**The workforce is over bloated—Commissioner
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- Okowa remains mute on issue at 2019 Appropriation Law
By Jon Egie
The Chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Delta state Branch, Mr Titus Okotie has cried out that the public school system in Delta state will soon collapse if urgent steps are not taken to recruit fresh teachers to replace retired and retiring teachers.
He was responding to an inquiry on the state of education in the public school system by the end of 2018.
He lamented that there was serious scarcity of teachers in public schools across the state and the situation poses grave danger for the public school system as huge number of teachers are being retired and no single teacher is recruited to replace the retired teachers.
He called on the Delta state government led by Dr Ifeanyi Okowa to do something very urgent otherwise, “we will not be able to cope any longer.”
“We are heading towards a collapse of the education system in Delta state. There are so many lacunas, the ratio of Teacher to Pupils is about 1:80 across the state and by that, proper teaching and learning cannot take place and that is why the system is not functioning well.
“They have not recruited any single teacher since 2015 in spite of our cry out and we have become helpless. They are giving room for private schools to thrive and deliberately killing the public schools because there is no way a teacher in the public school will be able to impart meaningful learning to a class of close to 100 pupils in his charge unless he is a magician.
“Something urgent needs to be done to save the public school system from imminent collapse” Okotie said.
And it doesn’t seem that the Delta State would find a permanent solution to the problem soon.
Only on Thursday, Dec 21, 2018 while signing the 2019 appropriation bill of N390.3 billion into law, Gov Okowa recalled that for the past three years plus, his administration has been able to impact positively on infrastructure development, constructed roads, built a lot of schools, improved on health facilities and provided jobs for Deltans without making a statement about recruitment of teachers to save the public primary and secondary school system from collapsing.
The Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Mr Chiedu Ebie said the Delta State Government has engaged a stop gap measure to take care of the deficiency resulting from the State Government embargo on recruitment of qualified teachers to replace the aging and retiring teachers.
According to Ebie, the Delta State Government adopted an ad hoc approach to solving the problem by deploying teachers recruited by the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari through the N-Power Scheme and Youth Corps members serving in the state as well as some staff of DESOPADEC who read Education, to the primary schools as teachers to fill up the gap.
The Commissioner maintained that until the Delta State Government has finished dealing with the situation of over bloated wage bill, the chances of recruitment of young teachers for the public school system remains a “Bridge still far”.
Reacting to the development, the Publicity Secretary of APC in Delta state, Barr Sylvester Imonina lamented that the common Deltans who stood in the sun all day to elect Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as governor of Delta state in 2015 are the ones bearing the brunt of his devilish and wicked policy to starve their children of quality education by refusing to recruit teachers for the public schools in the state.
He said the last time mass employment of teachers was made in Delta state was in 2009 during the administration of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan and that since 2015 to 2018 when Okowa took over, no teacher has been employed to fill the vacancies created by the huge numbers of retired and retiring teachers in the state.
“It is criminal negligence by the Okowa administration to punish the children of those who voted for him. Without a solid educational foundation for our children the future of the state is bleak and the action of the Okowa’s administration is an affront on the collective sensibility of Deltans.”
He said if given the mandate to take over reins of governance of the state in 2019, the APC government under Chief Great Ogboru will review the situation and carry out proactive action to remedy the situation.
“It is devilish and wicked for Okowa not to employ teachers to teach our children. It is sheer lies by Okowa to say that the number of teachers in the state is over bloated whereas in all the public primary and secondary schools across the state there are shortage of man power especially in key subjects like Mathematics, Science and Technology.
“It is a failure of the Okowa administration but the good news is that the APC has the elixir to correct the anomalies if Deltans vote us into power in 2019.” Imonina said.
Investigation revealed that the manpower of teaching staff in Delta state by the end of the year 2018 had 17,000 primary school teachers and 12,000 secondary school teachers across the state which formed part of the bulk of 65,000 workforce of the state inherited by Gov Okowa in 2015.
The workforce was perceived as over bloated causing a huge wage bill burden on the state government and hence, the Okowa administration at its onset, commenced measures to prune out ‘ghost workers’ leading to the innovations that compelled the state civil servants, local government workers and public primary and secondary school teachers to “clock in and clock out” of duty stations.
The workforce according to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Hon Festus Ovie Agas has been reduced from 65,000 to 45,000 following the measures put in place to check ghost workers and stabilize the situation.
Before the reduction of the workforce to 45,000 the wage bill of workers in the state stood at 7.56 billion naira monthly and hence, government was unable to meet up with the payment of workers’ salaries for months during the period of recession.
It was expected that with the reduced workforce to 45,000 the concomitant wage bill would fall by 23.14 per cent amounting to 1.75 billion naira saved and making the Delta State Government to be burdened with the financial obligation for wage bill of the neighbourhood of 5.81 billion monthly.
Aside this, there has been a significant reduction in the number of serving teachers in the state public primary and secondary schools as well as the local government workers and other civil servants due to retirement and death.
Available records show that in the year 2017, over 3,000 teachers in public primary and secondary schools retired from service and in 2018, over 1,500 of them also retired among whom were 152 secondary school teachers and 208 Principals.
To be retired as a public primary school teacher in the cadre of a Head teacher or Education Quality Assurance Officer on Salary Grade 14/11 or thereabout, the take home of the qualified teacher at the point of retirement stood at an average of 120, 000 naira at the lower limit and for over 5,000 teachers retired in 2016, 2017 and 2018 close to the sum of 600 million naira would have been saved by the Delta State Government in the Education sector alone and ultimately, about one billion naira would have been saved by the state government to reduce the wage bill of the workforce that had fallen to below 45,000 to about 4.81 billion naira. The take home of one retired teacher could pay the salaries of at least two fresh teachers.
But since May 29, 2015 when Governor Okowa took mantle of leadership of the state there has been an embargo on recruitment of teachers in the public primary and secondary school system across the state.
The large number of retiring teachers without recruitment to replace those retiring has become a cause for worry for the survival of the public primary and secondary education system in the state. The anxiety had earlier been publicly expressed by the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Delta state Branch, Mr Titus Okotie who fears that the situation will have negative impact on the standard of education served at the primary and secondary schools level.
It was gathered that by the year 2019, the last batch of teachers who had professional trainings in the defunct Teachers Training Colleges and proceeded to acquire National Certificates in Education (NCE) and First and Master’s Degrees in Education, forming a bulk of qualified, experienced and competent teachers that graduated from the teacher training colleges up to 1985 and were fulcrum of the primary and secondary education system in the state would be retired.
Those who would be left in the system are graduates of remedial programmes organized by the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) in various satellite campuses. The products of these programmes were commonly referred to as ‘Black and White’ in apology to the uniform of the students of the programmes that were pooled from among market women, artisans and late- school- goers who at adult found the need for education.
Investigation revealed that those products, but for a few, were deficient in subject content knowledge and pedagogy but having been sponsored by political godfathers, found their way into the teaching profession at the risk of quality and standards of education imparted to innocent children of poor Deltans who patronize the public school because none of the political chieftains of PDP in Delta state has their wards in the public schools.
Again, except for a few, a huge number of teachers in the public schools in the state are analogous, aged and cannot adapt and adjust to modern teaching methods in line with e-learning and Information Communication Technology (ICT). And for parents who desire their wards to attain quality education in an environment where e-learning and digital facilities are available with competent manpower, private schools is the alternative while the children of the poor are left to manage the dregs in the public schools with archaic and obsolete learning ideas and facilities, if available.
This situation will persist until the Okowa administration is convinced of the need for fresh graduates in Education to replace the aging, archaic and retiring teachers in order to inject fresh blood and modern ideas hinged on the global trend for learning in Science, Mathematics and Technology into the teaching profession in Delta state