Mrs. Ekponwan Ekanem, a single mother of two and schoolteacher in Cross River State, tells ADA WODU about the struggle of schoolteachers in government-owned schools who were allegedly demoted for no just cause in 2016.
When And Why Were You Demoted?
Others and I were demoted in 2016. They (State Universal Basic Education Board) called us for a promotion interview and when we went they asked us about our last promotion. My last promotion was in 2009. When they looked at my certificates, they said my NCE (National Certificate in Education) was fake. I said no, it was not. I went to the place where I registered for the exams and sent the master list to them. When they saw that the NCE was authentic, they asked for my Grade 2 certificate. I had to retake a paper in Grade 2. So, I told them I was remedying the paper, since GCE (General Certificate Examination) was struck out. They gave me Level 12 on my promotion list. But to my greatest surprise, they demoted me. They took me from Level 9 to Level 4 even with my NCE, which they were using all along to promote me to Level 9. Now I am supposed to be on Level 13 but they took me to Level 4! Even when Stephen Odey (Chairman, SUBEB) called us for reinstatement interview, he was the one who asked me why I was demoted, because my mates that had three to four papers to remedy were getting their full salaries.
How Many Teachers Were Affected?
We are quite many. Teachers affected cut across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State. Since 2009, I have not been promoted. No yearly salary increment. What they are cutting from my salary is over N40,000 every month for 13 years now.
How Have You Been Coping?
Many of my colleagues have died because of the hardship. My children are in the house; no food. I can’t pay my house rent and my landlord has evicted me from the house. I am now squatting with my neighbour. My property is outside. We are stranded. My mother is very sick. I can’t buy the medicine I used to buy for her. I am a single mother of two.
Why Is It Taking SUBEB So Long To Reinstate You?
I don’t know. Stephen Odey called us for reinstatement before vying for a Senate seat. We thought he was going to reinstate us but to our greatest surprise, we were not reinstated. I remedied that paper in December 2016. Every one of my certificates is correct. I showed it to them. I was teaching Primary 2 pupils at Government Primary School, Oil Palm Estate, Calabar. We had been pestering Stephen Odey before he left SUBEB. It is now about four years since they called us for the reinstatement interview yet they have not reinstated us, not to talk of promoting us. We even got information that if they are going to promote us, we will be taken back to Level 9, where we were before they demoted us. They are not the people that employed or promoted us to that Level 9. I was employed in year 2000 before Governor Ben Ayade came to power in 2015. What we need from them now is to reinstate us and then give us our promotion to be at par with our colleagues. They should also pay us our outstanding salaries.
What Steps Are You And Other Affected Teachers Taking To Bring Your Plight To Government’s Attention?
When this incident happened, our colleagues were afraid to come out en masse to protest. They were afraid of the Government. I have been stagnated for 12 years now. I am supposed to be a Level-13 officer. Irrespective of the level those affected were, everyone was demoted to Level 4. Government officials know about our plight but they are keeping quiet about it. None of them is saying anything. We would have embarked on a mass protest but our colleagues are afraid because Stephen Odey used to threaten that he would sack them. I am not afraid because he did not employ me. The only people he demoted are primary schoolteachers because he knows we have nobody that would speak for us.
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