All over the world, it is an acclaimed fact that it is the duty of the government to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. The government is looked upon as the provider of jobs or the creator of an enabling environment where private sectors can come in and create jobs for the teeming unemployed citizens of any state.
The government being an apparatus that has the wherewithal to absorb many job seekers is being looked upon in so many situations for job opportunity since the private sector is not only hampered by limited funds but in most cases, it’s workers hardly enjoy the accruing benefits of pension and gratuity.
No wonder, there was loud ovation in EnuguState when in January 2012, new teachers were recruited to join the state civil service and to bridge the gap in the shortage of manpower in most government owned secondary schools. The successful candidates finally recruited after rigorous processes of written and oral interviews couldn’t thank their creator enough.
Recalling the events of the period, some of them said they allegedly paid some politicians heavily in cash and kind so as to facilitate their own names but eventually many of them ended up being used and dumped.
The scramble for the job dislocated many families. Some qualified jobless housewives who succeeded in the recruitment had to abandon their families from different parts of the country and relocated to their place of posting in different remote areas of Enugu state.
Some others residing in neighboring states like Anambra and Imo at the greatest risk of their lives, shuttle daily from their base to different schools where they teach in Enugu.
They go to work with much enthusiasm not only to impact on their students but also banking on the hope that their monthly salary will henceforth cushion the effect of their heavy spending on transport and other logistics.
Some of the housewives among them who have often had serious issues with their husbands over money and those often derided as liabilities for not contributing anything meaningful to the family were already salivating that change of levels has come.
But painfully the countdown began. January, February, March to December no sign. To give them false hopes, sometimes, they will be called to Enugu for verification, computerization and other jargons making the teachers whet their appetite that something is in the offing.
The situation became so bad that for 13 months the new teachers never received a dime as salary. Frustration gave way to anger and despondency while Christmas for them was not only a sad reminder of a failed system but a moment of regret.
Suddenly, news began to fly that they are not being paid because the governor is sick and has traveled abroad for treatment. That Chime has left instruction that his deputy should not sign any cheque above five hundred thousand naira. Some also alleged that the money for the new teacher’s salary was stashed away in the ministry as a fixed deposit in a bank while some powerful people are eating from the accruing interest.
The situation has led to the return of the old and outdated aphorism that teachers reward will be in heaven.
The real question now is whether government had genuine intentions to employ the teachers at the first instance or was it a political gimmick? If the intentions were genuine, why then owe people for one year and expect such people to work and still survive?
While this writer will not want to delve into the unfortunate and nauseating manner Chime’s aides and sycophants are handling his health and whereabouts status, it is totally condemnable and a heinous crime against God and humanity the way this new teachers are being treated.
During the Christmas season, some of the new teachers received bank alerts of one month salary out of the thirteen months owed while some didn’t receive at all. This is not only ridiculous but smacks of insensitivity to the plight of fellow human beings.
Nigerians are noted as people who exploit every situation for private and selfish gains. What is happening in Enugu state is a national embarrassment, a misnomer and an aberration. Where are the men of conscience? What of the influential people in the society, the church, civil society groups and other leaders of thought?
Thousands of the new teachers are dying by installment. Some have taken to menial jobs to survive while others are looking for the easy way out by using what they have to get what they need.
It sounds ridiculous that somebody who has not being paid for thirteen months received a paltry sum of twenty seven thousand naira for one month salary while nothing is being done to offset the accumulated twelve months arrears.
Now that it has been confirmed that Governor Chime is alive while the Acting Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi has also voiced out that Chime properly handed over to him, I think there is no need playing games with people’s misery.
It is now imperative that the government takes an immediate step to pay these new teachers their accumulated arrears. Whoever or whichever organ of government holding unto the collective sweat of these teachers should hands off and repent. Paying the teachers will be one step for us to believe for real that Enugu is working.
Executive Director, Education for Justice International
28 Okpalauba Close
Awka , Anambra state