AN ADDRESS PRESENTED BY DR. MUHAMMED NASIR IDRIS, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, NIGERIA UNION OF TEACHERS ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY AT THE EAGLE SQUARE, ABUJA ON 5TH OCTOBER, 2019.  

PROTOCOL

I am most grateful to the Almighty God for granting us the opportunity to witness and participate in this momentous celebration of the year’s World Teachers’ Day.  October 5 has remained a milestone in the history of the teaching profession since 1994 when it was inaugurated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to honour and appreciate teachers all over the World for their immeasurable contributions to the development of humanity and society.

 

It is gratifying that the Federal Government has kept faith with this global commitment by not only recognizing this historic day but also playing crucial role in the preparation and observance of this remarkable annual event.  I wish to commend the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for the sustenance of the President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award which has inspired a sense of belonging, hope and dignity amongst teachers of Nigeria.  Let me also appreciate some State governors who have extended the same hands of fellowship to teachers by their active involvement in marking the global event in their respective States.

 

May I, on behalf of the teachers of Nigeria, warmly welcome to this auspicious occasion our Special Guest of Honour, Distinguished invitees, Members of Parliament, Government Functionaries, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and sister Industrial Unions, Parents, Guardians, Professional colleagues, Employers of teachers, Captains of Industries, International Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, all people of goodwill and gentlemen of the Press.  Let me also welcome the great teachers of Nigeria and congratulate them for their courage, sacrifice, perseverance and dedication to their professional duties and for their service to humanity and nation building.

Theme of the World Teachers’ Day:  The theme of this year’s celebration, “Young Teachers:  The Future of the Profession” seeks to draw public attention to the issues of attrition, teacher shortage and the challenge of attracting and retaining young motivated and dedicated teachers into the teaching profession.  According to UNESCO Institute of Statistics (2016) over 69 Million teachers are needed for primary and secondary education to meet the targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) around the world by 2030.  Out of this number, the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) report indicated that 48.6 million new recruits were needed to replace those teachers who are to leave the profession either through retirement or voluntarily.

 

In Nigeria, the issue of shortage of teachers has remained a major challenge in the education system.  Reports from practitioners indicate an alarming rate of retirement of teachers without a corresponding recruitment to fill the gap.  This has resulted in acute shortage of teachers especially in rural areas.  The theme therefore brings to the fore the need for a policy redirection that would enhance the occupational and social status of teachers and engender a more fulfilling teaching career that would make the profession more attractive to young persons with a view to meeting the manpower needs of our schools. 

 

As the world moves towards the actualization of the SDGs, it must be noted that the New 2030 Education Agenda to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” cannot be achieved without the engagement of adequate new generation of well trained, empowered and motivated teachers who are provided with necessary infrastructure, instructional materials, remuneration, career progression and incentives to make a difference and to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st century.

 

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests and noble colleagues, the World Teachers’ Day provides us the opportunity to take stock of developments in the education sector.  It is important therefore to draw the attention of government to some issues of concern to teachers and to the education community.

Retirement Age of Teachers:  The demand for upward review of the retirement age of teachers is age-long. The teachers of primary and secondary schools in the country were pleased to note that the 8th National Assembly passed the Bill for review of the retirement age of Teachers/Education Officers from 60 to 65 years.  As the Bill awaits Presidential assent, we look forward with great expectations that His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, will not hesitate to sign it into law, as an extension of the good gesture of the Federal government to teachers of primary and secondary schools as it was done to their colleagues at the tertiary level in the past.

Teachers Salary Structure:  The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) acknowledges and supports recent efforts made by the Federal Ministry of Education to promote positive reforms in the education sector.  One of the teacher related reforms being sought for is the Teachers Salary Structure (TSS) which the NUT has demanded since 1992.  It is our belief that a special salary structure for teachers would address the peculiarities of the teaching profession and give the profession its true identity and status.  We hereby once again make our humble submission that the proposal for a uniform Teachers Salary Structure (TSS) for all professional teachers in the country be given due attention and consideration.

National Secondary Education Commission: The Act establishing the National Secondary Education Commission (NSEC) was enacted in 1999. However, successive governments failed to inaugurate the commission to carry out its functions.  The NUT is therefore grateful to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for revisiting this protracted issue, and approving the establishment of the Commission in May, 2019.  It is our hope and expectation that the NSEC would, this time around, be made fully operational for effective management of secondary education in the country.

Payment of Teachers Gratuity and Pension:  The NUT observes with dismay the plight of retired teachers who, despite their toils, sacrifices and meritorious services to the nation, are denied retirement benefits. The establishment of Contributory Pension Scheme in the country is a right step in the right direction.  However, the scheme is engulfed in teething challenges in some States of the Federation.  We wish to appeal to the relevant authorities in all tiers of government to address the issue of payment of gratuity and pension so as to make retirement life joyful, more purposeful and fulfilling for teachers across the country.

Salaries of Primary School Teachers:  The NUT was concerned about the guideline issued by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) to the effect that all allocations accruable to Local Government Councils (LGCs) should go directly to their respective banks with effect from 1st June, 2019, as the directive was likely to adversely affect the payment of primary school teachers’ salaries.  The Union, however, commends the NFIU for its efforts in addressing this issue through a recent directive that “No transaction shall be permitted on a Local Government Account until all salaries of Local Government Staff, Primary School Teachers, Traditional Rulers and all other staff are removed”.  We therefore, call on all LGCs to comply with this directive by ensuring that the salaries of primary school teachers in the country are released accordingly for prompt payment.

Unity School Teachers:  The NUT wishes to reiterate its concern over the non-payment of the 27.5% Professional Allowances to teachers of Federal Government Colleges, and call on the Federal Government to graciously approve payment of the said allowances as this would go a long way to further motivate the affected teachers towards optimum performance and productivity.  The Union also urges relevant authorities to ensure that teachers of Unity Schools and other Command Schools in the country are allowed to fully exercise their Trade Union rights by belonging to the Industrial Unions of their choice.

Handover of Schools:  The NUT observes with great concern steps taken by some State Governments to handover public schools to private organisations without recourse to key stakeholders.  We view such actions as a gross violation of the Compulsory, Free Universal Education Act of 2004 which provides for a 9-year free and compulsory basic education for all children in Nigeria.  We hereby call on the concerned State Governments to rescind their decision on handover of schools but be alive to their fundamental responsibility of safeguarding the right of every child to education and redouble their efforts in the provision of quality public education for the benefit of the mass of underprivileged children in the country.

 

In conclusion, I wish to register our profound gratitude to the Nigeria Breweries Plc for instituting the Maltina Best Teachers’ Award to reward exceptional secondary school teachers in Nigeria.  This award has, no doubt, become a source of inspiration and encouragement for the teachers to rededicate themselves to greater service delivery.

 

On our part as teachers, we are using this occasion to honour three outstanding Governors with the “Best Education Friendly Governors Award” as a mark of our appreciation for the remarkable achievements they have made in advancing education in their respective states. It is our pledge to sustain the existing cordial working relationship between government and our great Union, and to remain committed to the ideals of our well chosen profession and persevere in our efforts to contribute our quota to the building of our dear nation.

 

 

Thank you for your attention and God bless you all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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