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"Strike causes untold hardship for primary teachers"
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"Strike causes untold hardship for primary teachers"

Elijah ElaigwuNigeria’s government is struggling with insurgency and corruption, but Elijah Elaigwu, 25, a Correspondent from Nigeria, says a prolonged teachers’ strike is an urgent problem for students, staff, and the country’s future.

While the nation is battling to curtail the volume of lives being taken through insurgency, to reduce the high rate of corruption, and enhance the dwindling state of the nation’s educational system; public primary schools in Benue State remained closed. The government is yet to find a lasting solution to the demands of teachers in the state.

Flipping through history, it has been the culture of successive democratic government in the state to withhold teachers’ funds. The negative impact of this has been telling on the crime rate on the street and the number of youths who eventually engage in cultism.

Ever since the industrial action embarked upon by public school teachers in October 2013, children in Benue State have been totally disengaged from their third parent as a result of government inaction to reach a concise agreement with the state chapter of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) over the proposed implementation of the national minimum wage. The disagreement between the two parties has led to the breakdown of primary education in the state and has crippled the hope of most pupils whose parents cannot afford to send them to private schools.

The suspension of their salaries for the past eight months has subjected most teachers to untold hardship and abject poverty. Some are now in gross debt and could hardly meet up with their responsibilities at home.

Mr. Samuel Odu, a father of seven, laments the future of their children and how many have embraced hawking just to make ends meet. He said the prolonged strike questions the sincerity of the governor, who promised to implement the minimum wage for teachers in 2011 while he was seeking re-election into office. The teachers played a major role in his return to office. Yet now their present predicament does not only affect them alone but the society at large.

In a fact-finding visit, an ICIR correspondent witnessed the funeral of Mrs. Agnes Ona, a teacher in Otukpo Local Government area, who slumped and died during the course of the industrial action. This is not the only case of death recorded, as NUT has lost close to seven of its members during this trying moment. Most of them could hardly access health facilities or even have a two square meal a day.  Prior to the strike, it was a known culture of primary school teachers to lay rest their departed ones, but since the advent of the strike, NUT has not been able to meet up to that task.

It is also worrisome to note that children who are supposed to be the pride and future of the Nigerian promise have become hawkers, exposed to harsh treated and prone to danger as a result of the closure of schools. This is not a fair treatment considering the number of destinies that have not just been delayed, but denied their fundamental right to education. As a matter of urgency, the Suswam-led administration should have a rethink on their action by allowing justice, equity and shared pity to play for the children whose futures are at stake.

Some of the teachers said the strike is aggravated by the non-promotion of teachers for the past ten years and the ill treatment of families of deceased teachers. They can hardly access the death benefit of their loved ones. The exemption of teachers from the national minimum wage that is accrued to all other civil servants in the state is also an issue.

According to reports, the seriousness of the strike portends a grave danger to the continuous existence and future of public primary education, as most parents have made a paradigm shift to private schools. Those who cannot afford the cost of sending their children to such schools are left in a handicapped and hopeless situation.

Is there any hope for the hopeless now that even the school structures have been taken over by reptiles and grasses, while some have become a tent for gangs or a refugee camp for the displaced? Will there even be students coming to school after the strike, as most parents have transferred their children to private schools? The strike so far has negatively affected the psychological state of the teachers and the pupils.

Frequent negotiation is beginning to yield positive response from the NUT, with the government willing to pay two months for a start, as disclosed by a reliable source. But the bone of contention now lies on when the money would be paid, as the government is yet to make full commitment to that respect. This to a larger extent is reawakening the almost-lost hope of primary school teachers regarding the situation that has kept them in their homes for eight months now without pay.

photo credit: dolapo via photopin cc

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About me: I am a young, proactive, and result-oriented person with an unending quest for excellence.

I am highly creative and motivational in nature, and always work towards achieving set goals in life. I find fulfilment in writing and addressing issues with skilled professionalism.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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