With an emotion-laden voice, Yinka Adekunle, a teacher, spoke of how difficult life has been as with debt piling for him, six months after the Federal government failed to pay teachers taking part in the Universal Basic Education teachers scheme in Ebonyi State.
The scheme is designed to engage unemployed holders of the National Certificate of Education, NCE, as teachers, for a period of two years. The teachers serve in primary or junior secondary schools and are paid a monthly allowance of N18, 000.
Mr. Adekunle was recruited December 2013 in the fourth batch of the programme.
But majority of the teaching staff have been owed for months by the government to promised to help them.
Mr. Adekunle worried not only about his creditors but also how to provide for his pregnant wife.
To get to work daily, he spends N280 on transportation and still covers most of the distances by foot to reduce cost. And with his wife’s pregnancy, N20, 000 for a month’s feeding is no longer sufficient.
“I have started buying baby things now for my wife and I also have to pay for hospital bills too. The only luck I have is my wife is an understanding woman; if not, I’m certain she would have left me long ago,” he said.
He said his family was surviving on credit while waiting for the federal government to pay him.
Frank Emeka, another teacher on the same programme, is single but still finds it difficult to survive.
Mr. Emeka lives in the outskirts of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, which is a long distance from the school where he teaches.
Unlike Mr. Adekunle, Mr. Emeka does not depend on public transportation. He owns a motorcycle and spends N200 for two litres of fuel per day.
To cut costs, he had to reduce his feeding to two square meals from three.
“I spend N300 for my meal which I will eat in the evening and then in the morning I will take something light. I cannot afford to eat three times a day again as I still have other things and family to look out for,” Mr Emeka said.
Ebube Godson is yet another teacher with a wife and a one year old baby whose family survives on proceeds from his wife’s provision store.
“My wife is understanding, thank God for that,” he said. “It gets to a point I feel so shy as a man that can’t provide for his family. I go out to look for where I could hoe grasses and get token as low as N200, depending on how wide the lawn I hoe is.”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the desk office in charge of the payment in Ebonyi State, Mary Otosi, she explained that she was only a middle person between those in charge and those being owed.
“Yes, it’s six months we’ve owed them but they should not worry,” she said. “Like I have always told them, nobody is taking their money from them. It is not as if government wants to take their money. They will be paid and I hope very soon from what they told me in Abuja.”
She said some people had been paid but others were no paid due to wrong account numbers.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that on July 25, allowances for six months, January to June, was paid to only 60 per cent of the present batch.
All 400 participants were asked to open an account with both Stanbic IBTC Bank (Nos 1-200) and UBA Bank (200-400) for easy payment.
Those who opened an account with Stanbic Bank were told that their accounts were closed as they had not been operated since they were opened. Those who opened accounts with UBA were told their name and numbers were incorrect.
Mostly those who opened accounts with UBA were affected by the delayed payment, purportedly as a result of wrong/incomplete account name and numbers.
The teachers affected were asked to fill and submit another form to the desk officer and promised they would receive their allowances in two weeks’ time, between August 6-19
“On August 20, we visited the desk officer again to ask for our allowance and she told us that she has packaged the correction to Universal Basic Education Commissions, UBEC, which would forward the money to our various accounts,” one teachers said.
On October 10, when PREMIUM TIMES visited UBEC, Abuja, our reporter was passed from one desk to another for over an hour before being asked to return.
Four hours after the reporter left the UBEC office in Abuja, one of the teachers called to say they had been paid for the entire six months.
However, some of the teachers are still owed their money.
“It’s a week now after some teachers received alert, am yet to receive my own, about 75 of us are yet to receive ours,” one teacher said, asking not to be named as civil servants are not allowed to speak to the media.
“We have gone to complain and we were told that it will be worked on soon. But its long due and nothing from them,” a teacher said.
Some names were changed for this story to protect the affected staff from victimization.