Teachers in public primary schools in Ebonyi state have called on the federal government to defend the 1999 constitutional arrangement which empowers state governments to coordinate the funding of primary education.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Reverend Simon Ozor made the call at a rally to sensitize his colleagues on the impact that the agitation for local government autonomy and plans to return the payment of teachers salary to local governments would have on them.
The teachers marched from their secretariat to the House of Assembly complex Abakaliki where they submitted their demands.
Reverend Ozor said teachers were not against proposals to grant local governments autonomy. He said that they were however not comfortable with the plan to hand over the responsibility of payment of teachers salary to the third tier.
He pointed out that in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution, the funding and management of basic education were functions of state governments, and were affirmed by the Supreme court in a judgement in 2002.
“We don’t want our salary and other welfare state to be handed over to local governments. When it was done in the early 80s and 90s, so many local government areas could not pay salary.”
The national deputy president of NUT, Comrade Kelvin Nwankwo revealed that they had taken their battle to the National Assembly to avoid a repeat of the total neglect that characterized the primary school system in the 90s when it fell under the control of local governments.
“2, 3 weeks ago, we were in the National Assembly where we told them that we wear the shoes and we know where it is pinching us the hardest. We do not want the salaries of our primary school teachers to be joined in the autonomy that will be granted the local governments.”
The state secretary of the union, Comrade Mark Nnaji called on the government to raise the retirement age of primary and secondary school teachers to 65 years to increase experienced teachers retention rate in schools.
A letter containing the demands of the teachers was handed over to a worker in the State House of Assembly as neither the Speaker nor any principal officer was around to receive it.
Also in Enugu state, rallies were held condemning the alleged plan to allow local governments to take over the payment of primary school teachers salary.
Photo credit: Odomero Igbodo on Facebook.
The rally had in attendance teachers from all local government areas in the state.
Some of them carried placards with inscriptions like: Local Government Councils Do Not Have the Capacity To Pay Primary School Teachers Salary, Save Primary School Education from Imminent Collapse, Our Children’s Future Must Be Secured.
The chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers in the state, Comrade Paul Nnaji stated that the current arrangement under the 1999 constitution for the management of primary education by state governments should be upheld.
Photo credit: Odomero Igbodo on Facebook.
“Allow state governments to manage and fund primary education in Nigeria.”
Nnaji also called for the extension of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years as a way of having more experienced teachers in the system.
The chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress, Enugu state chapter, Mr Virginus Nwobodo represented by the vice chairman, Comrade Christopher Okezie gave reasons why management of primary school teachers should not be left in the custody of local governments.
“If you allow a local government chairman who possibly may not have three hundred thousand naira in the bank to pay teachers salary, he can never pay them.”
A primary school teacher, Mr Damian Eze said past experience has taught them to be sceptical of the ability of local governments to properly manage the primary school system.
“We would not want that experience that we had over ten years ago when salaries were being owed for a long time.”
“I’m condemning the idea. Teachers teach the president, and governors, therefore teachers are not to be mistreated.”
Mrs Chika Chukwu, another primary school teacher stated.
They also called on the state government to continue with the regular payment of their salary to secure and sustain basic education in the country.