Teachers in Lagos State made good their threat to ground academic activities in public schools as they commenced an indefinite strike on Monday.
Pupils resuming for studies after the long holiday were asked to return home by school administrators, as many teachers did not show up for work.
At the Babs Fafunwa Millennium Senior Secondary School in Ojodu, at about 10.20a.m., some students were seen roaming the street, while others gathered in groups chatting on the school field and at the nearby shed of Grammar School bus stop.
A group of students told our reporter that they were asked to return home by their teachers.
“We don’t know when we will be resuming,” one of them said.
“Our teachers didn’t tell us when they would start teaching. They just told us to listen to the news for more information,” another explained.
The principal of Ojudu High School, Elizabeth Adepoju, said the strike is in full swing.
“As you can see, the teachers are not working,” she said.
The students have been asked to return home until the matter is resolved.
She said she is unaware of the threat by the state government to sack all striking teachers and have them replaced by retired teacher as reported in the news.
In Agidingbi Senior Grammar School, no student was seen. One of the teachers declined to be interviewed saying as a civil servant, he is prohibited from talking to reporters without authorisation from his superiors.
St. Peter’s Anglican Primary School on Awolowo Road was also deserted. The gatekeeper refused to allow the PREMIUM TIMES reporter into the school compound. He said all the teachers and students had returned home.
At Oregun Secondary School, some students were playing on the school’s sandy football field. But no academic activity was taking place. The school was almost deserted but for a group of young people dressed in plain clothes who said they were there to write GCE exams.
No Payment, no work
There are indications that the teachers are ready to allow the matter drag for as long it takes the state government to accede to their demands.
The Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, had last week called on its members to stay away from their work place over the state’s inability to fully pay the 27.5 increase in the Teachers Salary Scale, TSS, approved in 2008.
NUT Chairman, Samson Idowu, said the state has only paid a fraction of the approved allowance:
“Lagos State has only implemented 9 per cent of the 27.5 per cent teachers’ allowance approved since 2008,” he said.
The teachers’ union is peeved at the Lagos Government’s refusal to fully honour the salary increment despite numerous chances given to it to do so.
“We have given the government some time to act but they have paid a deaf ear; so, we have exhausted all peaceful means,” said Secretary to the teachers’ union, Momodu Braimoh.
Mr. Braimoh said 17 other states have fully implemented the TSS.
“There is no going back, we still stand on our grounds of 27.5 per cent or we remain at home come Monday, Sept. 24, 2012,” he said.
Work or get sacked
The action of the teachers has placed them at warring ends with the state government, known for its extreme approach of handling workers’ dissent.
Last May, the state government sacked the entire 788 doctors in its employ, over payment dispute, and replaced them with 373 hurriedly employed doctors.
The sacked doctors were later readmitted after popular outcry against the government’s highhanded approach, and intervention from prominent politicians.
However, there are indications that the government will take a more reconciliatory approach with this issue.
The Public Relations Officer of the Lagos State Ministry of Education, Lanre Bajulaiye, denied that the government intend to replace the striking teachers with retired ones. He explained that state’s executive council is meeting to find a way of resolving the issue.
“The commissioner is in an exco meeting, before the end of today, a position will be reached. Other states have not implemented so it’s not just a Lagos affair. It’s just that Lagos has the highest population of students in public schools,” he said.