Friday 12 October 2012


Abbey speaking at a Symposium Organised by DSM at University of Ibadan
 My profound appreciation goes to the organizers of this workshop particularly the leadership and members of Ibadan North branch of Oyo State wing of Nigeria Union of Teacher (NUT) for thinking it worthy toinvite me as the GUEST SPEAKER of this year edition of world teacher day.
As a socialist, I am personally enthused with the theme of this workshop: Take a stand for Teachers, which in my opinion is like a clarion call on the leadership of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the representative of both primary and secondary school teachers to kick-start the process of organizing, mobilizing and educating Nigeria teachers both in private and public school towards the direction of making sure that, the Nigeria government at all level  pay  necessary attentions to teachers concerns and priorities regarding education.
It will be recalled that one of the reason of inaugurating the world teachers day by United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  in 1994 was to have a particular day set aside through which Teachers all over the world will always come together to  highlight their concerns and priorities regarding education.
Worthy to note that, the world teachers' day we celebrate today was a product of concerted effort and agitation of Education international, a global union federation of teachers' trade union. In 1966, the, EI through its agitation forced the special intergovernmental conference to adopt UNESCO/ International labor Organization, ILO recommendations which for the first time gave teacher an instrument which define their responsibilities and assert their rights. It was the adoption of these recommendations that made it possible for UNESCO in 1994 to be able to set aside every 5th October as the day to commemorate the world teachers' day.
 Unfortunately, despite the fact that Nigeria  had always been among 100 countries where teachers  commemorate this day  yearly, the terrible condition such as poor welfare package and absence of necessary working tools, under which  Nigeria teachers work had clearly showed how Nigeria government at all level had consciously failed to  pay necessary attention to teachers concerns and priorities regarding education thus weakening their morale.
Take for instance, in most public schools across the country; classrooms building are in rickety condition with their roofs leaking and walls collapsing. Most often, students are forced to take their classes under the trees. Most cases, primary and secondary schools are over crowded with more than 100 pupils per class/teacher, as against the teacher to students' ratio of 1:35 recommended by the UNESCO.
Sometime a school having a student population of 8000 or above maintains only one teacher in compulsory subject like mathematics, English, biology who in most cases has to handle the same subject from JSS1 class to SS3 class! Having a single teacher handing such a large class, means that the teacher will be unable to assess his/her student effectively.
Again, teachers being in the category of other professionals like doctor, lawyers, engineers are supposed to be placed on professional salary scale. This was the crux of TSS agitation which lasted for months in 2008. After, five month of this struggle, the federal government as well as state governors under the platform of Governor Forum signed an agreement with the National leadership of NUT which stipulated that the salary of Nigeria teachers in public schools most  be increased by 27.5% of their basic salary.
It is quite painful to remark that, four years after signing this agreement, not fewer than 16 states across the country are yet to honor this agreement. Even, Governor of states where the 27.5% pay rise is being implemented, have made series of attempts to consciously discontinue the implementation of the gain of over five months nationwide TSS struggle. Notably among states where this attempt was made is Oyo State, where the so called progressive ACN -led government attempted in its bid to renege from the full implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage  to discontinue the implementation of 27.5% pay rise for Oyo State Teachers. Having failed in this bid, the Oyo State government further went ahead to sack 3000 teachers in its false claims of curbing crime and immoralities.
As we of DSM had repeatedly and severally stated we condemn the allegation of sharp practices like forgery, corruption and falsification of age/certificate upon which the sack of the affected workers was predicated. At the same time we condemn the attitude of the Oyo State ACN-led government for sacking workers based on allegations without providing an avenue of fair hearing for the affected workers to defend themselves against the alleged offence. It is on this basis we maintained that the two review panels whose constitution further question the veracity of the entire process under which the sack was predicated were like a medicine after death!
However, I learnt that over 1000 of the sacked teachers were just reinstated few days ago. Assuming one of the reinstated teachers was among those that already died due to a shock which emanated from their sack, what kind of compensation can the government give to such a dead person?
In private schools the condition of teachers is far worse. Teachers are not even allowed to participate or observe the world teachers' day. This is because almost all private schools are run with casual teachers. These are category of teachers who were employed without employment letter and they are usually dismissed verbally because they lack any union protection. Salary increase is unheard of in such employment. Infact, a teacher is usually made to teach as many as possible subjects and classes. This helps the proprietor to reduce the number of teachers to be employed.
Pregnant female teachers are disallowed to proceed on maternity leave which would mean other teachers would have to be employed to replace them. In some cases, in many interviews, female teachers are warned before employment not to get pregnant if they have not worked for five years. Official school closes at 2pm but teachers in private schools are made to work till 5pm. Pay is very low with no hope of increase unless the proprietor or owner is benevolent enough to see the need for it.
I have decided to give this long background of the plight of Nigerian teachers, just to show the kind of "attention" Nigeria government and Private owner of schools had been paying to teachers as well as education. Therefore, to roll back and reverse this ugly and terrible trend, Nigerian teachers and teaching profession is subjected to, the leadership of NUT at all level must as a matter of urgency take a stand for teachers.
To take a stand for teachers means that NUT must insist that teachers deserve living wage, as well as better working condition and environment. In addition, the NUT must join other education workers unions like Academic Staff of University Union, ASUU to continue the call for proper funding of public education by government at all levels in order to guarantee adequate provision of functional facilities and well-motivated manpower for quality education. NUT must also consider as part of its stand to be taken for teachers to consciously and seriously pursue the necessity to unionize teachers in private schools across the country.
Again, in taking a stand for teachers, the NUT must refute the deceit that Nigeria government can not fund education alone. Infact, recently statistics showed that Nigeria 's crude oil production daily is 2.5 million barrel. At the rate of $133 that a barrel of crude oil is currently sold at the international market, Nigeria makes not less than $282.5million; $8.475billion; $101.7billion on daily, monthly and yearly basis respectively. The Naira equivalent of this figure is N16.272tr/yrs. With 2012 estimated budget of N4.5tr, there is a huge sum of N11.772tr the Nigerian ruling class and its representative in government cannot account for.

If the money the Nigerian state makes from the sale of crude oil alone is well utilized and democratically used, it is enough to begin to transform the entire educational sector as well as  other sectors of the economy. But as long as various neo-liberal policies like privatization, commercialization, devaluation, commercialization, retrenchment, deregulation among others remain the economic philosophy of various governments across the country formed on the basis of pro-rich, anti-workers political parties like PDP, ACN, ACCORD, APGA, LP etc social services like education, health will always be starved of adequate funding

Given this background, I strongly hold that, NUT must prioritize the need to fight all forms of neo-liberal policies as part of the stand it has to take for teachers. This kind of fight against all kinds of neo-liberal policies must be seen as a basis toward a socialist transformation and reconstruction of Nigerian state.
As a Socialist am convinced that only a socialist Nigeria where the commanding heights of the economy are nationalized and placed under the democratic control and management of the workers and poor that can guarantee an adequate funding of education as well as other social services thereby permanently reversing the ugly trend of poor condition and environment in which Nigerian teachers work as well as the poor state of Nigeria education.
In the light of this, I hereby use this forum to call on all of us here present today as well as the leadership of NUT at National, State and local level to join us in Democratic socialist movement (DSM) in our campaign for a socialist transformation of Nigeria.
Again as we are approaching another election year to elect those who will be leading our union in the next four years. I will like to call on us to be vigilant and diligent to make sure that only a credible leader that will be able to take a stand for us is democratically allowed to emerge. Such a leader must be able to take a stand in addition to the one highlighted above to maintain that Oyo state workers deserve: a full implementation of N18, 000 minimum wage across board as well as  right to full and gainful employment.
Aluta Continua Victoria Acerta

No comments: