Dramatic end to Kaduna teachers’ strike

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In this report, MUHAMMAD SABIU writes that teachers in Kaduna embarked on a strike after they were sacked by the state government but the crisis came to a dramatic end after the intervention of the labour union and other stakeholders.

FOR residents and indigenes of Kaduna state and indeed Nigerians generally, the imbroglio between the Kaduna state government and its teachers has been of utmost interest for the past few months.

The whole drama started when the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai in September 2017 told a visiting World Bank delegation that half of the primary school teachers in the state were not qualified to teach.

He told the delegation that his government organised a competency test that was meant for primary four pupils for its 33,000 teachers but out of the number, 21,780 failed the test. He also stated that those who failed would be disengaged and 25,000 new teachers would be employed to fill the gap.

A few weeks after this declaration, the governor directed the State Universal Basic Education Board to advertise teaching positions in the state.

It was learnt that at the close of the exercise on 19 November 2017, 43,000 young Nigerians applied for the teaching jobs among whom were two Master’s degree holders.

However, in its efforts to stop the government from going ahead with its threat,  the state wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) headed for the National Industrial Court to seek an injunction.

The president of the court, Justice Lawal Mani, on 15 December 2017, granted the application pending the determination of the substantive suit. The case was adjourned to February 6, 2018.

Undaunted by the court ruling, the governor told newsmen that the union won’t stop him from going ahead with his educational reforms, adding that the court process was already late as the affected teachers had been fired.

Sunday Tribune gathered that the NUT had expressed anger over the sack letters which it alleged were backdated, The union, consequently, on 8 January, when the school session resumed, announced the commencement of an indefinite strike, with the union leaders moving round to stop the teachers from working to ensure total compliance.

According to the state executive chairman of SUBEB, Alhaji Nasir Umar, the monitoring team went around the schools in both the state capital and its environs and observed that the teachers reported for work but were being harassed while the main gates of some schools were locked.

However, piqued by the crisis, the Federal Government, Sunday Tribune learnt had directed the Federal Ministry of Labour to intervene in the matter. A source in the ministry, who pleaded for anonymity, remarked that:  “we met with  the two warring groups (government and union) twice and we were certain that all things being equal everything would be resolved amicably.”

His view was further collaborated by a permanent member of the Board, Shehu Sani Othman, who stated that the strike was not only uncalled for but also not in the interest of the state government and parents.

He said the union could have waited to see the outcome of the dialogue it started with the state government before embarking on the strike. It was also learnt that concerned individuals, senior citizens and traditional rulers in the state had equally called on both the government and the union to resolve the crisis.

However, the crisis reached a crescendo when the National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC),  Comrade Ayuba Wabba,  mobilised labour leaders from the 36 states of the federation to Kaduna to protest the dismissal of the teachers with the parents of the primary school pupils under the leadership of Ibrahim Aliyu organising a pro-el-Rufai rally to support the action of the governor.

The protest by the pro and anti-el-rufai supporters almost led to the break down of law and order if not for the prompt intervention of security operatives leading to the final call for a peaceful resolution because according to security sources political adversaries were exploiting the crisis to create unnecessary tension in the state.

Thereafter, the governor invited the management of SUBEB and the sole administrators of the 23 local government areas for a crucial meeting.

A source at the meeting told the Sunday Tribune that most of the sole administrators advised both the state government and the union to end the crisis because the younger generation was at the receiving end of the crisis, noting that though the reform in the sector was necessary but a common ground must be sought in the interest of the people and the state.

Another source close to the meeting also told the Sunday Tribune that many of the applicants who were expected to replace the disengaged teachers also failed their tests.

“If you look at the percentage of those who passed, it was negligible. So, if you recruit them they don’t have the experience to teach. This is another issue. So, we must find a common ground,” the source said.

To this end, at the end of the stakeholders’ meeting,  two important decisions were made. One was that the appointment letters of the first batch of the newly recruited teachers should be issued without delay.

Thus, the executive chairman of the Board, Nasir Umar told the governor that the first batch of the newly recruited teachers will receive their letters next month. The second decision was to give the dismissed teachers another chance Which the governor approved.

The governor had said in a statement by his media aide, Samuel Aruwan, that “SUBEB has a programme of continuous recruitment and as such will give every teacher that is willing a chance to apply and be considered for recruitment.

“We are not interested in pushing anyone away. We are pushing bad people away so that good ones can come in. That is why we are recruiting 25,000 to take the place of 21,780.”

Barely 24 hours after the decision, the NUT leadership met to review the latest posture of the state government. The meeting which was held at the Teachers End well Hotel on Thursday, 18th January 2018 saw members of the state executive in attendance.

At the end, the union decided to call off its 10-day -old strike. Advancing reasons for its new stand, the  NUT state chairman, Audu Amba, said in a statement that the union is committed to supporting the state government in its quest towards ensuring qualitative education in the state.

To this end, the teachers union posited that “the state wing of the NUT, Kaduna State met today 18th January 2018 to review the situation in the light of the pronouncement of the Kaduna state government which was broadcast on the state media outfit, the KSMC.

“The broadcast which is to the effect that the State government after a meeting with the interim chairman and Education Secretaries of the 23 local governments has decided to give the 21,780 teachers who did not pass the recent competency test another opportunity for consideration under the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) programme of continuous recruitment that will give every willing teacher a chance to apply.

“The State Wing Executive Council (SWEC) of NUT Kaduna commends the above decision of the governor and sees in it an opportunity to resolve the impasse between the teachers in Kaduna state and the state government, the end results of which will be an improvement in service delivery in our public schools

“In the light of the above, SWEC unanimously resolved to reciprocate the gesture of the Kaduna State government by calling off with immediate effect the indefinite strike action embarked upon by teachers in the public schools and secondary schools in Kaduna state.

“SWEC hereby extends its hand of fellowship to the Kaduna State government and implore it to always engage the NUT in all matters relating to the implementation of service delivery in the Education sector and teachers welfare.”

The leadership of the state NUT also commended its members for remaining united and resolute in the struggle, including the leadership of the labour movement in Nigeria and the general public who identified with them during their principled struggle.

Soon after the announcement ending the strike, a cross-section of teachers interviewed by the Sunday Tribune welcomes the peaceful resolution reached by both the state government and the union.

A teacher who is affected by the current crisis had indicated his resolved to re-apply, saying: “I thank the governor for shifting ground. That’s what a leader is supposed to do – listen to his people.”

Another teacher who simply gave his name as Ishiaku thanked the union for the struggle, pointing out that if it was not resolute, it could have been consumed by the crisis.

Also, parents interviewed by the Sunday Tribune welcome the new order. A parent who pleaded for anonymity remarked that the truce reached by the parties must be respected as, according to him, there is no victor, no vanquished.

Another, parent Suleiman Shehu remarked that “a line should be drawn and ensure that in future only qualified teachers are recruited to teach our children

Another parent who wouldn’t like his name in print contended that the next step is to ensure that the dilapidated schools are rehabilitated and furniture provided so that the sons and daughters of the rich would begin to attend public schools.

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