The crisis between Kaduna State Government and the teachers, under their umbrella union, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), last week, took a dramatic turn when the teachers and government resolved to bury their differences and move the sector forward
Respite seems to have finally come the way of the pupils of public primary and secondary schools in Kaduna State, after 10-day industrial action embarked upon by their teachers was, last week, called off. The teachers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) had on January 8, 2018, embarked on indefinite strike, blaming the development on the recalcitrance of Governor Nasir el-Rufai-led government over the sack of no fewer than 21,780 teachers.
T he government, which had since last year threatened to carry out its planned mass sack for allegedly failing the competency test conducted for them, however, began to issue the sack letters to the affected teachers after the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The development came in spite of an injunction granted the teachers by the National Industrial Court, Kaduna, restraining government from disengaging any teacher until the determination of the substantive suit on the matter. Piqued by the development, the Kaduna wing of the NUT called its members out of classrooms on indefinite job boycott.
NUT said; “The sack was not done in accordance with civil service rules and majority of the teachers passed the so-called competency test with more than 60 per cent. There is no justification for Governor El-Rufai to fix 75 per cent as pass mark, it has never been done anywhere in the world.”
The other issues raised by the union include stopping of the compulsory retirement of sec-ondary school teachers; payment of the 2015 leave transport grant to 3,338 primary school teachers, and that of all public school teachers for 2016 and 2017.
Other demands include the payment of salary arrears of more than 15,000 primary school teachers from June 2015 to July 2016, and full payment of salaries of teachers omitted after screening and those being under paid. The NUT also stressed that the state government had also failed to promote teachers and provide teaching and learning materials to schools, among others.
Joined by the national leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the teachers took to the streets on many occasions to sensitise the public on their predicament, calling on government to rescind its decision. But in its response, the state government in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor, Samuel Aruwan, said it would take firm and decisive disciplinary action including dismissal from service against those that absent themselves from duty.
The Kaduna State Government reminded the teachers that it is the children of the poor that attend public primary schools, saying it owes them a decent standard of education, and shall provide it.
The government made it clear that as an employer, it has every right to determine who its employees are or can be, and the minimum qualifications they must possess, insisting that the NUT placed primary school pupils, who are the victims of failing teachers, in danger by pushing them into the streets to demonstrate for the retention of bad teachers.
In spite of the strike, the state government continued with its recruitment exercise to replace the sacked teachers that failed the competency test. Respite, however, came on January 18, when the state government and the NUT resolved to end the crisis and return normalcy to the state’s education sector.
Towards addressing the contradictions, the state government had after a meeting with the interim Chairmen and Education Secretaries of its 23 Local Government Areas, announced that the 21,780 teachers, who did not pass the competency test another opportunity to apply for placement. With this pronouncement, the Nigeria Union of Teachers was left with no option than to call off the indefinite strike.
The NUT state Chairman, Comrade Audu Amba announced on Thursday after an emergency meeting of the State’s Wing Executive Council (SWEC) that the strike had been called off.
The Chairman, however, stated that the NUT supported the state government in the quest to provide qualitative education in the state. He said: “The state wing of the NUT, Kaduna State met today 18th January, 2018 to review the situation in the light of the pronouncement of the Kaduna State Government which was broadcast on the state media outfit, the KSMC.
“The broadcast which is to the effect that the State government after a meeting with the interim chairmen and education secretaries of the 23 local government areas, has decided to give the 21,780 teachers who did not pass the recent competency test another opportunity for consideration under the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) program of continuous recruitment that will give every willing teacher a chance to apply.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Kaduna Wing has called off the indefinite strike action it embarked upon 10 days ago in all state public schools.”
Meanwhile, the state government through SUBEB has assured that before the end of February, the newly recruited teachers would resume. In a release announcing the release of the list of successful candidates, SUBEB advised applicants who took part in the qualifying test conducted on December 20, 2017, to check their names at the Education Secretaries’ offices in the 23 Local Government Education Authorities or SUBEB Headquarters, while those those that applied from other states should go to any LGEA nearest to them.”
It added that the oral interview will commence from January 24, 2018 across the 23 LGEAs in the state, adding that all successful candidates will attend interview in the Local Government Education Authority offices, while candidates from other states will attend same at centres nearest to them.
As part of its olive branch, the stage government has initiated move to review the remuneration and welfare package of teachers, while plans have also been concluded for special incentives for teachers in rural communities in the state.
The government has also revealed that plans were underway for an upward review of teachers’ remuneration and other welfare packages that would make the teaching profession attractive in the state.
Addressing a news conference on Sunday, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Ja’afaru Sani said government was committed to giving special incentives to teachers in the rural areas to make it attractive to them than those in the urban cities. He said it has become imperative to motivate and retain qualified and professional teachers posted to rural areas.
Giving an update on the ongoing recruitment of 25,000 teachers for public primary schools in the state, Sani, also said the state Universal Basic Education Board would ensure that the first batch of new teachers to be recruited were ready for deployment in February.
He stressed that there would be no compromise on quality in ongoing recruitment of the 25,000 new teachers. On the second chance for the 21,780 sacked primary school teachers, Sani said the state had never exempted any of them from reapplying.
Therefore, the commissioner commended parents and other relevant stakeholders for supporting the government in its effort to reform the education sector in the state.
According to him, the state’s education sector would no longer be a dumping ground for unqualified teachers, saying: “Currently, we have more teachers in urban areas than in rural areas because the salary package is the same and so whenever teachers are posted to rural schools they redeploy to urban centres.
He stressed: “Governor El- Rufa’i has directed the Ministry of Education and other relevant stakeholders to come up with juicy incentives that will keep quality teachers in rural areas. “We will also introduce a programme of identifying “supper teachers” and motivate them to encourage the clamour for excellence in the teaching profession.
“But, I want to assure you that the state government will not shift its ground in entrenching quality and standard in teaching and learning in its schools.
“The El-Rufa’i-led administration strongly believed that only access to affordable and quality education would ensure social mobility for children of the poor to have improved standard of living.” “This is because only quality education will equip them with the needed skills to be creative, inventive and be part of the social movement towards development and self-fulfillment.”
The governor, the commissioner noted, had directed the affected teachers from day one to reapply and that about 12,000 of them had already applied, saying the new window is particularly for the remaining 11,780 who did not reapply to do so and would be given priority.
But, he hinted that only 4,000 out of the more than 43,000 applicants, who sat for the recently conducted aptitude test for new teachers scored 75 per cent and above.
“Therefore, for those that did not apply, recruitment is an ongoing process in the public service. Once the first batch are recruited, SUBEB will identify teachers gap and will continue to recruit,” he said.
Embracing the government’s position, the NUT said: “SWEC hereby extends its hand of fellowship to the Kaduna State Government and implore it to always engage the NUT in all matters relating to the implementation of service delivery in the education sector and teachers welfare.”
The teachers’ leadership also commended its members for remaining united and resolute in the struggle, and the leadership of the Labour movement in Nigeria and the general public who identified with them during their principled struggle.
“In the light of the above, SWEC unanimously resolved to reciprocate the gesture of the Kaduna State Government by calling off with immediate effect the indefinite strike action embarked upon by teachers in the public schools in Kaduna state,” NUT noted.