Public primary and secondary schools in Bayelsa have resumed for the 2016/2017 academic session, over a month behind their private schools counterpart.
The private schools had resumed on September 12, the official day for school resumption. The public schools could not resume then based on a strike by teachers who protested the non-payment of their salaries for eight months.
Monday’s resumption followed a directive from the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, to striking members.
The union had resorted to the strike after the state government reneged on an earlier agreement reached in May to pay half salaries to its workers pending improvements in the finances of the state.
Some pupils seen at the schools visited expressed joy at the resolution of the industrial action which kept them at home for four weeks.
“I am happy to be back in school in my new class. I have seen some of my friends but not all of them; and classes have not started. We are still cleaning our classrooms,” Esther Ebi, a JSS 2 student of St. Judes Secondary school said.
Marson Fefegha, Commissioner for Education, said on Monday that public primary and secondary schools in the state resumed on Monday following a truce between the striking workers and the state government.
On the plans to cover lost grounds in the school curriculum, Mr. Fefegha said that the NUT had assured that they would fast track teachings to meet up.
“Schools just resumed today and teachers need one week to settle down to work but NUT has assured the government that they will meet up,” he said.
Kalaama Toinpre, Chairman of Bayelsa chapter of the NUT, said the teachers across the state have returned to the classrooms and were ready to teach.
The union leader said the decision was communicated to members who were directed to resume work immediately.
“The state working committee of the NUT at the weekend resolved that we should suspend the ongoing strike and return to the classroom following series of negotiations with the state government.
“We have secured some agreements from the state government in writing that at the end of this month, October, two months half salary of the outstanding be cleared in addition to the two months half salary already paid.
“Having secured the commitment of the state government to commence clearing the backlog, we shifted grounds and decided to suspend the strike and returned to work from today (Monday).
“We at the state executive of the union are grateful for the solidarity of teachers who resisted ploys to sabotage the struggle for the welfare of teachers and to factionalise teachers in Bayelsa. We shall remain united,” Mr. Toinpre said.
Mr. Fefegha had in a statement said that the government would, from Tuesday, commence monitoring of the compliance by teaching and non-teaching staff at public schools.
According to Mr. Fefegha, a team of inspectors from the Ministry of Education would be sent to monitor the resumption of schools across the state.
He said that the NUT directive makes it mandatory for all teaching and non-teaching staff to resume work from Monday.
He warned that all staff who wilfully absent themselves from duty would be declared as “ghost workers” and replaced immediately.
The commissioner asked all headmasters and principals to ensure strict compliance and cooperate with the inspectors.