Teachers in Bayelsa State on Wednesday decried the continued closure of public schools due to the eight months salary backlog owed to public school teachers.
It will be recalled that due to the ongoing teachers’ strike, pupils and students have remained at home several weeks after the beginning of the new academic year, which commenced in September.
The teachers, who made their position known at World Teachers Day in Yenagoa, also lamented the marginalization of the educational sector in the State.
They commemorated the day at the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) auditorium in the Bayelsa State capital.
NUT State Chairman Kalama John-Tonpre said Bayelsa State was faced with crises in the education sector.
Mr. John-Tonpre highlighted the problems confronting teachers in the State, including non-payment of salaries for roughly eight months, non-implementation of teachers’ promotions over the years, and non-payment of annual increments.
Other problems, according to the State chairman, include the shifting of the responsibility of primary school management and teachers' salary funding to councils alone and the dismissal of teachers employed in 2008 and 2009.
He also cited the shortage of teachers without recruiting replacements in the school system and the non-provision of instructional materials as other grievances.
"Some protracted but unattended issues in the sector are over-populated classrooms, poor standards of education resulting from poor funding, inconsistency and non-implementation of education policies.
"Also, there is frequent disruption of the school system, moral decadence of the youth and eventually the underdevelopment of the State," Mr. John-Tonpre added.
He posited that the problems inherent in the country’s schools were direct consequences of many years of marginalization of the Nigerian teachers.
The chairman said the current problems of Nigerian society, such as disease, poverty, unemployment, kidnapping, militancy, injustice, lawlessness, greed for political powers and lack of conscience for humanity were all traced to the agonies of teachers.
Mr. John-Tonpre therefore urged the State government to urgently address the genuine demands of the teachers to enable them to perform their task of advancing education for the benefit of the underprivileged in the State.
"Currently, so many teachers have retired and a good number of teachers were dismissed from the school system with no recruitment of new ones to replace them. Consequently, some primary schools in Bayelsa have no teachers to teach the children. The issue deserves urgent attention as it portends danger at the foundation level of the education system," he said.
Mr. John-Tonpre called on the State government to urgently reinstate the dismissed teachers and recruit more teachers to fill the vacancies created.
He further called on Governor Seriake Dickson to sustain the role of augmenting the funding of primary school teachers' salaries, saying the councils alone could not carry such responsibility.