Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



Government Must Immediately Meet Teachers Demand and Reopen Primary Schools

By Dimeji Macaulay

Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the nonchalant attitude of Benue state government towards the primary school education in the state. The Primary school teachers have been on strike since October 2013 over the state government’s refusal to implement the national minimum wage for teachers in the state. The protest by the primary school pupils on October 24 2013 calling on the government to meet the demands of their striking teachers was despicably repressed by the police apparently at the behest of the state governor.

A warning strike was initially embarked upon by the teachers in June 2013, but government failed to accede to their demand, which led to an indefinite strike. For allowing the strike to linger this long the Gabriel Suswam led PDP government has further shown that it is unrepentantly anti-poor. The public primary schools are attended by children from poor and working class background.

Governor Gabriel Suswam has kept insisting that with resources accrued to the state’s coffers from federal allocation monthly, it is practically impossible to meet the teachers’ demands. We call on the Benue State Government to open the books for scrutiny by elected committee of workers and communities to see clearly how public funds have been managed. However, while the government deliberately refused to pay workers improved wage or living wage, political office holders continue to earn jumbo salaries and allowance aside siphoning of public funds meant for education and other basic infrastructure.

Interestingly, Gabriel Suswan was the chairperson of the Presidential Implementation Committee on NEEDS Assessment, a committee tasked to mediate in the strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) last year. Considering Governor Gabriel Suswam’s own track record of an anti-labour personality, it is no surprise that the Committee failed woefully in its task and instead contributed to the elongation of the ASUU strike last year.

ERC salutes the Nigeria Union of Teacher (NUT) Benue state branch, but insists that the strike must be strengthened by organizing mass rallies/protest. There should be solidarity actions by the national leadership of NUT and industrial unions in the state in order to help defeat this anti-poor government. We also call on Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to declare total support for the striking teachers.