The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, on Wednesday led a march by hundreds of demonstrators through the streets of Kaduna in protest against the planned sack of 21,780 primary school teachers by the state government.
The state government said it will sack the teachers for failing a competency test organised for teachers of public primary schools in the state. It said it would recruit 25,000 qualified teacher in their place, a decision that has drawn the fury of stakeholders in the sector as well as labour leaders within and outside the state.
Apart from the teachers, thousands of workers were also reportedly sacked by local governments in the state acting on the directive of the state government to review their allegedly bloated workforce.
Following the refusal of the government to step back from the decision to sack the workers, members of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, and health workers from across Nigeria gathered in Kaduna to join teachers from the 23 local government areas of the state in solidarity at the rally.
In their thousands, the protesters marched from the Labour House headquarters of the NLC along Independent Way to the State House of Assembly where they delivered a message demanding the recall of the sacked teachers.
The protesters waved leaves and placards with messages such as ” El-Rufaiology: A Total Disaster To Kaduna State”; “Kick Against Autocracy”; and “El-Rufai Must Go!!!”
Some of the health workers who participated in the protest said they feared it may soon be their turn to be axed from their jobs by the state government.
“You know the Hausa proverb that says “If the beard of your neighbour catches fire, you should help spring water on it before the fire gets to your own,” Michael John, a medical worker, said to reporters at the rally.
Addressing the teachers, Mr. Wabba said the NLC had not been formally communicated on the sack of the 22,000 teachers and10,000 local government workers by the governor of Kaduna State.
Even though none of the lawmakers was on ground at the Assembly complex to receive the protesters, the NLC president said: “Whether they are here or not, we have delivered our message because this is our house.”
Ibrahim Yusuf, one of the sacked teachers and a former Publicity Secretary of NUT in Soba Local Government Area of the state, alleged that many on the list of teachers released by the state government as qualified to retain their jobs were actually retired teachers, security guards and those who died long ago.
“Many of those whose names appeared as successful in the screening have retired two years back especially in Lere, Kajuru, Sabon Gari, Birnin Gwari, Sanga and many other LGAs.”
PREMIUM TIMES, however, was not able to verify the claim at the time of this report.
Another teacher, Ayuba Garba, said the governor has no right to give three months’ notice for the sack of the teachers.
The state government had on Tuesday, condemned alleged instigation of primary school pupils to protest by teachers who failed the competency test.
The government made the statement after pupils of public primary and secondary schools in Sabon Tasha of Chikun Local Government Area of the state took to the street on Tuesday to protest the sacking of their teachers.
The protest had been started on Monday by pupils of Local Education Authority, Kawo in Kaduna North Local Government Area.
The government said it was unfortunate that children who are victims of bad teachers were being used as cannon-fodder by the same teachers.
In a statement signed by Samuel Aruwan, spokesperson to Governor El-Rufai, the government described as “callous and despicable the act of involving young pupils in illegal, politically-inspired demonstration.
“The Kaduna State Government has received reports of primary school pupils being pushed to the streets by their unqualified teachers for illegal protests. These unlawful acts have included getting young children to block highways.
“Government condemns this wanton disregard for the lives and safety of primary school pupils placed in the care of these unqualified teachers. It is grievous enough that bad teachers have been allowed to imperil the educational future of these children.
“But for these same teachers to endanger the children by asking them to block and lie on highways illustrates a chilling level of irresponsibility that no law-governed society can accept.
“When parents send their children to school, they place pupils in the care of their teachers during school hours. Parents rightly do not expect teachers to teach their children hooliganism or endanger these minors by involving them in matters they are too young to understand.
“These children are not union members. Our pupils are the victims of bad teachers who are evidently do not mind making these children cannon-fodder for their desperation. Exposing minors to hazards, and endangering their lives and limbs shows that some teachers want to jeopardize the present and future of these children.
“These irresponsible actions by unqualified teachers at the behest of their union affront both morality and the law, including the Penal Code and the Young Persons’ Law. Those involved will bear the consequences.
“Government hereby warns everyone to desist from illegal and irresponsible acts. Sound education is not a matter of sentiment. Parents who send their children to public schools have a right to expect decent tuition for their wards. Being poor should not mean that the prospects of their children should also be truncated. Nobody will be allowed to play politics with the future of our children, their education and their safety.
“Government urges parents to be vigilant, report to the relevant authorities any attempt to use their children to threaten law and order.”
But Mr. Garba, one of the protesting teachers on Wednesday, denied that the sacked teachers or any group instigated the pupils.
“Those students and pupils came out to protest in solidarity with their sacked teachers. Let El-Rufai go to the classroom and teach those innocent children now that he has sacked all the teachers,” Mr. Garba said.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State wing of NUT also said its members will proceed on an indefinite strike from November 23, to protest the planned sack of the 21,780 teachers.
The state chairman of the union, Audu Amba, said the union had issued a two-week ultimatum to the state government to reverse its decision to disengage the primary school teachers for failing its competency test.
He said the decision to embark on the strike was taken at the union’s executive council meeting, with the support of the national body of the union.
He said that if the government failed to reverse its decision, all public secondary and primary schools in the state would be shut down.