Primary school teachers yesterday embarked on a peaceful protest in Bayelsa State demanding transfer of their financial obligations from the local government to Federal and state governments.
About 100 of the teachers under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) marched from their secretariat located at Erepa through Otiotio to the Isaac Boroh Expressway, Yenagoa, chanting solidarity songs.
Led by their state’s Chairman, Mr. Kalama Tonpre and Principal Secretary, NUT, Mr. Johnson Hector, the teachers said the local government lacked the capacity to pay their salaries, subventions and welfare packages.
They lamented that they had been subjected to untold hardship by the local government areas, which owed them various arrears of salaries.
The teachers displayed placards with inscriptions such as, “pay teachers salary for sustainable education”, “show total love for education”, “stop politicising primary education, it is dangerous”, and “funding primary education should be the responsibilities of states and federal government”.
Other placards contained brief messages such as “respect the Supreme Court judgement that states should pay primary school teachers”, local government councils do not have the capacity to pay primary school salaries”, “we say no to the dark era of non-payment of salaries” and “shaky foundation collapses system”.
Addressing the crowd of teachers, Hector said the protest was a mandate of the national body of NUT to create awareness about the poor condition of teachers ahead of the proposed amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
He said the NUT was in total support of the local government autonomy on a condition that the funding and salary components of primary school teachers be transferred to the state government.
He said: “We are not against local government autonomy but we are of the position that the salary component of the primary school teacher should be removed from the local government because it is obvious that local government doesn’t have the capacity to pay primary school teachers.
“We don’t want to be owed salaries for 12 months. We don’t want teachers to go on strike and close schools for months”.
Also speaking, the state’s Chairman, NUT, Mr. Kalama Tonpre, said the funding and salary obligations when transferred should be made a frontline charge of the revenue allocations to states.
He said: “The salaries should be deducted as first line charge from the federal account so that the money will be handed over to UBEC which should transfer it to SUBEB’s accounts so that the teachers will be paid and the foundation of education will not collapse.
“Primary school teachers have suffered in the hands of local government council chairmen and authorities. A house built on a shaky foundation is bound to crack and collapse.
“So, every human being, every President, every governor, lawmakers and prominent people are products of primary school. Without primary education, the system will collapse”.
Addressing the protesters, a member of the state’s House of Assembly, Mr. Gentle Emelah, who represented Speaker Kombowei Benson, said the assembly would look into the issues raised by the teachers.