TEACHERS PROTEST IN LAGOS STATE
TEACHERS PROTEST IN LAGOS STATE
Some teachers in Lagos State went on a peaceful protest on Friday January 30, 2009. This protest, unlike last year’s 3 months strike embarked upon by teachers across the federation to fight for an improved salary popularly called Teachers Salary Scale (TSS), was to demand the re-absorption and full employment of 1,100 teachers that had participated in Federal Teachers Scheme (FTS) into Lagos State service.
The Federal Teachers Scheme was a special programme introduced by the federal government and spearheaded by Universal Basic Education (UBE) in collaboration with the state governments across the federation with the aim to reduce the acute shortage of teachers in primary education. The agreement was to employ qualified NCE graduate teachers for a period of two years after which they would be fully employed by their respective state governments. 40,000 teachers were recruited throughout the federation out which 1,100 were assigned to Lagos State for the scheme that was held between October 2006 and October 2008.
A special advertorial jointly issued and signed by the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission and Chief Executive of the National Teachers’ Institute Kaduna published in Nigerian Tribune of Thursday January 29, 2009 buttresses the foregoing. It reads in parts, “The FTS participants are recruited, inducted and posted to states for a two-year period at the end of which these states are expected to absorb them into their service.”
The Lagos State Government has been reneging on the FTS agreement in the last three months the participant teachers have been due for full employment. According to these teachers, they have worked judiciously and painstakingly with all the necessary sacrifice, only for them to be left in the cold. Most states of the federation including neighbouring Ogun State have re-absorbed and fully employed their own teachers.
The teachers were paid paltry N13,000 per month for the period the scheme but they persevered with the hope that after the scheme better salaries and condition of service would be due to them. Federal government contributed N10, 000 while the State government augmented the money with N3,000. This disgustingly meagre salary was not even paid as at when due, as the teachers in some cases were owed backlog of salaries. The teachers complained that the N13,000 given to them could barely carter for transportation as some of them work at 3 Local Governments away from their home while most of them went borrowing in order to survive.
Teachers protest – photo DSM
It was against the above background the affected teachers had gathered at SUBEB secretariat and embarked on a mini- march protest around Maryland, Ikeja. The protest, which was led by comrades of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), took them to two electronic media, Channels Television and Galaxy Television, where they expressed their anguish at the nonchalant attitude of Lagos State towards their plight since being laid off after the completion of the scheme in October 2008. They demanded their full employment into Lagos State service in line with the FTS agreement.
Lagos state, more than any other state in the country, needs more teachers in public schools because of the overwhelming shortage of teachers. A state that takes education seriously will not allow a gross inadequacy in personnel and lack of facilities. Lagos public schools, most especially the primary schools, lack basic facilities, which have continued to undermine the capacity for quality education delivery. During the scheme most of the teachers taught in classes of between 90 pupils and 190 pupils! The implication now is that a good number of pupils have no teacher to teach them. More and more parents have stopped enrolling their children in public schools, particularly at the primary school level because of the decay.
There are 1,006 primary schools and so 1,100 teachers amounts roughly to an average of one teacher per school, which is grossly insufficient given the state of schools. This has made laying-off 1,100 teachers smack of gross irresponsibility on the part of Lagos State government. Despite the decaying state of education, road, health, etc., the media have deliberately touted the governor as a performing governor because of tree planting on few major roads and the demolition of buildings and shops that are occupied by the poor residents and traders.
The teachers in their protest have called on the Lagos State government to absorb them into its service as agreed with the federal government and the affected teachers. This is a test case for Governor Babatunde Fashola as regards education in Lagos State beyond the free education slogan, which is largely underfunded and lacking in quality. It is unfair for the teachers to be laid-off without any cogent reason. They have been asked to remain at home indefinitely until the Lagos State is ready for them.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has called on the Lagos State government to immediately absorb the 1,100 teachers as some other states has done. We also call the Lagos State government to employ and regularise the teachers under a better condition of service and improved salaries and allowances to enable them teach the pupils properly. The ERC also call on other state governments, which have not implemented FTS agreement to absorb all the teachers and improve on the state facilities in order to make learning and teaching meaningful.
About 200 teachers participated in the peaceful protest. The teachers have vowed to continue the protest on Monday February 2, 2009 at Alausa, the seat of power in Lagos State, and this time around, a more massive one. At this protests copies of Socialist Democracy were sold and three of the protesting teachers declared interest to join the DSM and ERC.