PRIMARY school teachers protested across the country some weeks ago against their planned inclusion in the proposed autonomy of local government councils in the country.
THE teachers thronged the streets of different states, chanting solidarity songs to make demands that affect their soul and profession. They said in unmistakable terms that local government autonomy will jeopardise learning and their livelihood.
THE National President, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr Michael Olukoya, said that ceding the administration of primary schools, including payments of salaries and allowances of primary school teachers to councils, portends serious consequences.
OLUKOYA explained that the union is not against local government autonomy but that the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries and allowances as well as retirement benefits will be too heavy for local governments.
HIS words, “The importance of education cannot be over-emphasised in any society; primary education in particular constitutes the fundamental of education. It is ironical and distressingly painful that this all-important stratum of our educational system has suffered untold neglect and under-funding without adequate motivation for teachers.
“The renewed agitation for local government autonomy has made it imperative for NUT to sensitize stakeholders and the general public on the dangers inherent in handing over the affairs of primary education to local government councils.”
THE development of primary education in Nigeria was guided by the Ashby recommendations of 1960, which among other things advocated for careful planning, budgeting, coordination and control in order to ensure a healthy relationship between resource availability and educational expansion.
WITH the 1976 local government reform and 1979 federal constitution, the provision and maintenance of primary education came under the statutory control of local government councils. For councils to achieve this task, Local Government Councils Education Authorities were established in each local government council and, as subsidiaries of National Primary Education Commission under decree 31 of 1988, charged with several responsibilities related to primary education management and funding.
WE believe that if things are done the way they should, local government councils should be in charge of primary education as stipulated in the constitution, to ensure effective and efficient primary education.
LOCAL governments’ failure to pay teachers’ salaries in the past had led to the creation of an account jointly controlled by state and local governments.
IT was from this account that primary school teachers’ salaries were deducted before the allocation was disbursed to various local governments.
ONE of the reasons given by the primary school teachers against local government autonomy was that they were denied salaries for several months, despite a `15% increase in the allocation of local governments from the Federation Account. Another propelling factor for the protests was the failure by local governments to contribute their mandatory 15 per cent of teachers’ emoluments to the pension fund meant for payments of teachers’ pensions and gratuities.
SINCE primary education remains the core development area in modern societies, the attitude of teachers depends greatly on their motivation.
WE therefore call on stakeholders in the educational sector to come to a round table and find a lasting solution to the challenges bedeviling primary education in the country. There is need to consider many options and take the best decision that will move the foundation of the nation’s education from its imminent collapse.
PRIMARY school teachers need more assurance from governments that what happened in the country between 1990-1994, when an industrial crisis arose over several months of non-payment of teachers’ salaries, does not repeat itself if they are under the control of local governments.
EDUCATION scholars have described primary education as the bedrock of a child’s development. The Hope therefore commends the efforts of the primary school teachers for contributing to national development and urges the authorities in the nation’s educational sector to take a pro-active step and give primary education the priority of place it deserves for our future leaders to have a solid foundation.