Nearly 2,000 teachers employed by the Federal Government for the 104 Unity Schools have not been paid since they were hired more than two years ago. They shared their ordeal with KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE.
Getting hired to teach in one of the 104 Federal Unity Colleges – also known as unity schools – is a dream for many Nigerian teachers. They are assured of better pay according to the federal civil service wage structure (which is better than what obtains in private schools); enjoy steady progress on the job and retirement benefits.
That was what prompted about 1,710 teachers to abandon their former teaching jobs and other businesses in the private sector to pursue the federal civil service dream in 2018/2019.
However, that dream has turned into a nightmare as they have not been paid since they received their appointment letters more than two years ago.
“We have been employed by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Education. Some December 2018, some between January and July 2019. We went for interview; we passed and they gave us appointment letters. Since then, nothing has been given to us as salary. They said we need to wait till they capture us,” said one of the teachers, who works in one of the co-educational Federal Government colleges in Lagos.
The teachers, who spoke with The Nation on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, said they had done multiple documentations that required traveling to Abuja several times.
However, despite doing capturing last year – which entailed submitting their data for enrolment on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), among others, and re-documentation early this month in Abuja, nothing has been said about their salaries.
The Lagos-based teacher, who said there were 20 of them in his school, said: “They called us to come to Abuja early this month to do re-documentation. We are about 1,710 and they called about 919 of us to come and do re-documentation – that was late July to early August. They did it for two geo-political zones. Southwest fell between August 2 and 4.
“They have not given us anything. We do not even know what to do next; and we do not know their mind. Anytime we call on them they will say very very soon.”
Another teacher, who was posted to the Quality Assurance unit of the Federal Ministry of Education, Oyo, said he had traveled five times to Abuja for documentation since he was employed.
“We have not been paid. I am part of unity school teachers employed since 2018/2019 session though I was posted to the Federal Education Quality Assurance Service, Oyo State. I have travelled to Abuja nothing less than five times, for documentation, posting and others. The officers in charge keep giving us unnecessary promises that we are going to be invited for capturing soon,” he said.
A Chemistry teacher in one of the Federal Government Colleges in Abuja said she had also gone for re-documentation and capturing but learnt that the capturing had been cancelled.
“My employment letter was dated July 10, 2019. I have not been paid a dime; and I have gone for this re-documentation they asked us to do yet nothing has been done about it. Most of my colleagues have gone for capturing one time. Those of us in the northern part of the country went for capturing last year but I learnt it has been cancelled,” she said.
When asked for comments about the non-payment of salaries, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, told The Nation that the matter was with the Head of Service. He said there was the problem of illegal employment.
“The matter is with the Office of the Head of Service and it is being resolved. They were caught up with the discovery of illegal employment and later the embargo placed on recruitment and capturing on IPPIS,” he said in a WhatsApp message.
The Director of Information at the ministry, Mr Ben Goong, also said the teachers ought to be paid by the Office of the Accountant General, not the Ministry of Education.
The non-payment of salaries has caused the 1,710 teachers untold hardship and left them regretting taking up the jobs.
The Abuja-based Chemistry teacher said she has been surviving on her husband’s income.
“I was working in a private school. God has been the one helping me. I am a married woman so my husband has been the one providing for me. But there are some of us that are not yet married. They are the ones fending for their families. We are not finding it easy o because I cannot buy what I want to buy. I cannot do what I want to do because I do not have money,” he said.
For the Quality Assurance officer in Oyo, catering for his family in the last two years has been difficult, making him regret leaving his former job at the Umar Bun Kattab College, Saki, Oyo State.
“I was working with Umar Bun Khattab College, Saki, and I am highly disappointed in taking the Federal Government job because since then, life has not been easy for me and my family,” he said.
The Lagos-based teacher said many teachers live on loans. He also said he had been thrown out of his accommodation for failure to pay rent.
“We have been borrowing and borrowing till those people lending to us got tired and did not lend to us again. Some of us have been sick for the past two months they are in hospital now there is no money to pay for hospital bill.
“Personally as I am talking to you, I have been sent packing from the place I rented because I do not have money to pay again. One of us called me yesterday and was crying. She said, ‘I want to pay my children’s school fees; they have sent them away’, and her landlord has issued her quit notice as she had not paid for one year.”
In the course of traveling for documentation, all the teachers confirmed some of their colleagues had died in road accidents.
“About three to four of us died through road accidents while going for that re-documentation and some of us as well had an accident but thank God it was just only three people that died, others were injured,” said the Lagos teacher.
The Abuja-based teacher added: “I did the documentation last month. I had to go to Abuja for it. Everyone travelled. We even lost two of us, if not more than two – people that were traveling from far North to Abuja. The two died in in accident. Some got kidnapped.”
She added that her school recently lost a pregnant teacher to health complications.
“I have a colleague who died of sickness. She was pregnant and had issue. Next thing she was rushed to the hospital and then lost her life. Who knows if she had been paid and registered in a good hospital maybe she would not die. She had two young children and a husband. In fact we are in agony. I pray they can do something immediately,” she said.