The Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, yesterday directed its members to boycott classrooms on the September 22 resumption date announced by the Federal Government for primary and secondary schools in the country.
They, however, gave conditions to be met by the state governments before the schools reopened.
NUT President, Mr. Michael Olukoya, issued the order in Abuja at a briefing with journalists after a meeting of National Executive Council, NEC, of the NUT.
The conditions, according to Olukoya, are that schools will resume if state governments train teachers on handling of Ebola; make available infrared thermometers for the schools and other facilities, including running water and hand sanitisers.
He, however, said that while NUT was not opposed to the resumption date, its members should not report in any of the schools except the conditions were met.
Olukoya said: “The NUT is strongly of the opinion that it is better to delay the resumption of schools till October 13, 2014, even when the scourge would have been contained than to rush and open schools only to be faced with attacks of the EVD in the schools.
“It makes more sense to be doubly sure than to operate on shaky grounds of uncertainty and probability as it will be a catastrophe of unimaginable dimension, if by any act of omission, we rush and open schools and end up with even one primary or secondary school being infected by the virus.
“But where the Federal Government insists on the September 22 date in spite of the wise counsel, the union will rather direct teachers to resume schools whenever they are sufficiently trained and their schools have been provided with the necessary preventive and protective gadgets.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the teachers have this day resolved to resume classes in obedience to the Federal Government directive in states where teachers have been trained to handle any outbreak and all the required preventive and protective gadgets such as hand gloves, sanitisers, infrared thermometers, running water and soap have been provided as directed by the Federal Government.
“In states where the training has not been done and the necessary safeguarding gadgets not provided, teachers shall continue to remain at home until their state governments respond positively or the union directs them to the contrary.”
On the possibility that some of the states might not meet the conditions, the NUT president said: “We have asked all the states one by one to tell us the template, the infrastructural facilities, maybe pipe-borne water, maybe infrared thermometer or the hand gloves you ask teachers to wear, have they been provided today, Tuesday?
“None of the states could say one or two things. What we have been hearing in reality from across the states are nothing more than political statements; nothing is on ground.
“What we are telling the government, we are ready to work, we are not shunning our duties. But for God’s sake, we need to be patriotic, we need to be sincere; we need to stop deceiving ourselves.
“We are aware of the activities of powerful schools proprietors who can call whoever that is in government that ‘look, don’t you know I am supposed to have made this amount? Please, shift the date.’”
NUT noted that apart from postponing the resumption date till October 13, other practical and bold steps should be taken to shield the schools from Ebola incursion and safeguard them from the spread.
It advised the Federal Government to use the period of closure to mount intensive programmes for teachers for them to be properly prepared and equipped to tackle the disease.
Olukoya also argued that resumption of school for the teachers was like ‘going to Sambisa Forest in Borno State with empty hands’.
The NUT president challenged any political office holder that had a child in any of the nation’s public schools to make it known to the public.
The union also threatened to embark on strike if government scrapped the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN.
Olukoya called on the Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, whom he called a major fighter for the creation of the country’s only regulator of teaching profession, to discourage the Federal Government from scrapping the institution.
Meanwhile, the NUT has blamed mass failure in public examinations on all stakeholders, including students, parents, government and the teachers.
Speaking on the 2014 May/June West African Senior Schools Certificate Examination, the NUT said the mass failure exposed ‘the nakedness and ineptitude’ of all stakeholders of education in addressing the future of the country’s education system.
“Statistically, 1,692,435 candidates sat for the examination. 982,472 (58.05 per cent) obtained five credits and above, 791,227 (46.75 per cent) candidates had six credits and above, 529, 425 candidates had five credits and above with Mathematics and English Language, as against 38.81 per cent in 2012 and 36.57 per cent in 2013.
“The analysis shows that the majority of the students (58.05 per cent) obtained five credits and above in the exam. Also, the number (46.75 per cent) that obtained six credits and above is more than those (31.28 per cent) with five credits, including Maths and English.
“It follows then that the problem was in Maths and English. This identified problem continues to be the same always.”
To solve the problem, the union urged government to recruit more teachers to handle the subjects and also package more allowances for those handling the subjects.
The NUT reminded the Federal Government to implement the payment of 25 per cent teacher’s professional allowance for Federal Government Colleges approved in 2008.