President Buhari’s new package for teachers
According to Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Nigerian teachers would begin to enjoy a special salary structure beginning from January 1, 2022. The special package encompasses other incentives such as allowances, housing, training, and elongated years of service from 35 to 40. While this package is commendable, Nigerians received the news with a pinch of salt.
The maxim that says “If you want to destroy a nation, spoil its education system” speaks volumes about how the Nigerian education system is managed or mismanaged! From policy formulation to infrastructure development and remuneration of teachers, it is obvious something important is missing in the nation’s education system. Little wonder therefore that at every opportunity, the children of the rich go overseas for schooling. This is more so in an era hallmarked by sparse allocation to education. And as such not enough resources are available to the various tiers of government. Thus authorities at federal and state levels find it difficult to fulfill the earlier promises made to teachers.
It is in the light of the above that we appraise the recent federal government’s announcement to give teachers in Nigeria special remuneration. Our understanding of this package is that of take-home pay that can truly take the recipients home. Remuneration of teachers has become a topical issue in recent times because of the frequent complaints of non-payment of salaries, gratuities, and other allowances. Besides, the current salary structures do not factor in the rising inflationary pressures in the country.
Undoubtedly, quality education is a sine qua non if Nigeria must take its rightful place among the comity of nations. But presently that is not the case. In the 2020 United Nations Development Program’s ranking of countries based on the Human Development Index (HDI), Nigeria occupies the 161st position with a score of 0.539. Predictably and associated with this, is a low life span for her citizens.
Nigerian teachers deserve the best packages among governments’ workers. The central position they play in the nation’s building is such that if something fundamental is wrong with teaching; it will just be a matter of time before the nation will collapse.
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Incidentally, very recently we called the attention of the Federal Ministry of Education to the plight of the newly recruited teachers into the government’s unity schools in the country. In that piece, we enjoined the federal government to proffer lasting solutions to a recurring problem where newly recruited teachers will work for at least a year before receiving their first salary.
In the days of yore, when education was seen as the catalyst for growth and development, the Nigerian educational system produced notable scholars
Therefore in implementing the new salary package for Nigerian teachers, we want the federal government to incorporate a solution as regards the non-payment of the newly recruited teachers into unity schools across the nation.
Inflationary pressures have risen steadily in the last two years and have diminished the purchasing power of Nigerians, teachers inclusive. Rather than wait for when teachers will protest for betterconditions of service, the federal and state governments should kill two birds with a stone by coming up with a salary structure for teachers that will adequately address the effect of inflation in the country.
The academic staff unions of polytechnics and universities have gone on strike on many occasions due to the poor funding of public tertiary institutions. In fact, it took the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians before the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its last strike in December 2020. One of the agreements reached was that the federal government had agreed to pay the N40 billion revitalisation funds, as well as the payment of arrears for the earned academic allowances. The lack of political will on the part of the government to fulfill obligations has caused ASUU members to begin to threaten another round of strikes.
In the days of yore, when education was seen as the catalyst for growth and development, the Nigerian educational system produced notable scholars such as the likes of the late Chinua Achebe, Adamu Baikie, Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka; Grace Alele-Williams, Sophie Oluwole, among others.
If the current system is not turning out products that could surpass the generations above, it is because education is not being treated the way it was managed, especially in the first few years prior to and after independence.
Nigerian teachers are willing and ready to replicate and even surpass the successes the nation’s education system recorded in the past if and only if the conducive atmosphere is recreated. Without getting our priorities right in the education sector, the drive to develop Nigeria will forever remain elusive. It is only to be hoped therefore that this new policy will be faithfully implemented, such that our educational system will regain its lost glory.