The Abia Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ikechi Mgbeoji, says the State Government is investigating the reported demotion of a headmistress pleading for the payment of teachers outstanding salaries.
The commissioner told newsmen in Umuahia on Friday that the devlopment could not be true.
Mgbeoji explained that government would not demote or transfer anybody for alleged wrongdoing without first issuing a query to the person.
The headmistress, Mrs Maryleen Ezichi, was said to had been demoted to a classroom teacher and transferred to another zone for allegedly “begging’’ the governor’s wife, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu, “to appeal to the governor to pay teachers in order to alleviate our plight”.
She reportedly made the appeal in her vote of thanks to Ikpeazu, who was in the school on March 16 to inaugurate the free meal scheme for primary school pupils in the state.
Ezichi was quoted to have said: “Your Excellency, our first lady, a common adage said that ‘any massage sent through the billow of smoke has got to heaven, so please help us to plead with His Excellency to pay teachers because we are suffering.”
The appeal was said to have elicited loud applause from other teachers and pupils at the event.
The report of her subsequent plight drew wild public outcry as a cross-section of residents considered the government’s action as witch-hunting and victimisation against the headmistress for making a legitimate demand.
Teachers in the state were being owed five months arrears of salaries, in addition to the non-implementation of the harmonised teachers’ salaries, among other allowances and entitlements.
Sources at the Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) and the Nigeria Union Teachers (NUT) confirmed the transfer, but said that Ezichi was yet to report to Ukwa East Local Government Education Authority.
A senior official of ASUBEB also told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview on Friday that the letter of transfer and ‘demotion’ was signed by the Secretary and Director of Administration of the board, Messrs Iheanacho Ogwunka and Chris Ugorji, respectively.
The source, however, denied reports that Ezichi was demoted and transferred because she pleaded with Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to pay teachers’ salary arrears.
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“Transfer is a routine exercise in every government employment.
“As an employee of government, you can be transferred from one part of the state to another, where government considers that your service is most needed.
“Government reserves the right to reshuffle its workers, so the case of Ezichi is not an exemption,” the source said.
The source added that the transfer was “with immediate effect” and described her failure to report at her new posting as an “act of insubordination”.
The source further said that the headmistress was not demoted, saying moving her to the classroom is not tantamount to demotion.
“Let us assume that a head teacher on Grade Level 16 is asked to go back to classroom, he still remains on the same grade,” the source said.
The emphasised that “the headship of a school is an appointment and not a promotion” to justify that Ezichi was not demoted, technically-speaking.
“We did not demote any teacher. Indeed, no teacher was demoted in the state,” the source said.
An executive member of the state NUT also told NAN on the condition of anonymity that the union had received an official report on the matter from Ohafia chapter of the union.
The executive member said a photocopy of the letter from ASUBEB was attached to the petition.
“It is true that the woman had not reported to Ukwa East LGEA. The union wants to wade into the matter,” the official said.
The source said that the union had scheduled to meet with the Commissioner for Education on the matter.
“She will not report there until we have met with the commissioner,” the official said.