FOR NIGERIAN TEACHERS, NOT YET UHURU

Teachers have always been told that their reward is in heaven, at least for those in Nigeria.

However, from what transpired on Monday 5th October 2020, when the whole world marked Teachers Day, it looked like some of their rewards were going to start reaching them while still alive on earth.

It was a pleasant surprise when it was announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved a special salary scale and new retirement age for teachers. The President’s approval, which was announced on his behalf by Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu, during celebrations marking World Teachers Day in Abuja included an extension of teachers’ years of service from 35 to 40.

According to the Minister, the implementation of the incentives scheme was to encourage the teachers to deliver better services, as well as to revitalize and reposition the teaching profession.

Details of the new National Teaching Policy as signed and approved by President Buhari are:

  1. Establishment of a Special Salary Scale.
  2. Retirement by age is now 65.
  3. Retirement by service is now 40.
  4. Rural allowance to be paid.
  5. Increase in science allowance.
  6. Provision for Peculiar Allowance.
  7. Automatic admission and free tuition for children of Teachers at their places of work.
  8. Automatic recruitments of B.Ed graduating students.
  9. Bachelor of Education students are to enjoy stipends or education special allowance.
  10. Education students in colleges and universities are to enjoy special bursary awards.
  11. TETFund will now be used to fund Teaching Practices.
  12. Enhanced entry for graduating students into service.
  13. Special Teachers Pension Scheme to be established.

What was not included in the hopeful package was the effective date of the new policy – when will teachers start receiving the new salary?

A day after the presidential proclamation, both the Federal Ministries of Education and Finance could not offer any comfort as they claim not to have a proper brief yet, on new pay. What is clear is that there has been a disconnect between all the government agencies involved.

Even some State Governments seemed surprised that such a policy is being introduced. You can understand the position of the States because they are the main employers of teachers, either at primary, secondary or tertiary levels.

Another major area which does not seem to have been addressed is how to fund the new pay, with the government already facing funding issues, including dealing with university lecturers who have been on strike for almost 8 months for pay-related reasons. Therefore, details of the new Teachers’ Special Salary remain unclear, with no idea of take-off date, how the funding will be provided when it has not been budgeted for and where any new funding will come from.

So, have the teachers been made to celebrate a pay increase too early? It seems so.

For one, if the Ministry of Education, whose Minister made the announcement on behalf of the President is still expecting to be ‘briefed’ on their own policy, and the Ministry of Finance, which will tell us the when and how the funds will be provided cannot say so, then it is good to say nothing has changed.

The Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, reacted with the hope that the new salary structure would help to attract the best brains to teaching and the profession should not be seen as that for never-do-well.

Several State Governments who were taken by surprise by the announcement say they will study it critically before making their positions known. Many of these States are still also struggling with paying the minimum wage and most of them depend on the Federal Government to meet their recurrent bills.

There are some States who are happy about the policy, though. Governor lfeanyi Okowa of Delta State calls the new policy “A welcome development”, while commending Nigerian teachers for their role in nation-building. Okowa said in a statement that teachers were the bedrock of the development of any nation and affirmed that his administration placed a high premium on the welfare of teachers and other workers in the public service.

Edo, his neighbouring State, in its reaction, said it will do better for teachers than what the Federal Government has announced and it will continue to provide more incentives for its teachers.

We can tell from the silence from most of the other States that they will depend on the Federal Government in the implementation of the new Teachers Policy.

Nigeria is one of the countries where teachers do not seem to get their deserved recognition and rewards for their contributions to nation building.

Everyone who goes to any kind of school owes his progress in life to the performance of his or her teachers at all levels of education. Many countries value teachers and the teaching profession, and teachers are the highest paid professionals in several of those countries.

Countries like England, Australia, The Netherlands, Mexico and Finland are on the top rung of the ladder of those who appreciate teachers and value their contributions to their development and this value is reflected in the salary of teachers. Others on the top stage include South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and the United States, while countries like China and the United Arab Emirates attract foreign teachers with good wage incentives.

Nigeria has a lot to learn from these countries on how to appreciate teachers and the teaching profession. A good start would be to ensure that the provisions in the new Teaching Policy are implemented immediately, starting with a definite pronouncement on when the payment of the new improved teachers wage will take off.

And that take off date should not be left to blow in the wind!

 

IMAGE CREDIT: nintendo-power.com,

 

Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.

 

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