By Dayo Adesulu, Amaka Abayomi,Tare Youdeowei, Glory Ekwenuya, Kelechukwu Iruoma & Chiebuka Enwere
AN American professor emeritus of education, Dr. Ivan Welton Fitzwater, once said “the future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad. Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy.
I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant everyday, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.”
Despite having the great responsibility of moulding the future of Nigeria, the welfare package of the Nigerian teacher is among the worst in the country. They operate from not too friendly work environments with meagre and irregular salaries.
Most lack the passion for the profession and are not properly trained on what it takes to be a 21st century teacher and when they are trained, lack the necessary instructional materials to carry out their jobs and yet they are the first to be blamed for poor students’ achievement. As Nigeria joined other countries to celebrate this year’s World Teachers’ Day, Nigerian teachers, particularly those in the public school system, say its not yet uhuru as there is nothing to celebrate while their conditions of service continue to nose-dive.
The plight of Nigeria’s teachers is pitiful as many of them have died of hunger, diseases and out of frustration. The system has turned a good number of them into beggars and destitutes such that the younger generation dread the idea of becoming teachers in the future. If our teachers are not appreciated and recognized, they would be forced to turn their noble job of inspiring the youth to higher academic excellence into positions of creating ‘yahoo boys’ and ‘runs girls’ in our schools.
Calling on employers of teachers to consider increasing salaries and other remunerations for teachers to put them at par with their counterparts in other sectors, the Director-General, National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Dr. Aminu Ladan, points out that Nigerian teachers are de-motivated in Nigeria because their remuneration is abysmally low.
Speaking at a symposium organised to mark the WTD in Abuja, Ladan said “in the past teachers were motivated and had no option than to perform. But today, teachers’ pay is so low that most of them can barely put food on their tables by the time they settled their children school fees, utility and medical bills, yet they are expected to perform magic.
“It is quite absurd that under this unpalatable conditions, they are expected to produce those that will grow up to become leaders of tomorrow. They are expected to perform wonders in bare classrooms as they are derogatorily compared with teachers in other countries or teachers of the past.
“Was this the situation of Nigerian teachers in the past? Let me take you down memory lane, we all remember how teachers were revered, in villages, teachers are next to the village heads or chiefs. In short, in Nigeria today, teachers are de-motivated and so I say to whom less is given, less should be expected.”
In the same vein, the Lagos State Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools, ASUSS, Comrade Kazeem Labaika, said for the state to meet up with the increasing figure of enrollment at the basic schools and to replace the teachers who have either retired or are dead, there is need to immediately employ about 11,300 teachers.
According to him, “1,007 basic schools in Lagos currently do not have enough teachers, though this is better when compared to the situation in other states. Stressing the need for teachers to be properly motivated, compensated and empowered to perform and deliver, the Lagos State Chairman, Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, Raheem Adesegun, called for an upward review of teachers salaries and allowances.
“Teachers are in the centre of the educational configuration but they are denied, deprived and depressed. To redress the situation, teachers must attract a genuine professional status and be paid a special salary scale to address their social and financial disenfranchisement.”
Stressing that a special salary structure, as is obtainable in the nursing profession, be created for teachers to grow passion and interest in the teaching profession, the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, Federal Wing, Mr. Emeka Okonta, said the basic minimum requirement for teaching —NCE or B.Ed — should be implemented to make teaching more respectable.
“The condition of service for the Nigerian teacher is very poor when compared to other professions or even teachers in other countries. The salary is very discouraging and allowances is poor and not forthcoming despite our fight for better conditions of service. These and the reduction of JAMB cut off mark for colleges of education has not encouraged the younger generation to go into the teaching profession.”
Mr Adesina Adelaja of the Federal Ministry of Education, Inspectorate Division, Abeokuta, has been teaching for 32 years and he admits that things have taken a turn for the worse as teachers welfare has taken the back seat. His words “the poor remuneration is the major challenge we have because it is not commensurate with what is being paid in the civil service as there are bonuses and other allowances that other civil servants enjoy but are not extended to teachers.
“The excuse always given is that the size of the teaching population is too much for the government to cater for so they limit the emoluments to only those in the office and this is very bad. I wonder why they create such teacher-unfriendly policies because those in charge of these policies and their implementation all pass through teachers and have teachers as their mentors.
“Teachers are core nation-builders and we expect financial rewards and policies should be amended to enable us enjoy what other civil servants enjoy. When Peugeot cars were given to civil servants from Grade Level 7 and above during Obasanjo’s regime, teachers were exempted while Army and Air Force officers were given.”
For Mr. Lezigha Tornyie, a teacher with the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt, two major challenges teachers face are lack of supervision and training.
He said “Poor supervision has allowed teachers to do as they like or fail to do their duties to the detriment of the students and fellow teachers, and they get away without punishment. Another sad challenge is that teachers are not being trained and retrained. This has affected our welfare as we are not being adequately taken care of.
“Even though civil servants are supposed to be the same, doctors are paid higher than teachers, meanwhile without the teacher there is no doctor. Despite all these discrepancies, some of us still put in our best though we are again met with a curriculum that is constantly changing. We need a stable curriculum to function equitably.”
Pointing out that the average Nigerian teacher has little or no value bestowed on him, a lecturer at the University of Benin, Dr. Daniel Ekhareafo, said “This is evident in the pitiable pay and conditions of service teachers are made to work under. Teachers need better pay, offices and accommodation befitting moulders of destiny. “
For Mrs. Onwukamaike Nkechinyere, a teacher in Umuahia, Abia State, teachers are not being taken care of as “we have not been paid for four months.”
Private school teachers bear the brunt more as they are paid peanuts. For Mrs Azuka Ezennia from Tosvvi Precious College, Shibiri, Lagos, her salary is N30,000, though some earn as little as N10,000 or N15,000. She wants teachers to be remembered and be given conducive environment for teaching and learning.”
In advanced countries, governments look out for what is best for its teachers in terms of welfare package while their Nigerian counterparts have to fight for better conditions of service with the government before any such thing is granted them.
UK, US pay teachers well
According to the American National Education Association, depending on the state, high school teachers in US get as much as $48,631 while the best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $86,720, while the bottom 10 percent made $37,230. Compensation is typically based on years of experience and educational level.
Newly qualified teachers in England and Wales start on the main salary scale, which rises incrementally from £22,023 to £32,187, though salaries may be higher depending on location. Salaries on the main scale in Northern Ireland range from £21,804 to £31,868. High school teachers’ in South Africa earn an average of R166,068 per year.
When asked if she would want to teach in Nigeria under the present teaching conditions, a Nigerian who has been teaching in the US for 11 years, Mrs. Nkiru Nnadi said she’ll consider teaching in Nigeria if her salary in the US can be matched plus provision being made for accommodation and flight ticket to the US for annual vacation like was done when she was in Morocco.