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Public Schools In Bayelsa Remain Shut Over 7 Months' Salary Arrears As Govt Factionalizes Teachers

The development has kept pupils in government primary and secondary schools at home more than three weeks into the new academic year.

Secondary and primary schools in Bayelsa State have yet to resume a new academic year following the inability of the State government to clear seven months' salary arrears owed to public school teachers. 

Teachers in public schools in Bayelsa State embarked on a strike and declined to resume work at the end of the long vacation which terminated in the first week of September.

The development has kept pupils in government primary and secondary schools at home more than three weeks into the new academic year. 

The Bayelsa State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in a statement on Monday advised teachers to stay at home, as the union was yet to shift grounds on its demand on the unpaid salary arrears. 

They said the industrial action became inevitable after the 21-day ultimatum given by the State Executive Council of the NUT to the government expired on Sept 19. 

According to the statement signed by the Bayelsa State Chairman of NUT, Mr. Kalaama Toinpre, and the Secretary, Mr. Johnson Hector, the teachers frowned at efforts to factionalize the union. 

The Bayelsa State NUT maintained that it remained the only legally recognized body charged with the responsibility of agitating for the welfare of primary and secondary school teachers. 

SaharaReporters gathered that the Governor Seriake Dickson-led government in Bayelsa State had recognized a rival union known as the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools and was indeed holding clandestine talks with them in an effort to abort the strike that has crippled the educational system. 

Sources close to the plan said that the government was planning a staggered payment of selected secondary school teachers who are in the factional group who will pledge to return to school while the primary school teachers will be left to their fate. 

The NUT regretted that the government had reneged on an earlier agreement reached in May 2016 to pay half salaries to its workforce pending the improvement of the finances of the State. 

It said that the State government had only paid teachers their January salaries in full and a half-month salaries followed in February, leaving arrears of seven months. 

State Commissioner for Education Markson Fefegha confirmed the allegations of NUT that the Bayelsa State government was involved in factionalizing the work force. 

“The government has been meeting with the executive of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools. I have been explaining to them our efforts so far in meeting our salary obligations,” Mr. Fefegha said.

Mr. Fefegha said the government had been meeting with union representatives to resolve the issues raised by the teachers, but declined to further comment on the fate of primary school teachers in the State.