Teachers in public schools in Nasarawa state are not finding it easy as they now receive only a small fraction of their salaries every month, writes DOMINIC AKPENSUEN.
It is no longer news that the standard of education in the country is gradually declining following the barrage of problems bedeviling the sector.
While this development has continued to receive attention from various state governments in order to improve to education’s standard across the country, however, in Nasarawa state, things appear to have taken a turn for the worse as primary school teachers have now stayed for over seven months without the full payment of their salaries.
The situation becomes more pathetic as the Nasarawa state government now resorts to paying what it calls ‘percentage salaries’ to teachers amidst the present economic difficulty in the country.
A curious look into what the government called percentage is that a fraction of a total sum of salary is paid to teachers at the end of every month other than the full package. It therefore beat all imaginations to know when the remaining sums would be paid.
It is even funnier to know that this so-called percentage varies in every month, and the size of it is also determines by the whims and caprices of those at the corridor of power. The implication is that if at the end of a particular month, 30 per cent of salary is paid to teachers, in the following month 20 per cent or 15 per cent will be paid. This has been the sorry state of things in Nasarawa state for the past 9 months.
This has continued to attract the concerns of stakeholders in the education sector with many asking, “when will the accruing percentages, running into 9 months would be paid?”
According to some stakeholders in the state, the sad narrative goes to demonstrate how petty and insignificant, government officials treat the future growth of our youths and indeed the dignity of primary education in the state as the existing scenario has denied teachers the pride of their labour, frustrates their efforts to a decent living and threatens the very basis of their survival and those of their dependants.
With the hard realities staring teachers in the face, the only dignify way left to them to redeem their means of livelihood after all chances of dialogue with government failed, appeared to be the strike option embarked upon by the primary school teachers on June 14th 2016.
As a prelude to the strike, a peaceful rally was staged by the protesting teachers, led by the chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Nasarawa State chapter, Comr. Tete Jatau.
The NUT chairman, who categorically disclosed that for nine months, teachers received salaries in piecemeal in the name of percentages, said many had to resort to begging, farming and doing other forms of menial jobs in addition to teaching to make ends meet as the demeaning package they collect as take home was unable to sustain the home front.
According to him, this ugly development started in January 2015 at 80 per cent and later degenerate “to the insulting 15 per cent” as teachers could no longer feed their families not to talk of paying school fees of their children in tertiary institutions in the country.
The union leader wondered why the government of Governor Tanko Al-makura in Nasrawa state found it difficult to pay teachers salaries in spite of several overtures made by union leadership to the government and the huge bail out it collected from the federal government coffers.
According to the teachers, the unfortunate thing the government of Al-makura has resorted to is the use of the media to deny that his government owes anybody in the state , just as the NUT challenged the government to call for Town-Hall meeting where these issues would be tabled with facts and figures.
The union further picked holes on why their salaries not routed through the State Universal Basic Education Board as provided by the Universal Basic Education Law (Act 2005) rather than the present arrangement where salaries are paid through Local Government Council.
NUT chairman, Karu Local Government Council, Comr. Akwe Baba Omadefu (aka Barry), who also bared his mind on the issue, said there are 45 public primary schools under his watch with a total number of 1,378 teachers who eke out their livings on this “anti-teachers percentage,” and that it has never been so bad for teachers in the State.
He however appealed to the relevant authorities to put an immediate halt to the ugly situation because primary education is the foundation of learning that every child deserves to have as a right.
Though many have also appealed to NUT to seek an amicable solution with the state government on the salaries issue, the teachers insist that the strike would continue until the dignity of teachers is restored through the full payment of salaries as labourers deserve their full wages.