One week after, primary school teachers in FCT call off strike

Codi Saxon

Pupils in public primary schools in Abuja have been asked to return to classrooms one week after the striking teachers shut the schools over unpaid arrears of promotion benefits. The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the FCT said it has suspended its indefinite industrial action after interventions from relevant […]

Pupils in public primary schools in Abuja have been asked to return to classrooms one week after the striking teachers shut the schools over unpaid arrears of promotion benefits.

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the FCT said it has suspended its indefinite industrial action after interventions from relevant authorities.

The development, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, was taken at the end of an emergency meeting of the State Wing Executive Council (SWEC) which held at the Teachers’ House, Gwagwalada, Abuja, saying the decision was based on the commitment of the area councils’ chairmen to implement the 2019 and 2020 promotion in November salary.

The NUT Abuja Chairman, Stephen Knabayi, confirmed this to our reporter Friday morning.

The NUT Abuja branch had declared a five-day warning strike, which initially affected both public primary and secondary schools in Nigeria’s capital on November 18.

Teachers in public secondary schools, however, resumed work at the expiration of the warning strike after the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Muhammad Bello, made a promise to pay the arrears of promotion benefits in December.

Meanwhile, their counterparts in the primary schools went ahead with an indefinite strike.

The indefinite strike affected primary schools managed by the Local Education Authorities (LEA) in the area councils in Abuja.

The teachers said the six area council chairmen are yet to implement any of their demands, despite various ultimatums issued to them to settle the outstanding entitlements of the teachers.

The demands include non-implementation of teachers’ promotion arrears from 2014 to 2018, non-implementation of 2020 and 2021 annual increments, and upgrading of qualified teachers.

They also want the FCT to enhance the security situation in schools amid rising security threats.

PREMIUM TIMES visited several primary schools within the FCT on Tuesday and found their gates and classrooms locked with no pupils in sight.

Mr Knabayi on Friday morning said the union asked the teachers and pupils to return to classrooms on Thursday after the chairmen of the six area councils in Abuja agreed on how they would pay the outstanding arrears of the teachers.

He said the area council chairmen have committed to come up with a template for payment of outstanding arrears from December 2021.

The official said the suspension of the indefinite strike was detailed in a communique issued after the SWEC meeting.

Paralysis

PREMIUM TIMES visited many primary schools within the FCT on Tuesday and found their gates and classrooms locked, with neither teachers nor pupils in sight.

TEXEM
Entrance gate of LEA primary school in Gwarimpa, Abuja on lock and chains Tuesday.
Entrance gate of LEA primary school in Gwarimpa, Abuja on lock and chains Tuesday.
Signpost of LEA primary school Gwarimpa Abuja
Signpost of LEA primary school Gwarimpa Abuja

At the Local Education Authorities (LEA) primary school, Gwarimpa, the main entrance gates and all classrooms were under lock and keys on Tuesday.

But at the LEA primary school, Jabi, a few teachers were within the school compound attending to personal matters.

Class rooms at LEA primary school in Jabi locked.
Class rooms at LEA primary school in Jabi locked.

One of the teachers, who does not want to be quoted, said they were in the school to resolve some payment issues.

The teacher said the union resolved to continue with the strike because of the non-commitment and lack of political will by the six area council chairmen in the FCT towards settling outstanding entitlements of primary school teachers in the FCT.

The source noted that the teachers are aware of the ripple effect of keeping pupils away from school, especially after the toll COVID-19 lockdown took on the academic calendar, but said the union has no option as the payment issues have lingered for a long time.

Class blocks at LEA primary school in Life Camp, Abuja locked.
Class blocks at LEA primary school in Life Camp, Abuja locked.

Also, at the LEA primary school, Life Camp area of the city, which shares the same premises with a secondary school, the situation was the same as classrooms were locked up.

Signpost LEA primary school in Life Camp Abuja.
Signpost LEA primary school in Life Camp Abuja.

Demands

The teachers are protesting the non-implementation of promotion arrears from 2014 to 2018, non-implementation of 2020 and 2021 annual increments, and upgrading of qualified teachers.

The teachers’ union said it is also demanding the payment of the 2016, 2017, and 2018 promotion arrears to the secondary school teachers in the FCT.

It also wants the FCT to enhance the security situation in schools amid rising security threats.

According to the acting secretary of the union in the FCT, Margareth Jethro, the six area council chairmen are yet to implement any of their demands despite various ultimatums issued to them to settle the outstanding entitlements of the teachers.

Meanwhile, before the primary schools embarked on an indefinite strike, the FCT Minister, Mr Bello, had chaired a meeting between the FCT administration and the leadership of the NUT, to resolve the issues.

The minister, at the meeting which was held in his office and attended by the NUT leadership and heads of security agencies, promised to pay the 2017 and 2018 promotion arrears before the end of the year.

The FCT administration, however, did not intervene on other demands, especially that of the payment of arrears of LEA teachers under the administration of the area councils; a decision that prompted the primary schools to continue with the strike.

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