Socialist Worker

Teachers’ strike brings Nigeria’s schools to a halt

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2109

An indefinite national strike has closed primary and secondary schools across Nigeria in West Africa.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with about 140 million people, and nearly half of these are under 16.

So the stoppage is having a significant impact.

Members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) have brought the education system to a standstill since 30 June with their struggle for improved pay and conditions.

The college union COEASU resolved at its annual conference last weekend to hold a three-day strike from Wednesday of this week in sympathy with the NUT.

Despite coming as children are due to sit exams, the teachers’ cause is not unpopular with ordinary people.

Many feel that the government is putting off reaching a settlement because the children of the rich don’t attend state schools and most private schools have not been affected.

There has been a lack of investment in the public school system.

If the union’s demand is met teachers should receive an average 27 percent pay rise.

The NUT is demanding that the government introduce an enhanced Teachers’ Salary Structure to improve and regulate their wages.

Negotiations over this have been proceeding for 17 years.

Nigeria has a federal structure with 36 separate state Commissioners for Education, and the issue of who is responsible for teachers’ pay has been batted backwards and forwards between state and federal government.

The NUT is demanding that the federal government takes a standard setting role in adopting the salary structure.

In some places, such as parts of Nigeria’s biggest city Lagos, teachers have marched with placards saying “Give us our right. We’re human beings too”.

The teachers have gained the confidence to take action after a series of recent strikes in both the public and private sector across Nigeria.

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Tue 8 Jul 2008, 19:08 BST
Issue No. 2109
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