Education

New ray of hope for teachers!

WELFARE

 

The Federal Government, as part of moves to revitalise the teaching profession and enhance the teachers’ condition of service, has, during the World Teacher’s Day, announced several welfare packages for teachers, but will these be implemented by state government?

 

˜NUTs to state govts: Approve 65-year retirement age

˜FG: Welfare policies to commence next year

˜TRCN: There’s danger in teacher/student ratio

 

Will Nigerian teachers laugh last?

 

As Nigerian teachers, under their umbrella body, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) joined their counterparts across the world to celebrate the 2021 World Teachers’ Day, there seems to be better days ahead for public school teachers in the country.

 

This was as the Federal Government indicated its renewed commitment to the professional development and welfare of teachers of the basic education sub-sector through enhanced conditions of service with the approval and implementation of new welfare policies and incentives.

 

The Federal Government had during the celebration of the World Teachers’ Day last year announced some welfare packages aimed at ensuring the best brains were attracted, as well as to retain quality and qualified teachers to the teaching profession.

 

These include the approval of new retirement age from 60 years to 65 years, and the service year from 35 to 40 years for teachers, which its pilot implementation had already commenced at the federal level; a special salary structure for teachers in basic and secondary schools; annual training and retraining; housing and car loans; reward of excellent teachers; provision for rural posting allowance, Science Teachers Allowance and Peculiar Allowance, among others.

 

Again, at this year’s World Teachers’ Day celebration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, the Federal Government through the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, also reiterated its commitment to implementation of the new policies, even as it

unfolded other incentive packages under which students undergoing degree programmes in Education in public universities would now receive N75,000 as stipends per semester, while those in Colleges of Education pursuing the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) will also get N50,000 as a stipends per semester.

 

According to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Sonny Echono, who represented the Minister at the event: “Undergraduate of B.Ed; B.A. Ed; BSc.Ed in public universities across the country are to receive a stipends of N75,000 per semester, while NCE students will get N50,000 as stipends per semester.”

 

As part of implementation strategies of the policies, the Federal Government, however, noted that the full implementation would commence in 2022 for federal teachers, promised to put in place modalities and to collaborate with respective state governments to ensure that they offer automatic employment to NCE graduates at Basic Education level, as well as housing and car loans for teachers, among other incentives.

 

Last year, the government, as part of moves to boost the morale of Nigerian teachers promised to ensure prompt payment of their salaries, and approved other entitlements including consideration for first-line charge in annual budgets, timely promotion of teachers to eliminate stagnation, provision of loan facilities, free tuition and automatic admission for biological children of teachers in their respective schools to encourage and retain them in the system.

 

 

Meanwhile, during the 2021 World Teachers Day celebration, the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka  Nwajiuba, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed that the ministry had already commenced Education Officers’ Guidelines to ensure seamless implementation of these policies.

 

He noted that this had been negotiated while the outstanding salaries of affected teachers would be paid before December, saying all that was needed to invigorate and revitalise the teaching profession had been packaged while the Minister had been mandated to implement them accordingly.

 

Under the new policy regime, teachers will now undergo regular annual training on modern techniques of teaching and learning, including digital literacy training in pedagogy, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and others, with parastatals under the education ministry and other non-governmental organisations partnering with the government to achieve this feat.

 

On the wave of insecurity threatening the safety of teachers and children in schools, the Minister pledged that the ministry would collaborate with the Defence Ministry to ensure the protection of children and teachers in schools across the country. In an effort to fast track the implementation of the policies, the ministry was said to have constituted a National Implementation Committee, which had already submitted its resolutions for implementation.

 

 

But, the ministry also reiterated its readiness to liaise with the 36 state ministries of education, including the FCT Education Board on the implementation strategies since education is on the Concurrent List.

 

The new welfare policies have been described by the ministry as “fundamental and far-reaching changes,” that are part of ongoing moves by the Federal Government to revitalise and reposition the teaching profession for better service delivery.

The Minister, who noted that the new policies were initiated, based on the findings of the review of teachers’ development policies, which revealed huge gaps in quantity and quality of teachers at all levels of the nation’s education system, and that the status and statute of teachers were currently at the lowest ebb, added that they are mainly to attract best brains into the teaching profession and encourage teachers in delivering better services that would produce quality students who would, in turn, contribute to national development.

 

To implement the policies, he Minister had since last year been directed to ensure an 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.

 

The President specifically approved that the enhanced salary structure should take effect from 2022, with teachers getting the

 

 

remuneration they deserve. All that is required, the Minister said, was for other actors down the line such as state governors, the National Assembly and others to key into this initiative and ensure that the implementation is seamless.

 

He, therefore, noted that all welfare issues including housing, training and retraining, enhanced remuneration, allowances are being taken care of. He, however, said while some continents were able to quickly adjust to the new normal, African countries including Nigeria found it difficult to adjust to a technology base learning.

 

But, while teachers in federal government schools were said to have been enjoying some the new welfare policies, especially the new retirements age and the elongated service year, the same could not be said about teachers in the state government schools, who are in the majority, as many state governments are yet to commence implementation of the new policies for their teachers. States like Ondo, according to the teachers, has only paid May salary and in percentage, while their three-year annual leave bonus is being paid also in percentage monthly.

 

Meanwhile, only three states – Adamawa, Anambra and Kano, had already approved and commenced the implementation of the new retirement age policy, among all the 36 states of the federation, and the FCT.

For instance, Lagos State NUT wing during this year’s celebration appealed to the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led administration to speedily approve the new retirement age and service year for its implementation in the state without waiting for the National Assembly legislation.

 

The Chairman of the state wing of NUT, Comrade Hassan Akintoye bemoaned the shortage of teachers in the state schools, and urged the governor to recruit more qualified teachers as well as build more classrooms in order to decongest classrooms to pave way for effective teaching and learning in schools across the state.

However, the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, who represented Governor Sanwo-Olu commended teachers in the state and challenged them to be more committed to their duty, saying the state government would continue to make their conditions of service and welfare top priority.

 

While acknowledging the critical role teachers play in the education of children and national development, the Registrar/ Chief Executive of Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, lauded the role of teachers in recovering the damaged done to education by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Ajiboye, who noted that Nigerian teachers were able to rise up to the challenge posed by the pandemic, about 1.6 billion learners were forced to sit at home during the lockdown and about 63 million teachers globally. In a virtual lecture organised by Educeleb, a non-governmental education platform, entitled: “Cultivating Teacher Professionalism for Education Excellence in Nigeria,”

 

Ajiboye, the guest lecturer, expressed regrets that teaching as a profession in Nigeria has attracted a lot of criticisms from inception.

 

He said regardless of the giant strides already attained in repositioning the profession, there still arises some concerns as to whether teaching has been truly professionalised in the country?

 

The Registrar, who pointed out that the era when teachers were looked down in the society and teaching was an all comer affair, had passed, said of about 4 million teachers in the country, only 2.3 million had been registered by TRCN.

 

On the new Federal Government policies, he said key stakeholders in the nation’s education sector would meet on Monday (yesterday) to finetune the modalities for the implementation of the welfare policies and incentives.

 

Ajiboye, who also noted that unlike public schools with qualified and TRCN certified teachers, wondered that about 90 per cent of teachers in private schools are not only unqualified but also not registrable.

He also lamented the danger in the current shortage of quality teachers in the nation’s primary and secondary schools, saying regardless of the UNICEF’s benchmark of ratio one teachers to 30 or 40 students (1 to 30/40) in a class secondary and primary school; in almost the schools, it is ratio 1 to 70, which according him, is another challenge to effective teaching.

 

Also, the Registrar condemned what he described as poor monitoring and inspection of schools like what was the practice in the olden days, saying the Quality Assurance Units of the ministries should be invigorated to conduct effective inspection and monitoring of schools.

 

Ajiboye, who said that the 65 retirement age would not be that automatic for all teachers, hinted that medical tests would be carried out on such teachers to ascertain and certify their condition of health before they could be retained in the classroom till 65 years of age.

 

On the challenges of the teaching profession, he said: “Teaching profession in Nigeria has been under a flash flood warning of unqualified cheaters who cannot constantly as a matter of duty bring about an effective teaching and learning process.

 

“It is worrisome in Nigeria that the teaching profession has moved from the foreground to the background with the aftermaths of continuous insecurity, underdevelopment, retrogression, corruption, indoctrination, poor remuneration, low-technological advancement, and economic insufficiency.”

 

According to Ajiboye, teaching is undoubtedly a very different profession today than it was previously, but regretted that the quality of products from some Teacher Training Institutions today could not be compared with those of their counterparts some years ago.

 

As part of challenges confronting teachers and teaching profession, the TRCN Registrar noted that schools, government and teacher employers do not provide their teachers with regular/continuous professional development opportunities, saying in several states of the federation, teachers have not attended any training in the past 10 years, while recruitment of new teachers has not also been carried out for the past 10 years.

 

He traced some of the inhibiting factors against quality teaching today to training gaps, nonexistent mentoring programmes for beginner teachers are virtually in all schools and lack of professional and in-service training, as well as short period of internship/teaching practice, and high teacher-pupil ratio.

 

Towards this end, he insisted that there were still records of unqualified and unprofessional teachers in the Nigerian classrooms in large numbers owing to a litany of factors including that of Concurrency.

 

On the ongoing debate about the appropriacy of teacher salaries, the Registrar said that special Salary Scale for the teachers in basic and secondary schools, including provision for rural posting allowance, Science Teachers Allowance and Peculiar Allowance had been approved and strategies/ guidelines for implementation had been developed for implementation.

 

He, however, blamed some state government for nonpayment/ delay of salaries, low wages, bad motivation and poor welfares for teachers in some states, saying the teachers today faced poor budgetary allocation to teaching profession, poor work environment (infrastructure, facilities deficiency), and teachers being considered less prestigious than physicians, attorneys, and engineers, massive unqualified staff, porous entry qualification and security challenges facing the teachers.

 

According to him, some of the strides taken by TRCN to reposition teaching profession includetheconductof Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE) to register and licensing of teachers; Quality Assurance in teacher education in form of accreditation and monitoring of teacher education programmes, harmonised benchmark for Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), introduction of Professional Diploma in Education (PDE); Professional Standard of Nigerian Teachers (PSNT); Manual of Mandatory Continuous Professional Development (MCPD),

 

Code of Conduct for Nigerian Teachers, Induction Brochure, and Benchmark for Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), Post-Doctoral Diploma in Education (PDDE), as well as Continuous Professional Development programmes to keep teachers abreast of developments in various fields.

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