According to reports, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) yesterday threatened to begin a strike if the demands of its members are not met. Their demands include the increase of their retirement age from 60 to 65 years and improvement of their welfare.
The NUT made the demands as the world celebrated the Teachers’ Day. Noting that every education system needs an appropriate quality and quantity of teachers to function properly, the union lamented that the sector in the country is plagued by a shortage of experienced professional due to a high retirement rate without corresponding recruitment of new persons to fill the resultant vacancies.
The National President of NUT, Michael Olukoya, who spoke yesterday in Abuja at an event to mark this year’s Teachers Day, enjoined all tiers of government in the country to urgently pay up all salaries owed teachers.
“In the same vein, the union calls on the government to ensure that the benefits (gratuities and monthly pensions) of retired teachers are paid promptly.
“NUT restates its demands that the state governments should appreciate and take up their constitutional responsibility of providing and maintaining primary education, including the provision of funds for payments of teachers salaries, in line with the 2002 judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria,” Olukoya said.
According to him, the union resolved to make this year’s celebration low-key in consideration of the economic recession in the country which has adversely affected the welfare of teachers, smooth running of the school system and the entire education sector. He urged the Federal Government to ensure that only professionally trained and qualified persons are engaged in the proposed recruitment of 500,000 teachers to promote professionalism and effective service delivery in the school system.
NUT advised the state governments to avoid promoting privatisation and commercialisation of education especially at the primary and secondary levels through the handover of schools to voluntary agencies in the guise of seeking higher standards.
The union urged the Ministry of Education to address the issue of discrimination in the terminal grade levels of graduate teachers in both primary and secondary schools across the country by ensuring a uniform scheme of service for all teachers.
Olukoya urged the government to take the teachers’ demand seriously to avoid the consequence of a nationwide strike.
“It is time to take the bull by the horn. I want to assure you what is customary is two weeks after our teachers’ day we hold our meetings and we call for situation report state-by-state pertaining to the demands of the Nigerian teachers. If in two weeks’ time we meet and nothing positive has happened, do not wait for any other directive, we will call Nigerian teachers out on strike,” he said.
In his address, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, said the theme of this year’s celebration “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status” was apt and relevant to the prevailing state of affairs in the education sector of the country.
Also, Senate President Bukola Saraki urged government at all levels to prioritise the payment of salaries and general welfare of teachers in order to secure the future of the country.