As the strike embarked upon by the Nigeria Labour Congress in Oyo State enters the seventh month, it seems the resolution of the face-off is not yet in sight as the other party in the feud, Oyo State Government has demanded an unreserved apology from the striking workers. The workers are on strike over a backlog of unpaid salaries, “false” allegations against their leaders in court and a government policy on alleged commercialisation of secondary education in the state.
As at the time that the workers embarked on strike, they were being owed five-months salary. Majority of the workers are now at the mercy of their neighbours, relatives, religious places before they can eat or pay school fees of their wards. Few weeks ago, the workers did not hide their displeasure with Governor Abiola Ajimobi over his rigid stance on the policy and other anti-workers policies.
Though series of meetings have been held a view to resolving the logjam, something concrete is yet to come. To date, there is nothing to show that the workers will bow to any threats from the government. While awaiting a peaceful resolution of the crisis, some other issues are coming up which suggest that both parties are not ready for a peaceful resolution to the impasse.
Just a few days ago, the Governor through the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Toye Arulogun directed all schools to reopen except for 17 schools whose pupils destroyed government property during a violent protest. But, the NLC, through its leader, Mr. Waheed Olojede told the teachers to ignore the resumption order. The teachers obeyed the NLC. Though, some students resumed in their schools, they later went back home when there were no teachers to teach them.
As all channels towards resolution of the crisis are being explored, the state government, through the Deputy Governor, Chief Moses Alake Adeyemo said one of the conditions that would facilitate peace is formal apology from the angry and hungry workers.
Chief Adeyemo said this after setting up a thirty-one member Education Reform Initiative Committee to widen its scope of consultations on the proposed participatory management of public secondary schools in the state. Some of the workers who preferred anonymity told South West Voice that they reminded the state government that it is dealing with collective Nigerian workers who would not bend or be cowed by whatever threat.
They vowed never to kiss the dust adding that doing so could make the governor do more against them. The Deputy governor said that the enlarged committee was meant to accommodate more suggestions and models in addition to those proposed by the state, as well as submissions in the memoranda received so far from the stakeholders.
He said: “The Education Initiative Stakeholders’ Forum held on June 7, 2016 resolved, amongst other things, to widen the scope of consultations to accommodate more suggestions and models in addition to the ones presented and discussed. “Sequel to this, proposals and memoranda have been received from members of the public on the urgent need for the participatory management of public secondary schools in Oyo State.
The composition of the committee includes members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)/Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT); All Nigerian Congress of Principals of Public Schools (ANCOPPS); National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Market Advisory Council; Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); the Muslim community and other education experts.
According to him, membership of the committee also included community leaders, private sector education practitioners/consultants, traditional rulers, relevant state commissioners, permanent secretary in the ministry of education, as well as the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The Deputy governor also disclosed that the government decided to set up a 14-member committee sequel to intervention by concerned parties, including the State House of Assembly, aimed at ending the logjam. He was optimistic that the impasse would be resolved in a matter of days, while noting that the decision of the government to reopen the schools was without prejudice to the workers’ and teachers’ strike.
As it stands now, quick resolution of the crisis would save hundreds of thousands of pupils who are idle at home and the economy of the state which is comatose.