26th September, 2012
On Monday, teachers in Lagos State public primary and secondary schools embarked on an indefinite strike over the state government’s alleged failure to implement the Teachers’ Salary Scale, TSS, a 27.5 percent increase in pay earlier agreed upon by the Governors’ Forum and the National Union of Teachers.
The striking teachers had sent home the students and vowed to stay at home until their demands are met. The teachers are claiming that in 2008/2009, the state government had agreed to pay the new 27.5 percent TSS and that the government paid the full rate for 13 months and eventually backed out of the agreement. They added that after government stopped paying the money, the teachers complained and Lagos promised to begin implementation by April 2011 but Lagos started paying 9.2 percent and promised full implementation of 27.5 percent from January 2012 which government has failed to do.
Whatever the arguments, whatever the accusations and counter accusations, we should not allow this matter get out of hand like the matter with the medical doctors in public hospitals did after they made demands that the Lagos State government felt it could not meet.
Many would not forget those sad weeks of suffering and preventable deaths as the doctors remained adamant while the government got angry and sacked the 788 striking medical personnel; though they were eventually recalled.
Like they say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and as the students remain at home, their young minds begin to consider mischief. We can imagine the multiplier effect of their idleness on the state and the society. For the sake of all that is good, the Lagos State government and the striking teachers should find a way of resolving their differences and not allow the children suffer unnecessarily.
In September 2009, Lagos State public school teachers had embarked on a month long strike to press home their demands for the implementation of the Teachers’ Specific Allowances. Later, the government agreed to commence payment from January 2010, and the scholars were the losers.
We cannot continue to embark on these ‘who blinks first’ encounters because eventually neither government nor the strikers are affected. Innocent pupils whose parents pay the taxes used to pay these striking workers are the losers. We need to find some other way to resolve our differences without allowing them affect the innocent.
If the state government thinks it cannot pay what the teachers are demanding, why not sit together and negotiate what would be acceptable to both sides? Daily, we talk of falling standards and how our university and polytechnic graduates cannot defend their certificates but have we ever given any thought to how we contributed to this decadence? Public schools are the last hope of the common man to educate his children and these frequent strikes are contributing to the declining standards in public schools.
These idle scholars are the most vulnerable species in our clime and all the Child’s Rights Bills in the world help nobody if we all decide we won’t compromise. The government and the teachers, for the sake of generations to come, must reach an amicable agreement to resolve the impasse, at least for the sake of these idle scholars.