Teachers have marked the 2016 “World Teachers Day” across Nigeria, with the theme “Valuing Teachers’, Improving their Status”.
They, however, do not have much cause for celebration as they spent most of their time on the streets, carrying placards to demand for better salaries and improvement on their welfare packages.
This comes as at least 80% of Nigerian states owe teachers with some states owing up to nine months salaries and others paying half of the remuneration.
However, officials of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) vowed to take drastic step to address the development, as they claimed that payment of gratuities and general welfare of teachers had been handled with kid gloves.
Speaking in Abuja, the NUT President, Michael Olukoya, gave the state governments owing teachers a two-week ultimatum to address the situation.
He threatened that failure to comply would lead to the teachers embarking on a nationwide strike.
Mr Olukoya noted that the effect of the harsh economy had also made their plight worse as their hopes of receiving salaries at the end of the month had been dashed.
Lending his voice, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, called for support for families of about 600 teachers who lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.
A representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Saidou Jallow, also advocated adequate remuneration of teachers.
In Kaduna State, the teachers lamented the irregular payment of their salaries and expressed concerns over their general well-being.
The State NUT Chairman, Mr Titus Ambah, claimed that primary school teachers were the most affected with many of them being owed up to eight months salaries.
He also complained that the teachers’ annual Leave Transport Grant, which was deducted from their salaries, had not being paid in spite of several appeals to the relevant government authorities.
Ambah, however, commended the Kaduna State government for upgrading teachers’ terminal salary grade-to-grade level, thereby putting them on same with permanent secretaries.
Low Key Celebrations
In Nigeria’s southwest region, the celebration in Osun State was marked in low key with prayers session instead of the usual pomp and parade at the NUT House in Osogbo, the state’s capital.
The NUT State Chairman, Mr Amudah Wakeel, said the decision was taken as a result of the challenges Nigeria was grappling with, especially the economic recession.
He called on the Federal Government to consider the teachers’ demand for a raise in their retirement age from 60-65 years.
Amudah also highlighted some of the problems facing teachers in the state to include payment of half salary, but gave the assurance that they would remain committed to their jobs.
On her part, the Osun State Deputy Governor, Titi Laoye-Tomori urged the teachers to rededicate themselves to impacting quality knowledge in the children.
She noted that whatever they teach would reflect on the wards and reassured them of the state government’s commitment to their welfare.
In Kwara State, teachers also made an appeal for improvement in their status.
They acknowledged that they were the worst hit at a period of economic recession.
The Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, who was with the teachers to commemorate the occasion, admitted that all their needs could not be met because of the present economic reality.
He, however, said he was committed to their needs within the available resources and urged them to carry out their responsibilities with conscience to the pupils, students and the government.
On their part, the teachers called for a pragmatic approach to their plights and urged the state government to address some of the challenges.
Unlike their counterparts, Ekiti State teachers had a different experience, with Governor, Ayodele Fayose, saying that his administration will continue to motivate and support teachers in the state for improved performance and better results.
Governor Fayose made the statement at an event to mark the celebration in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, where he rewarded some outstanding teachers with cash and car gifts.
He also donated 50 million Naira to the teachers for their achievements in the recently released National Examination Council (NECO) results, where the state came first with 96.48 percent performance.
The World Teachers’ Day was celebrated in Ekiti State in a grand style, with teachers from all the 16 local government areas converging on the Oluyemi Kayode stadium in the state’s capital.
In their goodwill messages, some dignitaries and the state’s NLC Chairman, Kayode Akosile, stressed the importance of teachers in the society and commended the Governor for his giant strides in the education sector.