Workers at the Tai Solarin College of Education are currently owed billions in salary arrears and unremitted cooperative and pension deductions by their employer-Ogun State government, from 2009 till date. Over the years, 48 of them have passed away in active service, with most of the deaths attributable to the hardship caused by the prolonged non-payment. In this three-part report, The ICIR‘s ‘Kunle ADEBAJO chronicles the challenges faced by the deceased before they died, and the frustration of the living college’s staff members as well as their dependants.
The weather condition on a July morning at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State was sunny, cloudy, and mildly windy. It was fair weather, and everything else seemed normal.
Students and teachers at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School including the visitors walked in different paces into the school premises. But not too far into the morning, the atmosphere changed abruptly from calm to commotion with the shocking discovery of a dead body.
A 66-year-old man, Abiodun Osinaike, who had worked at Tai Solarin College of Education, TASCE, until his retirement in 2017 was found lifeless behind the wheels of his beige-coloured 2001 Nissan Pathfinder.
Finding him at the location was no surprise. For years, the deceased had paid frequent visits to the premises of Ijebu-Ode Grammar School to participate in the annual marking exercises of the West African Examinations Council and the National Examination Council.
Though a former chief lecturer, head of the Department of Chemistry, and dean of the School of Science at the college, Osinaike could barely afford to feed his wife and three children because of the protracted non-payment of salaries by his employer, the Ogun State government.
To make ends meet, he joined members of the National Youth Service Corps, young graduates and secondary school teachers who earned paltry wages from marking answer scripts for ordinary level examinations. He also wrote science textbooks, which he marketed to schools.
Mojisola, Osinaike’s wife who taught at Christ Apostolic Church in Degun, had always relieved him of many of his financial burdens. But on August 22 2012, she had an asthma attack and was admitted at the Ogun State University Teaching Hospital. Three Wednesdays later, she died—despite a loan obtained by her husband from Guaranty Trust Bank to prevent her death.
“Ever since she died, things have been very tough for him,” says Titilayo Modupe, 34, Osinaike’s eldest child.
She recalls her dad slipping continuously into despair and needing to be constantly consoled. He was overwhelmed with worry, gloom, and financial burden. Titilayo is certain her father died of depression.
Her father’s misfortune was not unexpected, she said. The Ogun State government had owed him full salaries for over two years, part salaries for over four years, as well as pension arrears among other entitlements.
And all the over 300 individuals still working at the Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE) are similarly affected. At the last count, other 48 former staff of TASCE have died in active service—the deaths of most of whom may be directly attributed to privation and depression.
There are 89 colleges of education in Nigeria approved by the National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE. Of these, three are situated in Ogun State, and TASCE is the only one owned by the state government.
First established in 1978 as the Ogun State College of Education, TASCE was upgraded to a university of education in 2005 after approval by the Nigerian Universities Commission. Then in October 2008, the college was disjointed from the university and relocated from Ijagun to a new campus in Omu-Ijebu. This separation commonly referred to as ‘disarticulation’ began the misfortune of the college workers.
In 1999, after its accreditation exercise, the NCCE rated TASCE as the best state College of Education. Over the last decade, however, the institution’s rating has dropped.
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