On Monday, September, 11, 2023, primary school pupils and secondary students across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were expected to resume for their first term academic activities, but only secondary school students resumed while the pupils failed to resume due to strike action by teachers of the Local Education Authority (LEA) in the territory.
The indefinite strike action by primary school teachers followed the directive by the FCT wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in a communiqué issued on September, 8, 2023 after the State Wing Executive Committee (SWEC) meeting, directing all its members across the six area councils to down tools over non-payment of 25-month promotion arrears and 40 per cent peculiar allowance of its members by the six chairmen of the area councils the FCT.
The union, in its communiqué, noted that the strike action became necessary after having explored and exhausted all available avenues of getting the outstanding demands of its concerned members without any desired result, including non-commitment from the area council chairmen to the welfare of primary school teachers.
The communiqué, which was jointly signed by the chairman of the state NUT, Comrade Stephen Knabayi, secretary, Comrade Margareth I. Jethro and public relation officer, Samson Haruna, added that the council chairmen had also failed to pay other outstanding allowances, which they said included promotion arrears, non upgrading of teachers, non implementation of annual increment, non implementation promotion letters released for teachers, among others.
The industrial action, which has entered its second week without any sign from either the teachers or the stakeholders to shift grounds by coming to compromise, has not only paralysed academic activities across LEA primary schools in the FCT, but has posed a serious concern to parents seeing their wards at home while their secondary counterparts are in school.
A parent, Mrs Justina Gwatana, told our reporter that she was worried over the ongoing strike action by primary school teachers as her children have been at home and greatly worried.
She said two of her male children only play football while her female child in primary 4 lament on a daily basis.
“In fact, since this strike commenced two weeks ago, my kids, especially the two male ones, hardly stay at home. The moment they take their breakfast, the next thing is to go and play football. They only come home when they are hungry.
“Sometimes I have to go and look for them to come home and eat and I will not see them. You can see what the ongoing strike is causing,” .
She said there’s the need for stakeholders in the education sector to dialogue with the teachers and pay their allowances and other entitlements so that the children would return to school.
Another parent, Adejumo Bankole, said the strike action posed a serious risk on the lives of pupils, saying some parents had taken advantage of the situation to make their children hawk in the streets.
He said it was unfortunate that the area council chairmen, who have been receiving huge monthly allocations from the federal government, were unable to pay primary school teachers their entitlements.
“It is quite unfortunate that the area council chairmen have become the enemies of the teachers. I said so because they have refused to pay teachers their entitlements, while they are busy building mansions and buying cars and motorcycles for their followers on a daily basis.
“In fact, I know one of the area council chairmen that have built a mansion for himself and is building for two of his brothers in this FCT, but anti corruption agencies are pretending not to know what is happening,” he said.
Bankole appealed to the authorities of the FCT Administration to intervene in order to resolve the matter so that the pupils can resume classes.
Mrs Gladys Ayuba, another parent, said there was danger in allowing children to remain at home, saying some of them engaged in social vices such as stealing etc.
“It is even more dangerous now that there are reported cases of manhood stealing and child trafficking by evil people in our society. Therefore, government should, as a matter of urgency, intervene so that teachers would return to their classes,” she said.
A teacher, Mohammed Suleiman, who is also an executive member of the NUT in the FCT, said the teachers had been relegated to a level that government no longer gave them the desired priority.
“Some pupils came to school on the first day of resumption but we asked to go home until our demands are met, “ he said.
He said it was quite unfortunate that stakeholders in the education sector in the FCT didn’t care about the welfare of primary school teachers.
“Secondary school teachers in the FCT have received their 40 per cent peculiar allowance and other arrears but we at the primary school level have been abandoned,” he added.
Suleiman said he was part of the executive that met with the FCT minister of state and the mandate secretary for education, alongside the six area council chairmen on Monday, where resolution could not be reached between the union and the authorities.
“At that meeting, you can imagine that the area council chairmen pleaded that we should give them three months before they would look into our demands.
“That was how the meeting ended in deadlock as we insisted that before we would call off or suspend the strike, the chairmen should pay us the 40 per cent peculiar allowance in full and 25 months arrears promotion they are owing us,” he said.
Another source who was also part of the meeting, but craved anonymity, confided in Daily Trust Saturday, that stakeholders at the meeting, which was presided by the FCT minister of state Hajiya Mariya Mahmoud, where the mandate Secretary for education pleaded with union to call off the strike in order to pave way to continuous dialogue, which he said failed.
According to the source, the six area council chairmen had agreed on five other issues aside the new minimum arrears and 40% per cent peculiar allowance, but they pleaded that they can only afford to start paying some of the smaller backlogs of arrears by end of September, 2023.
He said the union rejected the positions of the council chairmen, which he said prompted the FCT minister of state, Hajiya Mariya Mahmoud, to setup a committee in order to resolve the matter between the union and the area council chairmen.
“And we make the stakeholders to understand that we will not call off or suspend the strike action until the 25 months arrears promotion and the 40 peculiar allowance for teachers paid in full just the way other secondary school teachers of the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB) and Secondary Education Board (SEB) were paid too,” he said.
Reacting, the chairman of the FCT wing of the NUT, Comrade Stephen Knabayi, said the union would not shift ground until the demands of its members were met.
He said the union had written several letters to the council chairmen and given them an ultimatum, which he said had elapsed without any positive outcome; hence, the union will only call off or suspend the strike action when the demands of its members are met.
When Daily Trust Saturday, contacted the director of the Universal Basic Education (Board) in the FCT, Dr Hassan Sule, on phone over position of the board on the ongoing strike, he did not pick calls or reply to text message sent to his phone.