By Laju Iren & Tare Youdeowei
No one knows whose lips generated the popular saying that a teacher’s reward is in heaven, but in Nigeria, the phrase has been repeated time and time again to the point that it is now believed by many. However, this year’s World Teachers’ Day with the theme: ‘Empowering Teachers, Building Sustainable Societies’; seemed to have boosted the nation’s education powerhouse to demand for their benefits in this world.
Mr Adesina Adelaja, a teacher and civil servant in Abeokuta, is one of such. His words: “I have been teaching since 1983 and till date remuneration is the challenge; it is very poor. It is not that it is not commensurate with what is being paid in the civil service. Not only that, there are bonuses and other remuneration which the other civil servants enjoy that are not extended to the teacher. The excuse is that the population of teachers is too much for the government to cater for. They limit the emoluments to only those in the office and it is very bad.
Meanwhile those in charge of the policies, policies implementation, the judiciary, they all pass through teachers; they have teachers as their mentors, teachers molded them. So, why do they create such teacher-unfriendly policies?
“What teachers are expecting is financial reward. Policies should be amended so that teachers can enjoy what those in the offices, judiciary, Presidency enjoy. We should not be exempted as we are core nation builders.”
The teachers themselves are however not without their own blemishes. Mr Lezigha Tornyie, who teaches at the Federal Government College, Port Harcourt addressed some of these. He said: “One challenge we face, to be sincere, is poor supervision. Teachers are allowed to do as they like or fail to do their duty to the detriment of the students and fellow teachers, and they get away with it without punishment.”
Even the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) seems to agree with this fact. He told newsmen recently: “For every twelve disciples, there is always one Judas. We at the NUT constantly partner with government and employers of teachers to ensure that discipline is instilled, people do their jobs; and from time to time, we organise seminars and bulletins, telling members to be more dedicated to their duties.”
Another challenge according to Tornyie is the sad fact that teachers are not being retrained. “Against all odds,” he said, “some of us still put in our best but we are again met with a curriculum that is constantly changing. We need a stable curriculum to function equitably.”
Ms Theresa Obika who teaches in a private school also complained about remuneration. “Government teachers are paid at par with civil servants in ministries and commissions,” she said, “but private school teachers, particular in new private schools, they are paid as low as 10, 000. Because they don’t want to spend money, these schools employ secondary school leavers and pay paltry sums, they cut corners and this impact the lives of the children negatively. We that have Teacher Training and Bachelors in Education get between N30,000 to N70, 000 monthly.
Needless to say, the challenges bedeviling teachers, and indeed the education system at large are many. Mrs. Oju Akinyemi, President of the Hope Gate Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which supports the education sector in Nigeria, says these challenges can be resolved by “reviewing the
education policy, adequate funding in terms of teacher welfare and infrastructure, adoption of technology in the classrooms, capacity building and training, and a more effective teachers’ union.”