By Ayodele Fagbohun
It is interesting at the same time very curious to watch the battle of wits between the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) over the over flogged issue of the local government autonomy. And the resoluteness of NUT against the return of payment of primary school teachers to the local government councils in the country.
The NULGE in its sustained campaign for local government autonomy maintains a studied silence over the vexed issue of payment of teachers under its umbrella body of NUT mounts a nationwide protests calling the attention of both the federal, state governments and all stakeholders that their lots shall not be met in the local government councils areas where they serve by chance the much touted local government bill becomes an act and in operation throughout the federation.
It is a matter of do-or-die; cat and mouse struggle trying to fight needles war or survival.
It stands to reason that the funding and management of primary education is a sole function of the respective state governments as enshrined in the provision of the constitution.
This is in accordance with paragraph 2 (a) of the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended which provides that the function of local government council shall include participation of council in the government of a state in respect of provision and maintenance of primary education.
It will be wrong and criminal fully to interprete provision and maintenance” of primary education as to include transfer of payment of personal emoluments and salary of teachers to the local government administration in its jurisdiction. Suffice for the local government councils to participate in synergy with the state government to purely matters of maintenance in terms of infrastructure in the primary school.
The onus is on the constitution to empower the states to be financially buoyant to meet the onerous responsibility of paying primary school teachers as at when due. The welfare nay payment of teachers’ personal emoluments/salary must not be at the whims and caprices of the state/federal government nor be tied to the apron string of any government for that matter. It is a constitutional provision that must be respected.
The fact remains that primary school teachers are not either employed by the local government councils or local government service commission. By law, they are employees of state government through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBRC). Why on earth is the rationale behind local government usurping the function that does not belong to it in the first instance?
In the second place, the past experience showed that when local government was granted a sort of autonomy; primary school teachers were owed six to ten months salary. This caused depression and deaths in many homes as some teachers could not afford to cater for themselves and dependants. Hence their fears, this time around if the autonomy is granted, it is most likely to send the teachers once again into long and unending term of servitude.
It is sheer aberration not justified by law or plain common sense to saddle the welfare of teachers to extraneous organ of government, the local government which is strange to education.
Primary education being the bedrock of the whole gamut of education should be diligently and carefully entrusted to a specialized organ of government that is how it should be.
However, the bestial manner at which the local government always handles the affairs of teachers over the years is in consequence of the demeanour of the teachers themselves. Generally, teachers are lukewarm in their approach to welfare scheme put in place by government, very docile and highly complacent.
Some are even brainwashed by colonial mentality that their service are akin to missionary work having their rewards waiting for them in heaven! Funny and surprisingly enough even the church ministers otherwise known as the clergy with almost corresponding assignments with teachers are now given due recognition in the society. It is how you are dressed that you will be addressed, goes an adage.
Now with the new spirit of radical outlook and waves of organisation that spread across the rank and file of teachers in the ultimatum there must be light at the end of the tunnel.
On this note, teachers must not relent. No matter the asses that bray, they must not surrender their sovereignty on the mess of pottage. They must fight to finish the wicked, obnoxious and unconstitutional local government autonomy that is cleverly designed to turn teachers into hewers of wood and drawers of water right in their own motherland.
Fagbohun write from Akure.