When Fayose, Ekiti teachers squared off at interactive meeting

Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State recently held a no-holds-barred meeting with teachers in public primary and secondary schools in the state at the Government House grounds in Ado Ekiti.

The meeting was tagged: “Interactive Forum between Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose and Teachers from Ekiti State Public Schools on Improved Education Outcome.”

Governor Ayodele Fayose and his entourage had arrived at the meeting to an obviously unwelcoming lot. He arrived in the midst of the rancorous gathering with his Deputy, Dr. Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola; the Secretary to the State Government, Dr (Mrs) Modupe Alade; the Head of Service, Dr. Olugbenga Faseluka and the Chief of Staff, Chief Dipo Anisulowo, among others.

It was obvious that the teachers had more in expectations than the governor’s presence and mellifluous flatter. He had asked the teachers if there was a fight between them and quipped that “it is still the same Fayose that you knew”, to which the teachers echoed “no” in unison.

Also, the introductions were made brief by constant murmurs from the huge gathering of teachers. They were said to have come three each from the 189 primary and 885 secondary schools in the state.

Gauging the mood of the meeting, there was even no need for a welcome or introductory address by the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Jide Egunjobi, who was not even sitting down.

Thus, there was no lead into the objective of the interactive meeting. It was straight to business as it was assumed that the objectives were known.

Governor Fayose, who was already standing in their midst, metres away from the seat prepared for him, thus started the meeting himself by announcing that the leaders of the various unions of the teachers would speak on behalf of the teachers. This also drew a loud noise of disapproval by the teachers. They obviously also did not want the leaders of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT); All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), the association of head teachers of primary schools and the sundry teachers’ associations at the meeting to speak for them.

They wanted to speak for themselves, by themselves. This made the governor to, after calming resultant the uproar, alter the plan and ask them to appoint spokespersons from among them.

The teachers appointed, among others, Mrs E.A. Olaoye and Mr Adetunji Akinyemi. Mrs. Olaoye exhibited great composure as she enumerated the issues they brought for resolution.

She spoke for the primary school teachers. By the time she concluded, there were hardly any major knotty issues left. This was because while she spoke, answers were proffered to some of the issues in-between her speech. Her job was also aided by the fact that her colleagues sent notes to her as she spoke which helped her to remember and articulate some of the issues.

For example, when Mrs. Olaoye touched on the issue of deductions from their salaries, the teachers shifted in their seats. She pointed out that some of the primary school teachers incurred laptops, loans and sundry deductions from their salaries. The governor didn’t allow this to linger. He stepped in with a contention that “this issue of deductions has lingered for too long and I want it to be resolved once and for all. This is the last time I want to hear about this.”

Fayose there and then set up a committee of some directors and sundry officials of the state’s Ministry of Education to resolve the issue. He mandated them to meet at an accessible location in the Government House and clear the issue of arbitrary deductions. This action received a spontaneous applause from the teachers.

They also applauded with satisfaction when the governor rejected a directive by the Commissioner for Education, Mr. Egunjobi on the issue of their rural allowance, raised by the primary school teachers.

The teachers had announced that some of them were not paid their rural allowance and, like the deductions issue, the governor promptly called on Egunjobi to address the issue.

The commissioner said the affected teachers should visit the Ministry of Education with details, but even before the teachers could react to the directive, Fayose himself rejected the idea. “Do something about it right here”, he told the Commissioner, saying, “I don’t want a situation whereby the teachers would be in the Ministry and they would be told this and that director is not on seat.”

When it was the turn of secondary schools teachers, represented by Mr. Adetunji Akinyemi to speak, quite a number of the issues they had pencilled down for resolution had been tackled.

One of the secondary school teachers who raised the issue said funds from the N1,000 levy were paid to the Ministry, while Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) funds could not be used except with the approval of the PTA executive. In a swift response, the governor said “I have been briefed on the issue and have already approved a certain percentage of the funds for the running of the schools. That has already been done.”

The issues were as diverse as they were somewhat intricate, like the voucher with which their salaries are paid. The teachers said their salaries were paid not based on vouchers prepared by their heads in their respective schools and also wanted the governor to address it.

He did by saying that the respective head-teachers needed to verify the vouchers. Other problems were treated in their own merit as they arose. But the bottom line is that it was all about welfare.

As the meeting tapered to its denouement, the teachers wanted to hear when their controversial outstanding September 2014 salary would be paid, as well as the five months they are being owed.

On the September 2014 salary, which they admitted that some of them received, the Accountant General of the state explained that it was credited in error and that was why it was cancelled.

However, before the payment could be reversed, some of the teachers had withdrawn the money. Those who have not been paid would be paid through funds the government said it was going to glean from other sources because the bailout applied for to take care of the deficit was not granted by the Federal Government.

Others were: Stoppage of deductions on loan repayment and other sources, over-deduction of salaries of members from the Accountant General’s office; payment of Duty Post Allowance; payment of Leave Bonus for 2016, stoppage of what they said was “arbitrary cooperative deductions”, advocacy for robust car and housing loans, renovation of schools and effective inter-cadre policy for teachers.

In a general response, the governor referred a number of the issues to the committee he earlier announced, which also includes the Permanent Secretaries in the Teaching Service Commission and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to interface with teachers, who have problems about arbitrary deductions from their salaries under whatever guise.

On the issue of promotions, which the teachers said had stalled since 2010, Governor Fayose directed the Head of Service, Dr Gbenga Faseluka, to meet with relevant stakeholders, including principals and the head-teachers of public schools to fashion out ways to resolve the issue before the end of the year.

Fayose said: “Teachers, you know I am for you in and out of government. The poor economic situation caused all these problems. You know that I will not deliberately make you to suffer. I share your pain and I will never take you for granted.

“But let it be noted that I can only do my best within the ambit of availability of resources accruing to the state. This problem is not peculiar to Ekiti alone. That was why I have always been saying that it is not good for any administration to borrow money beyond its tenure.

“I am still the same Fayose you knew before now. If the funds are available, I will pay. You know that when I pay, I will have rest of mind. The challenges we are facing today was caused by the loans borrowed under the immediate past government. Let me make it very clear to you that Nigeria has entered full recession.”

Mr.  Olugbenga Ajibade, Secretary, NUT Ekiti, said the meeting was worthwhile and explained that “the teachers simply vented their anger on us because we charged them to end their strike and return to work. It was a tough job convincing them to return to work without getting paid. We had a hectic time convincing our executive to tell them to return to work.”