CDWR Supports Teachers’ Warning Strike in Osun State
CDWR Supports Teachers’ Warning Strike in Osun State
Strike shows utter failure of Aregbesola government’s education policies
On 14th November, 2014, the Osun State Wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) started a three-day warning strike to draw the attention of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola-led Osun State government to the rot that public schools in the state are in. Subsequent upon the government’s failure to show any serious concern to the demands of the teachers at the end of the three-day warning strike, the union, NUT, extended the strike to fourteen days. There is a high possibility that the strike will snowball into full-fledge strike, as the Aregbesola government, despite all its pretensions to progressivism, has not made any positive response to the simple demands of the teachers as at the time of writing this piece.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR), Osun State Chapter, hereby express our support for the three-day warning strike being embarked upon by the Osun State Wing of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). We call on the NUT to take the next bold step by mobilizing their members, students and parents out to defend public education in the state, if the state government refuses to yield to these simple demands. We call on the NUT to immediately call congresses of their members and mass meetings of teachers, parents and students to mobilize for mass protests, demonstrations, pickets and other mass actions. We also call on Aregbesola government to immediately accede to the teachers’ demands.
This warning strike again confirms our long held position that the so-called education reform of the Aregbesola government is nothing but a huge ruse. Just some few weeks ago, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) came out with the results of the last Senior School Certificate Examinations, with Osun State in the 22nd (twenty-second) position. The latest strike has further underscored the fact that the so-called education reform of the government is disoriented. According to the statement credited to the NUT in Osun State, the demands of the union include “non-provision of instructional materials like chalks, school registers and textbooks, and non-payment of leave grants to secondary schools teachers since December 2013, as well as non-payment of examination grants to primary schools for the past six terms” (Vanguard, Friday, 13/11/2014). Consequent upon these problems, “principals and head teachers had been running the schools with their salaries“.
How do we reconcile the fact that the same state government that claimed to have committed more than N10 billion to refurbishing and building new schools, will find it difficult to provide chalk, school register and textbooks for existing schools? How will government justify these billions budgeted for education that cannot provide chalk and textbooks for schools? Is it then surprising that Osun State came far below the average failure rate in WAEC?
This current strike by NUT is a shame on the Aregbesola government, as it reflects utter failure of its policies. That the government did not take any practical step, even when NUT gave a 14-day ultimatum shows that the government is only paying lip service to education. As we have had cause to state on several occasions that the so-called education reforms of the Aregbesola government is nothing but an elitist venture that will end in fiasco for education in Osun State, while guaranteeing fat bank accounts for political patrons and big time contractors. For instance, the government claimed to have spent billions of naira on procurement of computer tablets for senior secondary students, the fact remains that this is just another conduit pipe for mismanaging and looting the resources of the state. Aside the computer tablets not having the much-touted textbooks and other materials, there is a huge disconnect between students and teachers. Indeed, the tablets only contained teachers’ notes, which are grossly inadequate for students to study.
As much as we will welcome any effort at modernizing teaching and learning, the near-collapse state of education requires government to go to the rudiments by providing immediate facilities and infrastructures like classrooms, furniture, laboratories, libraries, information and communication technology facilities for teachers and students, instructional materials, and employment of adequate teaching and non-teaching staff in schools. All of these are obviously lacking.
For instance, in most schools in the state, there is short supply of teachers especially for critical subjects such as English language, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Literature-in-English, etc. In many schools, it is the youth corps members that provide little support. Meanwhile, just two years ago, the state government forced thousands of teachers into retirement through its anti-worker pension policy that compelled workers to either join the exploitative and ruinous Contributory Pension Scheme or retire by 2012. While thousands of experienced teachers were forced out of service, the government has refused to employ adequate number of new teachers to replace them; not to even mention increasing the number of teachers. This has worsened already terrible situation.
Furthermore, the merger policy of the government, in which over 2, 100 schools are being merged into about 900, has affected many students. Some students and pupils who cannot afford the high cost of transport due to their movement to other schools are abandoning schools or have lost interests. Those who took the pain of attending schools can hardly concentrate. Meanwhile, for a student or pupil to change his or her school, he or she must reportedly cough out N2000. The few school buses procured by the government are grossly inadequate for a student population of close to a million. This is Aregbesola government’s definition of free education.
Therefore, the decision of the NUT to show interests in the degrading state of education in the state is welcome. This point should be appreciated when viewed against the background that this strike is not exactly about pay and emolument, but the state of schools. However, we call on NUT to organize industrial actions on all other issues and policies, including those highlighted above. We call on NUT, in conjunction with other education workers’ unions in the state to organize genuine Education Summit and chart practical lines of actions to stop government from its ruinous education policies. One of the central demands of workers should be that education should be properly funded, and the sector should be democratically managed with active involvement of education workers’ unions, parent forums and student platforms. This is one of the ways to prevent money voted for education ending up in the private accounts of individuals.