TEACHERS in Ekiti State took to the streets of Ado Ekiti, the state capital, on Monday to protest against transfer of primary schools to the local governments.
The teachers under the aegis of the state’s wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) had massed at the Awedele junction as early as 8 am, had marched through the streets, chanting solidarity songs.
They headed for the state’s House of Assembly, where they were received by the lawmakers, led by the Speaker, Kola Oluwawole; the Chief of Staff, Chief Dipo Anisulowo; the Head of Service, Dr Olugbenga Faseluka and other top government functionaries.
The teachers carried placards with inscriptions, including ‘LG autonomy is perpetual slavery for primary education’, ‘Don’t enslave primary education with LGs’ autonomy’, ‘Foundation of primary education in Nigeria is under threat with proposed LG autonomy’, ‘No to LG autonomy with primary school funding’ and ‘Once beaten, twice shy, no marriage of primary schools with LGs’.
Speaking through its chairman, Comrade Samuel Segun Olugbesan, NUT warned of serious consequences of ceding the administration of primary schools, including payment of salaries and allowances of teachers of primary schools to councils, should they eventually be given autonomy.
Olugbesan explained teachers were not opposed to the agitation for the independence of the LGs, clarifying “We are not opposed to LG autonomy, but if this will make the LGs take over primary education administration, we reject it.”
According to him, if the councils eventually won independence, the administration of primary schools should become the responsibility of either the federal or state governments, noting only this could assure the teachers of prompt payment of their salaries and allowances which he said was currently suffering.
Addressing the lawmakers, Olugbesan said: “We have come to tell the whole world that teachers must be respected, listened to and loved, and the time is now. We have heard that some people are working for the independence of the local governments. We are not opposed to this. But we reject the autonomy if teachers would be put under the councils.
“There was a time house owners were refusing to let out their houses to teachers. This was a period the LGs owed teachers about 30 months salaries and allowances. Things were so bad that no one could be proud of being a teacher.
“You can afford not to have polytechnic or university education. Someone can decide not to obtain other qualifications after the primary school. Primary education is basic and fundamental. We must respect the teachers. We want to send you to the governor who we know love and appreciate teachers not to do anything that will enslave the teachers,” Olugbesan said.
The Speaker, in company with his deputy, Segun Adewumi, Head of Service, Dr Gbenga Faseluka and Chief of Staff to the governor, Bar. Dipo Anisulowo, assured both the governor and the State Assembly would support them in their agitation, adding that whatever would disturb prompt and timely payment of teachers must be avoided by all means.
Oluwawole said: “You are making a legitimate demand and Ekiti State government will support you. Primary education is the foundation of enlightenment. The payment of teachers has to be regular and sustainable. You have submitted a position a position paper which will be channelled to the national headquarters for proper address.”