As Nigeria’s university lecturers continue a nearly four-month-old nationwide strike, teachers at technical schools across the country have joined the fray, saying they won’t teach again until their demands are met.
At a technical school on Monday, union leaders told lecturers: Go home, Delta State has joined the strike.
Technical school teachers officially went on strike October 4, but many local branches of the national polytechnic teachers union originally opted out. However, most are now in.
Teachers say in 2009 the government promised them better pay, infrastructure and more control of the activities on their own campuses, but has yet to make good on the promise.
“If the polytechnics are well-funded, well taken care, grants are given to lecturers for research, we will do much more than what we are doing,” said Thomas Ojuye, a local union chief.
The technical school teachers are joining university lecturers, who went on strike nationwide on July 1.
The government has since promised universities hundreds of million of dollars in additional funding but academic officials say the money has not been dispersed.
Meanwhile, the strike has become a political football in Nigeria, with opposition leaders slamming the federal government for allowing schools to remain closed. This week, youth leaders from the National Association of Nigerian students called for the teachers to back down, saying their demands are “unrealistic and un-implementable.”
Students are mixed in their reactions, with many saying that low-paid teachers, dilapidated buildings and a lack of research funding are crippling their ability to get an education.
Johnson Mohammad studies computer technology in Delta State. He wants to graduate next year, but he says it's doubtful now, and has returned to his farm. Still, he supports the teachers’ right to strike.
“Looking at it from their angle, they are fair because it’s to favor the polytechnics and also to favor the students,” he said.
Chris Onojeje, a former president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, says part of the problem is that the 2009 plan to upgrade universities and technical schools was not made with the current federal government headed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
“When the Jonathan administration came in, as it were, they ought to have fallen in line with the agreement of their predecessors,” he said.
Onojeje says the strike is also wasting money because in many parts of Nigeria, teachers are still getting paid. And in the meantime, he says, young people in Nigeria - a country where most people live in abject poverty and there are few available jobs - are now out of the classroom with nothing to do.
Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.