The stalled incentives of our teachers
While commemorating with teachers on the World Teachers Day in October 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari approved a special salary scale and a special pension scheme for teachers in Nigeria.
Besides, the president included building low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas, sponsorship to at least one refresher training per annum to benchmark best practices for improved teaching and learning.
Moreover, he promised an expansion of the annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards and payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students and automatic employment after graduation.
The president also affirmed that his administration had resolved that quality education of teachers in terms of engagement of continued professional development would be given priority.
Nigerian teachers’ hope of enjoying their new salary structure, increased allowances and other incentives promised by President Buhari would have to wait much longer, as the bureaucracy, lack of political will, and paucity of funds have stalled the implementation
These promises made many Nigerian hearts to leap for joy, especially those of teachers considering their unattractive working conditions. 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.
In an effort to actualise the promise, the president in June, transmitted a letter on a bill to increase the retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65 years. The bill also seeks to extend the years of service for teachers from 35 to 40 years.
President Buhari directed the Ministry of Education to ensure an accelerated implementation of these proposals 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. This is with a view to enthrone a culture of competence, discipline, dedication, increased learning outcomes and better service delivery in the education sector in Nigeria.
However, the Nigerian teachers’ hope of enjoying their new salary structure, increased allowances and other incentives promised by President Buhari would have to wait much longer, as the bureaucracy, lack of political will, and paucity of funds have stalled the implementation of these noble objectives.
And this leaves us to wonder about the integrity of the ruling government and its policy makers. How could a president of a country make promises without having the needed will-power to execute them?
Having integrity means that one lives in accordance with his deepest values, being honest with everyone, and always keeping one’s word. Integrity is a highly valued trait, especially in leadership. When you live with integrity, you are more likely to be considered for important promotions and leadership positions.
The news of the approval as stated earlier 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 currently at different levels of rot.
After one year of waiting for 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.
The minister of state for education had early this year assured that the Buhari administration was fast-tracking the process of implementation to ensure that by January 2022, teachers should get the remuneration they deserve.
However, as things stand today our findings reveal that no teacher across Nigeria has received any of those benefits and some are already starting to lose hope.
Legislative bureaucracy bottleneck and lack of political will seem to be hindering the process of getting all the laudable issues initiated by the president.
Though the House of Representatives had passed the retirement age for teachers in Nigeria bill in 2021 over six months ago, it only got concurrent approval by the Senate on February 2, 2022. The salary scale is also suffering the same fate as the structure is yet to be gazetted before even being passed into law.
An obvious fact remains that until the bill is ready and transmitted for the president’s assent and passed into law, the promises will only remain promises and nothing concrete can be done.
The welfare of teachers has remained a recurring decimal in the country, and as a result, the system remains unattractive to the best brains.
We call on the president to muscle up his political will-power by calling the legislatures to order and thus ensure that the legislative bureaucracy bottleneck is removed and the promises fulfilled.
Justice delayed is justice denied, an adage opines. Similarly, and by the same token, delaying the fulfilment of these noble promises by the president amounts to denying the supposed beneficiaries their rights. Is it when they are dead and gone that the presidency will address their situation?
A stitch in time, it is believed, saves nine. Therefore, President Buhari must arise now and redeem his promises to Nigerian teachers.
Indeed, posterity will not exonerate him; rather he will be held responsible if at the end of the day the hopes of our long-suffering teachers are dashed once again. We urgently appeal fervently to President Muhammadu Buhari that he should not allow this to happen.