Amid the Federal government’s directives that schools should re-open 18, January, teachers of Abia state commenced indefinite strike owning to backlog of salaries been owed.
Recall that the NUT National leadership in a letter dated December 2nd, 2020, gave the Abia State Government 21 days to clear the salary arrears of her members, among other demands, or risk indefinite closure of schools through strike.
In a release signed by the state Chairman, Kizito Kalu, and the Secretary, Mrs Nnenna Okonkwo, the union said its resolve to embark on strike was because “the Abia State Government has not taken any tangible step aimed at meeting our demands.”
In an interactive program on Flo-Fm 94.9 ,Umuahia, which had the state’s honourable commissioner for information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu as guest, revealed the reason for the accumulation of backlog of salaries, also citing the possibility of politicians from opposition party , influencing the strike action by teachers.
The commissioner however argued that both primary, junior and senior secondary school are not being owed same number of months.
His words: “Contrary to the noise we hear, Primary school teachers, junior secondary school teachers have been paid up to November 2020 meaning they are being owed one month outstanding.
“Where we do have challenge is with the senior secondary. And what we have done in December 2020 is that we paid them three months salary as our own way of defraying part of the outstanding that they had and we made a commitment that in January we will at least do the same thing i.e three months salary again until we are able to clear all the outstanding.”
Chief John Okiyi also revealed that the Abia state government representatives which included the state’s commissioner for finance and commissioner for education reached an agreement with the executives of National Union Of Teachers(NUT), Abia State chapter on Monday 11,2020.
He also said : “Of course you know that we must have also spoken to or negotiated with the National leaders of the NUT. But expectations was that they will go back to school that Monday and we waited for the announcement to be made, till today we have not heard the announcement.
“We reached an agreement.” Chief Okiyi Affirmed.
The Abia State Commissioner however appealed to the teacher to go back to classrooms citing that they have genuine case. He however expressed readiness on the part of the government to clear the outstanding salaries but also cited the dwindling economy challenge in the country as a setback.
During the interview, when asked how many months are senior secondary school teachers being owed, Chief Okiyi said I cannot confirm now but I know that it is couple of months, like about nine months but I can’t confirm the exact number of months.”
Some teachers who spoke to candidreporters.com on the ground of anonymous revealed that they(senior secondary school teachers) are being owed 13months salary aries which accumulated between 2019 to December 2020.
While narrating the reason for the accumulation of salaries, Chief Okiyi said ” the fact remains that they( teachers) are not the only segment that the government will care for. We have other areas to allocate resources to and the resources is limited. Federal allocation is dwindling because oil prices have gone down globally.
” Sometime two years ago we were talking about disarticulation, for long, government has been paying teachers in junior and secondary school whereas that wasn’t the law.
,”The law was very clear that we were not supposed to carry that heavy wage bill. Rather, that junior secondary should form basic part of education.
” So junior secondary should be paid by the local government, while the state government will pay the senior secondary, and now we accumulated some outstandings. what we did was to clear the outstanding prior to disarticulation particularly for both the primary and secondary.
“We still have outstanding with the senior secondary and we have informed them that we want to clear this outstanding, giving you three months in December, in January we want to give you another three months.
“It was quite clear on the tweet of the governor.” Chief Kalu explained.
We all sat down with union leaders and agreed, everyone shook hands and we left and then they came back and said everything we discussed has been cancelled.
“This morning there was a rumour that we asked teachers to forfeit their outstanding salaries. But that’s not true. We didn’t ask teachers to forfeit any outstanding.
“So for you to have such rumour spreading around, you begin to suspect political undertone. How can we have agreement with a union and suddenly everything changes? Then there must be Esau’s hand. We are senseing a political Undertone. Chief Kalu said.
The honourable commissioner also alerted that government has directed civil servants to link their current bank account with their BVN so as to eliminate the payment of ghost workers.
He also alerted that teachers are exposing pupils and students to high risk of contracting covid-19 while on indefinite strike. Citing the reasons to be that pupils and students are safer with close monitoring by teachers other than staying at home with friends and neighbours.