
The affected states include Lagos, Delta, Enugu, Cross River, Abia, Katsina, Benue, Niger, Zamfara, Katsina, Ekiti, Kebbi and Kogi.
“Let me say this for the purpose of emphasis, we are going to issue a statement here today on 14 states that are reneging in the area of 27.5 per cent enhancement pay for teachers. We are giving them up to 23rd of this month, which is next week Monday to effect the 27.5 per cent pay for our members, else teachers will go on strike in those 14 states.
“If by Monday, 23rd of this month, we still have any state that has not paid the money to our teachers, there will be strike in such states and there is no going back on that because it is an agreement that was reached in 2008, and the entire leadership of the union then agreed that it will take effect in 2009; and if by now some states feel that the Governors’ Forum is not legal and if they are saying that because they have paid the minimum wage, they will not pay the 27.5 per cent enhanced pay for teachers, we will let them know that there is a difference between minimum wage and the enhanced pay.
“Whatever any state might have paid to teachers, the 27.5 per cent enhanced pay must be paid as an addition. That is the agreement. And they must be paid because we want to motivate the teachers; we want to guard against brain drain, but some states are saying that teachers should accept the minimum wage and forget about the 27.5 per cent enhanced pay.”
The situation at present
Following this announcement, a visit by our correspondents to schools across Lagos metropolis shows about 80 per cent compliance with the NUT national directive. On the first day of the strike, students at Satellite Town and the Agboju primary school, were forced to return home as their schools were shut down due to the ongoing strike in public schools. Since there were no teachers to attend to them, students were found playing in their respective schools before they were eventually sent home.
The story was different on Tuesday morning, as students stayed at home while gates of most public schools were shut. Vanguard Learningm, however, discovered that the students were awaiting a new date for resumption, regretting that their counterparts in private school will be ahead of them when they finally resume.
When Vanguard Learning visited a few public primary schools located in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area, at 512 Primary School which is directly opposite Festac Grammar School, it was observed that there was no activity going on, teachers and students could not be seen around, and some boys were seen playing football in the compound.
At Jakande primary school located at 3rd avenue, the school premises was empty, although few students were seen putting on their uniforms, most of them were seen leaving the school surrounding and returning to their respective homes.
The last school visited was the 5th avenue primary school located at 5th avenue, the school was also shut down, as the school gate was found closed even at past 8am. The proposed strike has left primary schools around the state completely shut down.
Nov/Dec WAEC not scuttled
As at press time, papers such as Chemistry 2 (Objective/Essay), Yoruba/Hausa/Igbo billed between Monday, September 24 and Tuesday, September 25 for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) November/December West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) Council were conducted at these public schools amidst the strike.
A visit to schools such as Awodi-ora Secondary School, Ajegunle, Newland Secondary School, Unity Secondary School, Oshodi Secondary School and Creek Secondary School, Tolu-Ajegunle, showed the smooth conduct of the exams with public schools teachers as invigilators.