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Education of displaced kids in limbo as teachers threaten strike

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Teachers, including corps members and other volunteers in the internally displaced persons’ camp in New Kuchigoro, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), have threatened to withdraw their services due to irregular payment.

A teacher at New Kuchigoro IDP primary school, who does not want her identity revealed said there is “no regular payment and sometimes the management pays us half salary.

“Our major challenge as teachers is non-payment of salary. Many teachers in the camp are graduates, NCE, HND and diploma holders. They can teach but because of nonpayment, they have refused to.”

A survey of some of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps revealed that there are currently no formal schools in most of the camps in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In some places, however, this void is filled by makeshift learning outfits run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The Life Builders Initiative, for instance, is responsible for the management of the New Kuchigoro IDP Camp primary school and the IDP camp in Area One.

A teacher spoken to said, “In kindergarten class, we have 108 pupils and 80 pupils in nursery one. In my class – nursery two – I have over 60 children to teach. This environment is not a friendly one.”

However, a corps member serving in Kuchigoro IDP school, who did not wish to be named, said many NGOs were exploiting children in IDP camps to enrich themselves.

“I observed that most NGOs come here claiming to help the children but, once they get what they want, they abandon them. They do nothing for the children. All you see here are donated by well-meaning Nigerians and NGOs not operating here. So it is perplexing that the management of the camp cannot pay salaries,” she said.

She claimed that the teachers used their money to buy teaching materials such as markers and lesson notes.

A volunteer at the school, who gave his name as Civic, said: “We know that people donate money to the school but we don’t have the right to ask how it is spent. I am paid N10,000, though not regularly, so it will be difficult to continue teaching here.”

However, Sanwo Olatunji David, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Life Builders Initiative, the body running the school said he paid teachers between N15,000 and N35,000, adding: “We are not owing any teacher beyond the month of March, and today is April 3.

“I will be very embarrassed, not surprised, if they say I don’t pay them.”

Olatunji said the journey has been very challenging. “We don’t have any international partner, no local partner on financial level. Churches, Muslim organisations, private concerns and NGOs give us material support, but none has ever given us money.

“The government should wake up to its responsibility and accept that these pupils are  also Nigerians.”

But the Head, Department of Education and Social Development, Abuja

Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mrs Tukura Dinatu, said: “The government has not neglected its responsibility because we have government schools in the communities where we have IDPs; the schools are for everyone. No discrimination in the FCT and everyone should enjoy government’s facilities.”

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