Abia State Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, has assured that the state government is actively engaged with striking teachers to ensure that contentious issues that led to the recent strike action are resolved quickly to enable students return to school as soon as possible.
Addressing newsmen in his office at the state secretariat Umuahia, the spokesman of the government praised Abia teachers for their contribution to the development of the state.
According to him, “Abia State School teachers are the best in Nigeria. We are proud of the work they are doing, as they remain key contributors to our great state delivering the best results in West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE), back to back, for 3 years under the watch of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.”
He assured that the government will continue to prioritize the welfare of teachers and informed that relevant government officials are actively engaged with the representatives of the teachers body, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), to resolve the issues that led to the industrial action embarked on by members of the NUT on Monday.
He further stated that the Ikpeazu administration will continue the retraining program for teachers, anchored by Australian education providers, while rewarding the best teachers in the state from time to time.
On the development of educational infrastructure in the state, Chief Okiyi said: “our four model schools will soon be commissioned and our students are also expected to commence using some of the 259 new classroom blocks already delivered by the government across the 17 local government areas of the state.
“The superstructure for the new education hub in the state is also emerging around the Owerrinta area in Isiala Ngwa South LGA and when fully developed it is expected to further provide the needed skilled manpower to drive the Enyimba industrial city and energize our ‘make in Abia’ agenda.”
On the impact of the current strike on the high performing products of Abia school system, he said; “the back to back award winning products of Abia school system deserve to be back in school and we will ensure that happens as soon as possible by finding a mutually agreeable solution to the current impasse. For the sake of our award winning school children, teachers and parents, we will do our best and indeed we are determined to end the strike as quickly as possible.
“At the same time we remain irrevocably committed to delivering more dividends of democracy to the more than 4 million Abians who also expect their government to prioritize their welfare through the provision of necessary socio-economic infrastructure that will enable our naturally hardworking people excel.”
On the strike recently embarked upon by lecturers of Abia State Polytechnic (Abiapoly) Aba, the Commissioner stated that the issues are being resolved between the management of the institution and the striking lecturers.
“As you are aware Abiapoly is a parastatal of Government with statutory powers to generate and use revenue to run its operations. We don’t pay their workers salary but where they have challenges we support them with subventions. At the inception of this administration, we paid off a debilitating loan of two billion Naira obtained by the management of the institution, on the understanding that relieving them of that huge burden will help the school recalibrate their operating cash flow and be able to run without relying on funds from the state government. When that didn’t materialize we continued to support them with monthly subventions in the hope that they will quickly restructure and become more efficient in managing their affairs.
“Abia State University (ABSU) Uturu had similar challenge with payment of salaries in the past but with prudent management and realigning of their financial operation the institution is now able to regularly pay salaries and since moved up in national ranking by more than 40 spots. ABSU has gone more than 3 years without a single strike and we expect the management team of Abiapoly to borrow from the script of ABSU and stop draining the lean resources of the state.
“It is important to state that we are aware of a garnishee order on the account of Abiapoly by a TETFUND Contractor who worked for the school 6 years ago. The former management of the institution failed to appeal against that order, leading to the institution’s current inability to access more than N200m of its funds, including subventions totaling N180m provided by the state government from the 3rd tranche of Paris Club Refund to support the payment of 2 months outstanding wages.
“Whatever support the government can give to ensure the emergence of a better Abiapoly will certainly be given but it is important that the management and staff of Abiapoly take responsibility and also the lead in repositioning the institution.”