Anguish, pains and rejection are perhaps the best words to describe the travails and agonies of primary schools’ teachers in Kogi State who are facing prolonged nonpayment of their salaries. Some of them are owed between 13-25 months.
The case of these primary school teachers is so pathetic as the state government seems to have turned its deaf ears to their plights. Even when the government manages to pay other categories of workers in the state, teachers are paid ridiculous percentages as low as 20-30 percent of their salaries.
This ‘traffic payment’ has caused untold hardships to teachers and their dependents.
Mrs. Abigail Funmilayo Ojo, who teaches in one of the primary schools in Kabba, is diabetic and suffers hypertension. She lost her husband, a retiree in February in a road crash last year while returning from Lokoja on one of the many staff screening exercises.
Abigail is owed 13 months. She is unable to buy her drugs or cater for their four children.
Three of the children have consequently dropped out of schools, while the fourth is yet to start school. Her case is so pathetic that family and friends who normally extend kind gestures to her are not forthcoming.
Also, one Mrs. Anjorin, a widow and a primary school teacher collapsed and died last December on hearing that her only daughter was robbed and raped along Okene-Adogo highway while returning to Kogi State University, Anyigba for her exams.
The woman who is reportedly owed over 12 months salaries, has struggled to borrow money for the daughter to go and write her last papers in the university having stayed at home for the larger part of the semester owing to lack of funds. The frail looking woman could not absorb the shock of the news of her daughter’s travails. And she collapsed and died.
In Ibaji Local Government Area, a certain man working in one of the primary schools in Onyedeaga took his six-year-old boy to Idah General Hospital. The boy was knocked down by an Okada and as the man could not afford to pay the hospital bill, he was left to bleed to death.
In Trinity Primary School, Lokoja, the state capital, a Basic 3 teacher broke down and wept profusely recently when she discovered that she was paid measly N3,000 instead of the N45, 000 she normally earns in a month.
Her pain was that some account personnel at the Lokoja Local Government Area had short-changed some of them, paying far less than the 20 percent the state government approved for payment and they couldn’t complain, else their names would be added to uncleared list of workers.
It was gathered that the case of primary school teachers in the state came to this sorry state because some union leaders reportedly compromised with the state government.
However, the new NUT chairman, Thomas Ayodele described salary underpayments, salaries omissions and payments of salaries in percentages to his members since the local councils took over teachers’ payments as “painful and ridiculous.”
He lamented that his members “have been severely pauperized” by the state government saying they only received 20 to 30 percents of their salaries in January and February, 2018 respectively while names of more than 40 percent of his members were out rightly omitted from the payment vouchers.
Ayodele, who described the development as worrisome, called on the government to pay all salary arrears without further delay and return the payments of teachers’ salaries to the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
Although the union maintained it was not prepared to go on strike now, Ayodele however said that the earlier directive of Governor Yahaya Bello that salaries of teachers be deducted from the Joint Account Allocation Committe (JAAC) as first-line charge be adhered to by the Ministry for Local Government and Chietaincy Affairs in the interest of industrial harmony in the education sector.
Meanwhile, a source close to the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Rose Mary Osikoya said the state government has set up a committee to look into the plights of the teachers with a view to making their salaries a first line charge.
The source said the state governor set up the committee to forestall any plan of the teachers embarking on another industrial action. Almost on yearly basis the union has been embarking on strike.