The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby condemns in strong terms the failure of the Yar’Adua and state governments to hearken to the demands of Nigerian teachers who are requesting for improved remuneration as contained in the Teachers Salary Scale. Also, we declare our total support of the teachers for improved living conditions. We enjoin the leadership of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) to lead the struggle to a logical conclusion that will ensure improved and adequate living wage for teachers.
It is ridiculous that the same government that claim to be committed to the human capacity development including education could wait until the teachers, most of whom are paid poverty wages, to embark on wage to improve their living standard. It is ridiculous that the government cannot recognize the link between teachers’ living standards and educational development. According to a UNESCO report, Nigeria requires over 200, 000 teachers to bring to school over eight million children currently out of school, while more teachers are needed to provide quality education to Nigerian children based on international standard, but these numbers of teachers could not be got because teachers are poorly treated by the governments at all level. One would have expected the federal government to immediately concede to the demands of the teachers other than the present hide-and-seek game of the government. This again confirms our belief that the present government is not interested in the development of the country notwithstanding their grandstanding.
This is already confirmed in the manner the federal and state governments are handling the education sector. Currently across all tertiary institutions, fees are being hiked despite the fact that many students come from working class and poor peoples’ backgrounds. Furthermore the federal budget for education is less than 8.3 percent while UNESCO recommended 26 percent for developing nations like Nigeria. This terrible trend of the federal government is being followed by several state governments. Those state governments which claim to be committing more than 20 percent to education only use education as a smokescreen to divert public fund for personal use. This is graphically manifested by the revelation on the looting of the UBE fund by state and federal UBEC officials.
All this has led to degeneration in the standard of education in the country from primary to tertiary level. While primary schools, save for a block of classrooms being constructed in few selected schools, are lacking basic facilities, secondary and most tertiary institutions are in rotten state. Currently while over a million students sat for the last UME examinations, a paltry 200, 000 will be admitted because the universities lack basic facilities to adsorb enough students. This is the crisis that government under funding of education and chronic mismanagement has caused to the education sector.
Therefore, for anybody interested in the revitalization of education, the current struggle of the teachers should be supported as a stepping stone towards forcing the government to properly fund education and pay adequate wages for education workers (and indeed other workers). While politicians in power collect millions of naira as salaries and allowances most teachers are paid less than the N10, 000 minimum wage. As against the excuse of the state and federal governments that they do not have fund to pay the new pay, politicians who are put in education boards and commissions like UBE boards and teaching service commissions are paid hundreds of thousands of naira as monthly pay. If truly the governments do not have the money, they should reduce the salaries of all political office holders to that of the teachers. The reason the government will not pay teachers, and indeed fund education properly, is because the government is committed to neo-liberal capitalist policies that tend to give public resources to big moneybag business and politicians.
Consequently, we of the ERC call on the leadership of the NUT not to compromise but to mobilize not only teachers but also the other oppressed people like other workers, the market women, artisans, youth and the unemployed for mass rallies, protest marches, picket and press campaign that will force the government within the shortest time to concede to the demands of teachers. Furthermore, we enjoin the NUT leadership to ensure that all categories of teachers – federal government-, state-employed and privately-employed teachers – are affected by the TSS. The current attempt of state governments to distance themselves from the issue should not be allowed.
The leadership of central labour unions – NLC and TUC – must not only support the teachers actively by declaring solidarity actions including strikes, protest marches, rallies, etc. but to also start a mass action for N30, 000 minimum wage. We also feel that NUT should join force with other staff and students’ unions in the education sector to demand proper funding of education by at least 26 percent of the budget coupled with democratic management at all levels to include elected representatives of education workers’ and students’ unions.
For us in the ERC, we have declared July 16, 2008 as a National Day of Action to demand proper funding of education by at least 26 percent of the budget coupled with democratic management at all levels to include elected representatives of education workers’ and students’ unions; recall of all victimized workers’ and students’ activists (UNILORIN 49 lecturers, OAU 10, etc.) and end to the culture of victimization; reversal of hike in fees; proper and adequate remuneration of all education workers; among others. We call on students’ and workers’ activists, unions and civil society organizations to join us in this struggle which shall include mass rallies, protest marches and lecture boycotts across campuses, schools and communities. Once again we give our solidarity to teachers in their struggle for better wages.