The Department of State Security Service (DSS) has sacked at least 71 teaching staff of the Community Staff Schools in Abuja, run by them for demanding pay raise and better working conditions, Premium Times reports.
The publication further reports that although the schools are run like private institutions, the primary and secondary schools, situated in Asokoro, are owned by the DSS.
In its memo dated November 2, 2020, the school management asked parents to allow the closure of the school for two weeks to enable the management ‘re-organize the school.’
It was, however, gathered that the school issued the closure notice after sacking its entire teaching staff, including headmasters and principals down to the laboratory attendants.
In one of the sack letters dated November 2, 2020, and issued to one of the teachers, the school wrote:
“Due to the effect of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy vis-a-vis the crippling financial situation of the school. I am directed to convey the Director-General, State Services (DGSS) Proprietor’s approval to disengage you from the services of the school with effect from 3rd November 2020.
“Meanwhile, you are expected to hand over all school properties in your custody…
“You may wish to contact your Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) for your benefits. The proprietor wishes you well in your future endeavors, please.”
The Protest Led to the Sack
It was gathered that staff from both primary and secondary arms, on October 15, protested against the repeated pay cut and called for better work conditions in line with how other civil servants in government-owned establishments are treated.
They said their protests were suppressed by DSS operatives, who shot in the air while the schools were in session, in an attempt to disperse them.
“Get back to the classrooms were all they said as they boxed us all (the protesting staff) to a corner,” one of the staff told Premium Times.
Unlike staff from other government-owned establishments, the CSS for years has not been entitled to benefits despite several promises from the management.
Some of them, having worked for over 10 years as teachers in the school eventually got a pay raise. Five years ago, after a protest, their pay was further reduced after a month.
“Five years back (after a protest), they promised to revisit our conditions of service. They even increased our salaries but reduced it lower than what we used to earn a month later. They said it was a mistake – a mistake they are yet to correct till date,” another teacher said.
Even as the COVID-19 destabilized workers salaries globally, the management cut the teachers’ salaries by half.
As the workers complained about their treatment, parents were also lamenting the CSS management’s newly increased school fees for both the primary and secondary arms.
“From a little above N70,000 that students in the (CSS) secondary school used to pay, it has been increased to N90,000. This happened at the same time our salaries were again slashed by (a) quarter, using the pandemic as an excuse,” another female teaching staff, who has been working in the school, told Premium Times, pleading anonymity.
Conditions the teachers are subjected to
The publication also reported that while the person with the least work experience among the sacked teachers by the DSS has taught in the school for seven years, some of the affected staff have “actually been working for Community Staff Schools for close to for 19, 18, 16 years while some have worked for lesser years.”
“The letter of employment we got from the school stated that we will be treated like public servants. Lo and behold, whenever changes took place in the public service, they were unable to effect those things. We were no longer treated like government workers, but private workers.
“When conditions that favour public servants come, they won’t give. They will say we are private. When the negative ones come, they will say we are public servants. We are confused, we don’t know where we are again.
“Five years later, this year, when the minimum wage issue came up, they promised that we should continue with our work that they will review our salaries and they will pay our arrears by September. Rather than effect that promise, they slashed our salaries to quarter again, saying they don’t have money.
“We have our papers here, there is a court injunction, a case that was in court for three to four years that we won. The court ordered the DSS to effect those changes in our salary structure but they refused to obey the court’s injunction. Is the DSS above the law?” asked another staff member.
The reason for the sack letters, according to the school, is due to COVID-19.
The DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, in his reaction, said that “no single staff was dismissed,” despite the contrary evidence.
He added that “the school (CSS) is autonomous and not run by the DSS,” another claim not backed by available evidence.
“I was also told that the school will be cutting short its earlier two-week break to resume on Thursday, 3rd November 2020,” Mr Afunanya concluded, in his response.