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New lease of life for teachers

There is no doubt that the teaching profession, over the years, has become the most challenging and taunted vocation, given the fact that teachers’ welfare and development in general, have been neglected at all levels by successive governments.

It is worrisome to note that the seemingly declining status and attention to the ‘noble profession’ for which it has lost all appeals in the past decades, is as a result of poor teachers’ welfare in terms of remuneration and condition of service.

Regrettably, therefore, the effects have continued to take its toll on the surging dearth of quality teachers in the school system and a staggering low subscription by students for admission into education programmes, especially universities and colleges of education. According to the World Bank in its World Development Report 2018, this declining status of the teaching profession can only be redeemed through improved remuneration and, more broadly, the working environment and job stability as basic ingredients that will guide any attempt at upgrading the profession and mechanisms of attracting and motivating teachers.

Suffice it to say that Nigerian teachers, over the years, have been agitating for an extension of their retirement age, salary review and healthy working environment, among others, as indispensable prerequisites for upgrading the status of teaching career and restore confidence in the profession. But the moves by the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to change this uninspiring narrative on October 5, during this year’s World Teachers’ Day by initiating some welfare policies for teachers, is laudable.

It will go a long way in breathing a new life into teaching profession. If properly implemented, this move will expectedly serve not only as a morale booster and a turning point in the education system, but will also leave indelible marks on the profession, which hitherto has consistently faced exacerbated inequalities with devastating consequences as the most marginalised career.

It should be noted that the World Teachers’ Day, celebrated yearly across the globe, which, among other objectives, is to recognise teaching profession, highlight the achievements of teachers and their astounding level of support in cultivating a new generation of global citizens, had never in the past rub off anyway on teachers’ welfare and overall educational development in Nigeria.

Obviously, this would be the first time in recent past that agitations by Nigerian teachers will receive the deserved attention from the central government. Now that attention is focused on creating a career policy for teaching profession in Nigeria, the president, in the “fundamental and far-reaching changes,” as contained in his 2020 World Teachers Day address, approved a new Teachers’ Salary Scheme (TSS) for basic and secondary school teachers, increased the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years and the service years from 35 to 40 years.

Since the policies are tailored towards encouraging teachers to deliver better services, revitalise and reposition the teaching profession, government reintroduced bursary award for education students in universities and colleges of education, automatic employment on graduation and payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students, as well as introduction of special teacher pension scheme, teachers’ conversion programme and ICT training to mitigate the current dearth of qualified teachers in the school system.

Other incentives as espoused to motivate and restore the dignity of teachers include building of lowcost houses for teachers in rural areas, sponsorship of teachers to refresher training annually and expansion of the yearly Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards to cover more categories with outstanding winners considered for National Awards and National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) awards. Meanwhile, the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund), as a critical intervention agency, has been directed to fund teaching practice in universities and colleges of education, special salary scale for teachers, provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.

Similarly, the Minister of Education was also charged to ensure accelerated implementation of the policies and measures in collaboration/liaison 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.

Much as we acknowledge the resoluteness of the president on the policy, our worries are on the agencies of government and those saddled with the responsibility of implementing these policies, as directed by President Buhari. Again, despite his nod for accelerated implementation, we are still not persuaded, given the attitude and the usual unfavourable dispositions of these agencies towards similar government’s efforts in other sectors.

What is more petrifying now is whether these policies would be extended or implemented by the state government for their teachers as being expressed by some education pundits in view of the fact that education is on the concurrent list. Undoubtedly, since the policy is a fallout of collective agitations of the Nigerian teachers and which becomes law under the Act of Parliament, it behoves state governments to implement it to the letter and, more importantly, for the Federal Government to come up with a policy framework that will benchmark operations of the private schools in terms of welfare package for teachers.

We, therefore, call on governments at all levels, the Federal Ministry of Education and other agencies charged with the responsibility of implementing the policies to set the ball rolling for execution of the policies for the betterment of the teachers, the teaching profession and the education sector in general.

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