President Muhammadu Buhari has abundantly shown his commitment to the welfare of workers and retirees. Being a career public servant, this inclination is easy to understand.
This is evident in his approval of payment of the Nigerian Airways retirees, the speedy assent to the new National Minimum Wage and several bailouts to the states to enable them pay their workers.
On Monday, October 5, 2020, we published an editorial throwing our full support for the Nigerian Union of Teacher’s request for the increase of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years (or 35 to 40 years professional career).
We did this in solidarity with our teachers as part of this year’s World Teachers Day, which annually commemorates the adoption of the 1966 International Labour Organisation/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, ILO/UNESCO, recommendations concerning the status of teachers.
The calls for this increase had been on for years, and the legislative instruments that articulated it has been on the president’s desk for over a year. Buhari not only increased the retirement age of teachers, he also approved a special salary scale for basic education-level teachers and special pension scheme for teachers.
Buhari also reintroduced bursaries for education students in universities and colleges of education, facilitated ICT education for teachers and committed the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, to finance teaching practice in the universities and colleges of education.
This commendable policy step, we hope, will go a long way in not only reviving interest in the teaching profession in Nigeria, but also facilitate the much-needed migration of our brilliant young people to take up lifelong careers in teaching and transfer of knowledge.
It will hopefully bring back teaching to its original position as the watershed for quality leadership training. Almost all our founding fathers were teachers and journalists; two knowledge-based professions which produced visionary, competent, patriotic and passionate leaders who made our country tick immediately after our independence.
We, however, fear that even the Federal Government still has a long way to go before the educational sector is properly repositioned. The plan for education must be holistic. It must involve all the tiers of education and teaching. It must also encompass total infrastructural overhaul and funding which will make incessant strikes by the tertiary education workers’ unions a thing of the past.
Most importantly, our teachers in the employ of state governments must also benefit from this reform. The states must sign-on to the reform. Also, private sector teachers and educators cannot be sidelined.
Unless everyone is carried along, the president’s good gestures might end up fraying the teaching profession in Nigeria, creating a dichotomy between privileged federal teachers and their marginalised state and private-employed counterparts.
The reforms must be holistic and inclusive.