The strike in Plateau State is primarily a result of labour disputes between government teachers and the state government. Teachers are demanding improved working conditions, including better pay, enhanced welfare and improved infrastructure for schools.
The action was declared in a notice of strike issued by the Joint Negotiating Council (JNC), Plateau chapter, in Jos on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Jointly signed by Plateau JNC Chairman, Titus Malau and Secretary, Timothy Gopep, with the Head of Civil Service and the Secretary to the Government of the State in attendance.
“It is evidently clear that the government has not shown enough commitment to address the issues as presented in our charter of demands before its tenure expires, as earlier promised,” says Mr Malau. “The action is imperative since the government reneged in fulfilling its own part of the agreement despite a series of promises.”
Absence from school can lead to learning loss, decreased motivation, and a widening achievement gap. Furthermore, access to essential services such as meals provided by schools may be affected, negatively impacting the nutritional well-being of students.
In an interview with Abraham Micah who happens to be the guardian of his little niece, a pupil of the Tajir L.E.A Primary School Ring Road, Jos (one of the affected government primary schools):
“I am very disturbed about the strike because these are very tough times and I’m more concerned about this child because if she’s not in school learning and having meaningful things take her attention she will be easily exposed to bad and dangerous things within the environment,” he said.
He further explained how hustling to feed the family gets time-consuming and has him almost constantly unavailable at home up until late hours before he is back and wouldn’t have the time to help the little kid revise what has been taught and as a result of not being able to do that, it, therefore, affects the child’s performance one way or the other.
The protracted strike could have severe long-term consequences for the affected pupils. Students who miss out on schooling for extended periods are at higher risk of dropping out, and this could hinder their future opportunities for employment and further education which may contribute to widening educational differences and worsen cases of social inequalities such as low graduation rates, discrimination in the family, poverty rate/gap and so on.
What experts are saying:
In the face of the strike, mitigating the impact of its effects on pupils has had non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other community-led initiatives on the Plateau step in to support and provide educational resources to affected pupils. These include the establishment of volunteer-run learning centres and the provision of free educational resources.
Nenkinan Deshi, the Director of Operations at Claire Aid Foundation (CAF), an NGO established to empower and inspire communities that are underserved, said that:
“The strike affects our work because these children attend government primary and secondary schools and the effect is resulting in them being inactive thereby leading to redundancy. Although, the strike has made us increase the level of time and attention given to the kids to help them academically”
He further mentioned how challenges such as funding and staffing affect the level of impact the organisation provides the beneficiaries in the community.
The NGO is contributing to achieving the SDGs 1,3 & 4 with about 250 children that benefit from their pivot project, Jebbu Miango Reads (JMR) located in Bassa LGA, through classes taken four times weekly. Moreover, JMR has a physical library structure which although not completed, is in use.
According to Executive Director of Thinking Cap Literacy Initiative (TCLI) Christine Vihishima, she made mention that prior to the ongoing strike, it has been a source of concern to the organisation because children under the provided scholarship schemes by the NGO are affected.
“We have a set of children that attend some of these government schools and are on our scholarship scheme. We are willing to pay, but we are unable to do that because the kids are unable to go back to school and it affects the progress of their education,” she said. “This is one way we are tackling this strike issue. We believe this is a safe space where these kids can come and get help with their academics and improve themselves, pending when their schools resume. Our scholarship schemes are still in place. We really desire that we have the adequate funding to help move the kids from government schools to private schools.”
TCLI is an NGO aimed at rolling back illiteracy using creative measures and their sustainable development goal (SDGs) of focus is quality and equitable access to education. The NGO recently launched a free community library at Algadama junction, Jos North, to help kids with learning/reading problems through the reading clinic and homework tutoring. Currently, the after-school library is open three times a week to children from ages 5-18 years of age to access materials and help academically.
These grassroots efforts are crucial in ensuring that education is not completely disrupted for the affected students. However, these efforts are limited in scale and may not reach all affected students.
The Plateau State government and education officials have engaged in negotiations with the striking teachers’ unions to find a resolution. While progress has been limited, the government’s commitment to addressing the concerns of the teachers is essential for resolving the strike. It is important to note that earlier this month, the Plateau State House of Assembly approved the request by Plateau governor Caleb Mutfwang to acquire a loan of ₦15 billion to settle the backlog of salary arrears of the state civil servants that amounted to about ₦11 billion.