• Saturday, December 02, 2023
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Teachers to wait longer as Buhari’s promises drag

Why you must not become a teacher

Nigerian teachers looking forward to enjoying their new salary structure, increased allowances and other incentives promised by President Muhammadu would have to wait much longer as bureaucracy, lack of political will, and paucity of funds have stalled implementation, BusinessDay findings have shown.

President Buhari had in a move to address the decay in the education system relating to the quality of learning and welfare of teachers, approved a special Teachers Salary Scale (TSS), during the commemoration of the World Teachers Day in October 2020.

The President also approved a special pension scheme to enable the teaching profession to retain its experienced talents. Buhari as well as extended teachers’ retirement age to 65 years and their duration of service from 35 to 40 years. These promises were all in a bid to attract the best brains and improve the sector.

“Only great teachers can produce excellent people and students that will make the future of our country great. I am aware that the status and stature of teachers in Nigeria are currently at their lowest ebb. The government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system and the need to ensure that our graduates are globally competitive have become more compelling in the circumstance,” Buhari had said in his speech at the WTD.

The news of the approval was received with cheers and applause as it was hoped to be a start in the journey of rebuilding Nigeria’s education system which is current at different levels of rot. After one year of awaiting the implementation, the Federal Government again at the commemoration of the 2021 WTD assured that teachers would begin to enjoy the new incentives effective from January 2022.

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“We are fast-tracking the process of implementation to ensure that by January 2022, teachers should get the remuneration they deserve,” Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, minister of state for education had said.

But BusinessDay’s findings show that no teacher across Nigeria has received any of those benefits and some are already starting to lose hope.

The secretary-general of the Nigerian Union Teachers (NUT), Mike Ike Ene told BusinessDay that the process of getting all issues raised by the president, gazetted and passed into law is suffering from a bureaucratic bottleneck.

Ene said the House of Representatives had passed the Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Bill 202 over six months ago, but it only got concurred by the Senate on February 2, 2021. He added that the salary scale was also suffering the same fate as the structure is yet to be gazetted before even being passed into law.

He noted that until the bill was ready and transmitted for the president’s assent and passed into law, the promises will only remain a promise and nothing can be done.

The secretary-general also decried the bureaucratic challenges which, according to him, are fuelled by the lack of political will.

He said that the government was only paying lip service towards addressing the issues, as other matters have taken top priority.

“What we are looking for is the white paper on those issues, the gazette, the legislation. The major problem is that we are moving at a snail speed. The implementation looks like a mirage, the NUT is a member of the committee driving the implementation and we have been asking questions. But we are not sleeping, we are waiting and praying that it is actualised”, he said.

The secretary-general further pointed out that the pronouncement by President Buhari was for all registered teachers in Nigeria and not just some select or federal teachers. However, he expressed the concern that state governments were already agitated that they would not be able to implement it, citing paucity of funds as a challenge.

But Ene argued that the lack of political will and priority on education was the actual reason why state governments will deny teachers of these benefits they so deserve.

He lamented that many states were not even paying the N30,000 minimum wage and some that claim to pay were only doing so partially, leaving out teachers in local government areas.

“When it comes to monetary commitment, state governors pretend, but when allocation comes they descend on it. The special salary is to address the lack of teachers in states. They are paying lip service to education. Every other country that has progressed does not pay lip service to education. If the government continues to joke and play politics with education, we will not make any headway” he stated.

He further lamented that the Nigerian education system faced multiple challenges ranging from poor salary, unpaid salaries/allowances, infrastructural decay, and efforts towards addressing them have only met many frustrations.

Only recently, the teachers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) embarked on an indefinite strike due to non-payment of their promotion arrears from 2015, backlogs of annual increment, 25-month minimum wage arrears, and other allowances.

Nigeria has also not done well in global rankings, as it ranked 161 in the 2020 United Nations Development Programme’s ranking of countries based on the Human Development Index (HDI).

The federal ministry of education, when contacted, declined comment on progress made in delivering the Buhari’s promises to teachers.

But Princewill Anyalewechi, a retired director from ministry and an education analyst, said getting the bill passed into law or formulating policies was not the problem, as the major hurdle, according to him, lies in the actual implementation, especially at the sub-national level.

Anyalewechi reiterated that the welfare of teachers has remained a recurring decimal in the country, and as a result, the system remained unattractive to the best brains.

“In most cases, only those who are frustrated or have nothing to do, pick up teaching jobs. This has caused the standard of education to deteriorate.”

While these incentives may offer a ray of hope to the education sector, Anyalewechi feared that implementation may suffer the same fate as several other policies of the government, and consequently the standard of education will further deteriorate.

The new salary structure is expected to make the least paid teacher in the public service to earn between N150,000 and N300,00 monthly as against the current salary of about N49,000.

The special package approved by President Buhari also includes the building of low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas and the sponsorship of teachers, and prompt payment of salaries and timely promotion to eliminate stagnation. This is in addition to the Teachers Conversion Programme (TCP) and ICT training to mitigate the current dearth of qualified teachers in the school system.

The president approved the increase in rural allowances, science allowances, and hazard allowances among others. Most of these promises made by the president were part of the demands presented by the NUT president Nasir Idris.

“We have actually been fighting for some of the things the president promised to do for teachers. For instance, the elongation of years. We have been agitating for 65 years retirement age or 40 years by service and one of the reasons for the agitation is that we discovered that about 26 states did not recruit a single teacher for over 20 years,” he had said.

President Buhari directed the ministry of education to ensure an accelerated implementation in collaboration with states/local governments, the office of the head of civil service of the federation, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and other relevant agencies in the system to enthrone a culture of competence, discipline, dedication, increased learning outcomes and better service delivery in the education sector in Nigeria.