Teachers’ reward…Still in heaven?

THIS year’s celebration of World Teachers’ Day has “Young Teachers: The future of the Profession” as its theme, held annually on 5 October since 1994, World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ILO/UNESCO) recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

This recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions. The Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997 to complement the 1966 Recommendation by covering teaching and research personnel in higher education.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, and the dedicated target (SDG 4.c) recognising teachers as key to the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda, WTD has become the occasion to mark progress and reflect on ways to counter the remaining challenges for the promotion of the teaching profession.

Despite the significant roles they play in the society, the teaching profession remains the least ranked and appreciated profession in the country. This is partly due to poor attention that governments at all levels pay to the profession. Teachers in the country are poorly paid, lacked the requisite training to measure up with their counterparts in other parts of the world.

The challenges confronting the profession continue to mount. These include the best brains not willing to embrace teaching and poor welfare and reward for teachers. Teachers too have been accused of not demonstrating the required professionalism and passion.

Others include low wages, poor motivation, absence of a professional education academy, lack of professional and in-service trainings, high teacher-pupil ratio and lack of autonomy by Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT).

It is ironical to assume that teachers who are saddled with the responsibility of moulding the character of future generations, equipping them with tools for greatness would live and die in abject poverty.

As at May this year, some states are either owing teachers salaries, or not implementing the N18,000 minimum wage for teachers. According to data obtained from the Nigeria Union of Teachers, the umbrella body of teachers in the country, Abia is owing teachers in secondary school in the state eight months salary. Benue is owing teachers in primary schools 10 months salaries.

Kogi State owes teachers between 10-25 months. Although the government is offsetting this by paying the teachers in percentage. Ekiti state on the other hand, is owing teachers six months salary which covers April – September, 2018. The arrears were left behind by former governor, Ayodele Fayose. Ondo on the other hand is owing teachers two months’ salaries.

In Nasarawa State, teachers were on half salary between November 2015 and November 2018. According to the NUT, there was shortfall on salaries coming from Local Government.

According to the NUT, Borno has not fully implemented the N18, 000 minimum wage to primary school teachers in the state. Zamfara State has refused to implement the N18, 000 minimum wage for teachers in the state.

“Kogi State is paying half salary. Teachers who were affected by the last verification and screening are yet to be included on payroll,” the NUT data said.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, had announced in 2017 that the Federal Government was working on a plan to ensure that teachers are paid salaries higher than other workers in the country.

Adamu had said that increase in the salaries of teachers would help to attract the best to the teaching profession.

But two years after, nothing seems to have changed according to the National President of the NUT, Muhammed Idris.

The NUT President lamented the poor conditions of teachers in some states. According to him, this poor condition would impart the quality of education in the country.

He said: “There is no fulfillment of that promise. The other time we visited him he told us that they have plans for the Nigerians teachers.

“We as teachers have so many problems. We always tell government to address these problems so that Nigerian teachers will be happy. But honestly, our teachers are not happy. That is why we insist on the extension of years of service for Nigerian teachers.

“In most states, our classrooms are almost empty. About 22 states have not recruited teachers for the past four to five years and teachers are retiring by the day. That is our main concern.

“You will go to classrooms, you will see a classroom with almost 70 pupils inside with no teacher. Most of the states are running away from the cost of employing teachers.

“The remaining teachers on ground are manning the schools. One teacher will attend three  classes in a day.

“There is also the challenge of infrastructural decay in most of our schools. Our teachers tech in the shades. There are no classrooms even in places where there are classrooms there are no sitting tables and chairs. How do you expect them to improve their productivity?

“Our teachers are ready to teach but the government is demoralising us. Majority of state governments are demoralising us as far as this profession is concerned. That is why we said let them address these issues no also recruit more teachers to manage these schools.”

Idris appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to sign into law the bill seeking to increase the retirement age of teachers/education officers from 60 to 65.

In a briefing ahead of the WTD in Abuja, the NUT national president said that the union would not rest on its demand to see that the bill is assented to by the president.

He said: “I wish to also acknowledge the collaborative efforts of the Federal Ministry of Education, the Nigeria Union of Teachers and other stakeholders to see that our age-long demand for review of the retirement age of teachers/education officers from 60 to 65 is addressed.

“We urge all of us not to rest on our oars until the bill is signed into law.

“As we look forward to a peaceful and successful celebration of the World Teachers’ Day, we enjoin the federal and state ministries of education and all relevant authorities to develop policy reforms that would address challenges surrounding the teacher and his vocation with a view to making the teaching profession more rewarding and attractive.

“It is by this way the nation’s teachers can be truly celebrated.”

He commended Buhari for sustaining the sponsorship of the President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award to honour and reward outstanding teachers in the country.

Adamu assured the teachers that the Federal Ministry of Education has put in place mechanisms to strengthen the implementation of teacher education in the country.

The minister listed the mechanisms to include reviewing the quality assurance/monitoring instruments in line with global best practice, engagement of independent quality assurance teams and stakeholders in monitoring of all academic activities.

Others are conducting nationwide capacity building workshops for 100, 000 teachers at basic and post-basic levels through the support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Adamu, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, added that teacher development and motivation were central to efforts the ministry is making to reposition the education sector to meet national aspirations.

“As the saying goes no nation can rise above the level of her teachers. We are, therefore, conscious of the fact that the quality of our teachers is directly proportional to the quality of the learners themselves.

“It is clear that a lot still needs to be done to enhance the quality of teachers and ensure quality learning outcomes. The challenges and impediments to quality education  in the country must be quickly addressed and promptly overcome.

“This calls for urgent national response.

“The ministry is systematically and fully committed to constant upgrading of the teaching standards and contents to boost teacher quality in Nigeria in the following critical aspects: professional knowledge, professional skills, professional values, attitude and conduct and professional membership obligations and leadership.

“We are leaving no stone unturned in our quest to ensure that teachers are professionally qualified, empowered and adequately remunerated, motivated and supported for efficiency and effectiveness,” the minister said.

The minister said the National Teachers’ Institute, Kaduna has been engaged in the upgrading of under-qualified and unqualified teachers by providing courses of instructions and continuous professional development for teachers.

He said government must build and explore avenues to reposition teachers and the teaching profession to an enviable height and to ensure that minimum standards are maintained.

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