The famous aphorism of “if you can write your name, thank your teacher” impelled me to call about three (two from Primary and one from Secondary Sector) of my teachers in Akwa Ibom to celebrate them on Saturday, 5th October, 2019 being the World Teachers’ day.
Sadly, all the calls were surrounded with lamentations of unfair treatments by the state government and how public education is being neglected over the years. This lamentation transcend beyond the continuous denial of teacher’s financial entitlements to the deterioration of educational infrastructures in public schools in my own state.
Ordinarily, I should have kept quiet but I have to ventilate my grievances for twin reasons. Firstly, I attended public school from Primary Level to University level and as such, seeing things going wrong in my educational ancestry breaks my heart and causes me severe emotional pains.
Secondly, the seeming continuous decline in the educational sector in my state if not kicked against today, may become the “new normal” tomorrow until education is finally deserted and abandoned without any concern.
Sometimes in May 2018, Premium Times, an online Newspaper in the course of her regular and legitimate work, carried out an investigation on the deplorable and worrisome learning conditions of public schools in Akwa Ibom state, releasing some gruesome and humiliating photos of learning amenities in the state which gave birth to several rejoinders and counter press releases on that subject.
Why do we always pretend and keep clapping as if everything is well with our educational system in the state when it is not? We always applaud the state government on the media for paying “this and that” to teachers in the state but in real life, they (especially primary school teachers) are languishing and gnashing their teeth.
Primary school teachers in the state are continuously suffering and crying for years without their cries being heard. The continuous fight and argument of who to shoulder the responsibilities and imbursement of Primary school teachers between the state and local government is becoming more sickening and nauseating on daily basis.
Before we come out drumming and praising the state government for keeping promises and touching lives, let us be honest to ourselves and ask: when last did Akwa Ibom state government pay leave grant to her primary school teachers? Are we not aware that primary school teachers who retired over three years ago have not gotten their gratuities? Have we asked for reasons?
Akwa Ibom people, is it that the state government is not aware that these retirees are being owed? Do we not have money in the state for settlement of these entitlements or is it a clear exhibition of mischief? What is really happening that persons who worked for thirty five good years cannot receive their legal and legitimate dues?
Couple of years ago, the same Akwa Ibom state government who is owing teachers embarked on a project to build international worship centre in the state which I have nothing against. Voices were raised but to no avail, the project was executed as planned and a great Foundation laying ceremony was organised by the state government. A lawsuit was even filed in Court against the construction and same was defended by the state government at the expense of our money.
One now wonders why a state government who is owing leave grant for years, gratuities and other financial entitlements without first clearing these debts should have embarked on such project. Or, does it mean that the welfare of the workers is less important than the worship centre?
Still in this same state, the next of kin of late Primary school teachers who went on peaceful demonstration, demanding the payment of their legitimate and legal entitlements were arrested, detained and charged to court with vexatious and scandalous charges which to the glory of God were discharged and acquitted. Sadly, from all indications and available information, the money has not been paid till date.
How and why did we celebrate World teachers’ day in Akwa Ibom state with all these predicaments that the teachers are going through? Does a worker not deserve his wages any longer in Akwa Ibom state? Why is the state government so oblivious and insensitive over the cries of her Teachers?
Well, before we start canvassing that the state government is not owing any kobo, carry out an independent investigation, go to pensioners, visit public schools and hear from the victims of this barbaric and unfair treatment, try to imagine the sacrifice of writing note of lessons daily, look into their eyes and maybe their lamentation will touch your heart and cause a positive change.
If the state government have paid these entitlements, why are the beneficiaries still crying for it? Could it be that the money was released but it did not get to the beneficiaries? Why do we not investigate to know where the money is stopping? For how long will we continue this way? Where are our consciences?
Before now, students in tertiary institutions used to receive bursaries from the state government but it has become history and things of the past in the current administration. We have not heard, we have not seen signs and yet nothing is done about it.
In 2017 and 2018, Law graduates from Akwa Ibom made several appeals, soliciting financial help from the state government in support of their law school fees but all to no avail. The state government did not only refuse granting the request but also fail to even acknowledge the receipt of such letters till date. Why?
Whereas, other states who do not receive much allocation as we do are prioritising education, giving incentives and pushing education to an enviable height but our graduates couldn’t attend law school because of financial constraints. What a pity!
Few days ago, the news on how Delta state Government approved the sum of 381 million naira for bursary scheme for Delta State Students in Higher institutions was trending on social media platforms. When will ours trend? Should we keep smiling and dancing even when all is not well with our educational system?
Well, I hope the state government will one day emulate the attitude of Comrade Ini Ememobong, who has through his words and actions encouraged quality education in the state. Without being immodest, his contributions toward the development of education in the state is visible even to the blind.
If he can singlehandedly give scholarships to University students, donate uniforms and books, then the state government has no excuse not to pay bursary. If he can at his own expense organise a dinner in appreciation of his lecturers, Akwa Ibom state government has no defence, reason or justification whatsoever for owing teachers their legitimate entitlements.
If we build a million industries, with good road network and electricity without first training our citizens, paying our teachers promptly and adequately which will ipso facto affect the maintenance culture and sustainability of our investments, then we are not seeing beyond our noses.
With this article, I call on the state Governor, the commissioner for Education, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and other concerned Akwa Ibomites to join hands in redeeming the worrisome and pitiable plight of Education in the state.
I stand to be corrected on these assertions but until the contrary is proved with concrete and credible evidence, I firmly hold the above views and vehemently call for the emancipation and redemption of our educational system.
Enough is enough. Injury to one is injury to all.
Long live Akwa Ibom state.
Edikan Ekanem is an Akwa Ibom born Abuja based Legal Practitioner and a non-political Contemporary Writer. He can be reached @ 08130015006 or firstname.lastname@example.org