Apparently ignoring the order by the Oyo State government that public schools be reopened, students and striking teachers shunned schools on Monday.
The state government, through Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Toye Arulogun, had last Saturday ordered that public schools shut on June 6 due to students’ demonstration against government’s policies and actions be reopened on Monday.
Nigerian Tribune, on a survey around schools in Ibadan, the state capital, found out that while the gates of some public secondary schools remained locked, others whose gates were opened had no students or teachers turn up for resumption of school activities.
A few students, dressed in uniform, were seen loitering around their schools, in the morning, to ascertain happenings in their schools, only to return home on finding out that school activity remained zero.
It was gathered that some parents had also admonished their children and wards to remain home, arguing that it would amount to futility if their children resumed in schools whereas the teachers continued their strike action.
The striking teachers, rather, stuck to the directive of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to continue the strike action until their demands for the payment of arrears of salaries and pensions were met.
This was evident in the usual convergence of the workers on NLC Secretariat, Ibadan, to continue their prayer session cum interaction with their labour leaders.
Chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Mr Waheed Olojede, speaking with Nigerian Tribune, on Monday, noted that it was not surprising that the teachers ignored government’s reopening order.
According to him, the issue that had to be resolved was non-payment of arrears of salaries and pensions.
“We heard that government has ordered that schools be reopened, but we are not bothered at the directive because, in the first instance, closing and reopening of schools was not part of the issues in contention. The issues on ground border on non-payment of arrears of salaries and pensions, and that is why teachers have ignored government’s order.”
“They are not in school because they are hungry and they cannot act otherwise other than comply with the directive of the NLC that they must stay at home. Our strike is very potent and we will sustain it. The joint committee of government and labour will meet on Tuesday and we feel that government will come to reasonable terms with us and will get this matter resolved in good time.”
“But, until these issues with regards to arrears of salaries and pensions are resolved, this strike will continue. The government should do something very urgently to ensure that this matter is arrested and peace is restored in the industrial environment of the state,” Olojede said.
Speaking on the development, state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Professor Niyi Olowofela, maintained that government had only exercised its power to order the closure and opening of schools in the interest of its students.
While expressing hope that teachers would soon return to schools, in the spirit of goodwill, Olowofela said the reopening of schools followed appeals from well meaning individuals and organisations.
“It is our responsibility as government to open the schools and we believe that in our meeting with the labour movement on Tuesday, wisdom and goodwill will prevail and the teachers will go back to school to teach the students so that the future of these great leaders is not jeopardised by issues that stem from misinformation,” Olowofela said.
He added that government exempted the select 17 schools from the reopening order so that the affected teachers and students would take responsibility for destroying government properties in the June 6 demonstration in the state.
In this vein, the joint committee of labour and government representatives set up to look into the issues that resulted in the ongoing strike will be inaugurated, 12p.m. today, at the executive council chambers.
Meanwhile, a 31-man committee named “Education Reform Initiative Committee” has been constituted to look at the controversial education initiative.
The committee, which has an unnamed education expert as chairman, will also have nominees from the University of Ibadan, National Parents’ Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Nigeria Labour Congress/Nigeria Union of Teachers, All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, National Association of Nigerian Students, Market Advisory Council.
Other members of the committee are representatives of Christian Association of Nigeria, Muslim Community, Community Leaders, Private Sector Education Practitioners/Consultants, Traditional Rulers, Commissioner and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Retired Civil and Public Servants, Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Information, Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy matters and Nigeria Union of Journalists.