It is a known fact that everybody who is somebody in society was trained by teachers. The world takes the status of teachers very seriously. This is why October 5 every year is set aside to celebrate the World Teacher’s Day through the partnership of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF; United Nations Development Project, UNDP; United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO; International Labour Organisation, ILO and Education International.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Young Teachers, the Future of the Profession”. In a joint statement, the five above-mentioned multilateral organisations called on governments to: “Make teaching a profession of first choice for young people”, adding: “We also invite teacher unions, private sector employers, school principals, parent-teacher associations…to share their wisdom and experiences in promoting the emergence of a vibrant teaching force”.
Ironically, while the world focused on making teaching attractive to young people, the reverse appears to be the case in Nigeria. It was at this same period that President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his support for the increase of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years as demanded by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT.
This request had been receiving favourable attention in the National Assembly where a public hearing has already been held towards insulating the teaching profession from the retirement age of public servants. While the world is driving forward, Nigeria is driving with reverse gear.
Though we find the situation sordid, we do understand it. For a long time, teaching has been relegated to the background. It is no longer a profession of choice for anybody, least of all, young people. The few who settle for it only do so out of necessity due to the paucity of ‘better’ employment opportunities.
There is very little to attract young people to build their future on teaching as a profession because teachers are used and dumped. The same elite they raised to positions of leadership fail to pay them regularly. Having ruined our educational system our leaders send their children abroad to be taught by well-motivated teachers. Public schools are neglected and teachers’ welfare, especially their periodic training, abandoned.
With this situation at hand, we have no choice but to raise the retirement of the few elderly teachers who are still mentally sound and physically fit for the job.
The question that should agitate the minds of any well-meaning Nigerian is: What is the future of education in Nigeria when no one wants to be a teacher except the retiring and expiring generation? Who will take their place when they expire?
Governments must go beyond increasing the retiring age of teachers. We must rejig the educational system and restore teaching to its former place of pride.
It is never too late to restart a good effort.