- School teachers in Abia state have taken a firm decision to embark on strike action over the government's inability to treat them fairly
- The teachers accused the Abia state government of owing them several months of salary arrears and their entitlements
- For their leave allowances, the teachers said the last time they received such payments was in 2008
- Among other demands made by the teachers is the improvement of the learning environment for school children in the state
With the growing number of out-of-school children in Nigeria shooting up from 10.5 million in 2021 to 18.5 million in 2022, more children might be seeing themselves on the streets of Abia state following an indefinite strike action by teachers.
Legit.ng gathered that teachers in the state commenced indefinite strike action on Monday, May 30, - three days after the children's day celebration - over the failure of the state government to pay their salaries and other entitlement.
One of the teachers who spoke on the matter said the Abia state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers decided to embark on industrial action over the ill-treatment meted on them by the state government.
The teacher who pleaded anonymity because he is not authorised to speak said his colleagues in primary school were not only poorly paid but also made to take only part payment of their salaries.
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"For instance, those in primary school are either sometimes paid half of their salaries or a certain percentage of their monthly salaries.
"In 2021, primary school teachers in Abia state only received 50 per cent of their salaries in two different months of the year and the balance was never paid to them."
For 2022, in March primary school teachers were paid 75 per cent of their salaries and in April the state government paid them only 80 per cent. Of course, the remaining 35 per cent and 20 per cent are forgone because nobody talks about that not even the one from 2021."
Abia teachers received nine only months' salary in 2019
Another teacher, working in a secondary school in the state - who also spoke on the matter - said they were only paid for three months in 2019.
"So right now they are still owing us for nine months, that is for 2019 and we are not even talking about that one anymore."
The teacher also noted that in 2020, the state government managed to pay their full salaries throughout the year in as much as it was never consistent.
She said that in 2020, it could take the Abia state government three months or more to pay for just one month and that kept on dragging until the whole 2020 salary was paid completely.
COVID-19 changes the game for the Abia state government and teachers' salaries
Addressing some of the challenges that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, the teacher told Legit.ng that they had received information from the state government that, due to the outbreak of the disease and its economic impact on the economy, they (the teachers) would only be paid their basic salaries and nothing more.
"They said because we did not work during COVID-19 due to the lockdown, they can only afford to pay us our basic salaries, this was in 2021, almost a year after the first outbreak of the disease in Nigeria.
"And for that 2021, they did not pay us anything at all until December of that year when we got alerts for five months - our basic salaries - and then later in the same year, we received for two months and then another one month making it a total of eight months salary paid for 2021."
According to her, like in 2019, when they received nine months' salary, the government stopped at eight months for 2021.
Abia state government continues with basic salary payments, no entitlement despite return to normalcy after disease outbreak
Further speaking, the secondary school teacher said she received her 2022 January salary two weeks ago (counting from Tuesday, May 31) and on Monday, May 30, she received an alert for February, March and April 2022.
However, the unfortunate thing about the teachers' 2022 salary payment is that the state government has continued to pay their basic salary instead of the full payment as expected.
The teacher said:
"We don't know what their plan is. At first when we received our basic salary for January two weeks ago, we thought it was a mistake but yesterday (May 30), they just paid February, March and April and it was just the basic they paid."
Some of the issues that led to the strike action by Abia state teachers
The teachers in the state are not just suffering from the issues of non-payment or part payment of their salaries.
According to the secondary school teacher, the last time she received her leave allowance was in 2008.
"So, since 2008 until now, we have never been paid any kind of leave allownace by the state government."
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The same ordeal goes for those teaching in primary schools in the state.
Continuing, she said that the purpose of the strike is to address some of the issues pertaining to learning in the state.
The teacher added:
"The poor learning environment our students stay in to study is unbelivable; the schools are not secure, in some, the roofs are leaking and in others there are basically no roofs at all."
"You can come to school one day and noticed that people had invaded the school premises and defecate inside the classrooms and this is unhealthy for any human being."
"Other issues include the non-implementation of the Teachers' Salary Scale (TSS) which was approved several years ago and until today the state government is yet to implement that."
Over 10 million Nigerian girls not in school, UNICEF warns, adopts new initiatives
Currently, there are about 18.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, the United Nations Children's Fund had said.
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The international agency said the figure is a sharp increase compared with the number of out-of-school children in the country in 2021.
According to UNICEF, 60 per cent of the population of children - which amounts to 1,100,000 children - are girls.
Teachers who can't write their names end up spreading ignorance to school children, Adams Oshiomhole warns
Nigerians across the country had been urged to prevail on their governors to prioritise education in their states.
This advice was given to Nigerians by a former governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole during an event in Abuja on Wednesday, March 30.
According to the former governor, there is a need to train, educate and skill up Nigerian youths for possible development.