You and members of your executive just finished from a protracted meeting with the state Deputy Governor. Could you give me an inside of what the meeting was all about?
We went there to meet over some issues affecting primary school teachers in the state and to give an ultimatum to the government to meet our demands. We met with the Deputy Governor who stood in for the governor. At the meeting we agreed on issues and the MoU will be out. We hope and pray that all the issues we agreed on will be actualized before the expiration of that ultimatum.
If I may ask what were those salient issues involved in that session?
There are so many issues. Some primary school teachers are being owed some money since 2016, non-implementation of promotion for both primary and secondary school teachers, non release of funds for teachers’ salary arrears, our license fee, our cooperative and above all our two months arrears of dues…. And also some of our teachers who were removed from the pay roll.
Are you satisfied with the response of the deputy governor or not at all?
As I said earlier, we are praying that what we have agreed on should be actualized. If that is done, there will be no problem.
Tell me if you and your exco got any time frame for the implementation of your demands?
A committee has been set up to ratify some issues. It has been given a time frame to implement the demands. His excellency has solicited with us to give the government about two months to resolve the issues.
In the event that the issues are not resolved, what would the union do?
What will you and your exco do should government decides to renege on agreement reached?
The struggle continues.
Can you tell me the amount of money owed the teachers by state government?
There are various amounts. One is about N15 million, another is about N18 million. These are monies owed the union as deductions for cooperative dues. The teachers are being owed between one and seven months. From June 2016 to December, 2016. Some teachers are owed one month while others are owed up to seven months arrears.
What is the number of teachers involved and if possible tell me the number of teachers that are owed?.
We have about 20,000 teachers both in the primary and secondary schools in the state. Those being owed are primary school teachers.
Former governors Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke renovated schools and bought desks for pupils and students. What is your impression about the present government?
In terms of school repairs, all of them performed equally. But only Duke took the welfare of our members seriously. He paid teachers all kinds of allowances, including headmaster’s allowances, principal’s allowances and rural allowances which made teachers interested to serve in the rural areas. Because the rural allowance has been stopped, teachers are now relocating from rural areas to the urban areas since there is nothing attracting them to the rural areas. We are still soliciting that the allowances should be reinstated so that the teachers could return to the rural areas. In the past teachers were lobbying to go to the rural areas but now they are lobbying to return to urban areas.
What is the union doing about this situation?
To the best of my knowledge, this government through SUBEB has supplied plastic chairs to some schools. I am not aware that school children are buying their own benches. Pin Margareth School is the only school running shift. The morning shift will go by 8am and close by 12.30pm, whereas they are supposed to close by 2pm, while the afternoon session resume by 1pm and close by 5pm. I have complained several times, even on World Teachers’ Day that pupils in that school are being robbed of man hours as they spend 4 hours rather than 7 hours a day in school. There are some government schools that are underutilized. Why can’t some crowded secondary schools occupy those schools? Schools like St Mary, Lutheran Primary School have been renovated but they are being occupied by criminals.
You spoke about unpaid arrears for seven months. Is it the whole teachers that have not been paid?
No. It is just five percent of the teachers (about 1,000 teachers) out of the 20,000 teachers in the state. When the government contracted consultants to fish out ghost workers, in the course of weeding out the ghost workers, there was confusion as some ghosts were declared teachers while some teachers were declared ghosts. Some of them are being owed for one month, some for two months and some for seven months. Those affected have been reinstated but their salaries have not been paid during the period of the confusion. We are still fighting and hope that all these issues are resolved.