ORDINARILY, President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of N75,000 for students of Education in our public universities and polytechnics and N50,000 in Colleges of Education per semester should be cheered by all education-loving Nigerians.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said at the celebration of this year’s World’s Teachers Day in Abuja on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, that it was part of the president’s package to attract the best brains into the teaching profession. The Minister also said that his ministry will work with state governments to make sure that when the bursary beneficiaries graduate, they will get automatic employment.
We must commend Buhari for his positive attitude towards teachers generally. Last year, he had approved the extension of retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years or 40 years of service up from 35. However, as nice as these gestures may be, they are hardly enough to change the fortunes of our education system.
In January 2018, Minister Adamu had promised that the Federal Government will declare a “state of emergency” in education. That promise was never fulfilled. We had looked forward to it and hoped that it would provide the platform for a wholistic rejig of our educational system.
We had hoped that the federal, state and local governments as well as private educators will sit together and fashion a new roadmap for education. Adamu did not explain why the idea flopped. Also, in July this year, Buhari had promised to increase the federal education vote by 50 per cent and ensure that by 2025, it would have gone up to 100 per cent.
In the 2022 budget, he has already failed in his promise as Education got N1.29 trn, or 7.9 per cent of th N16 trn total appropriation. But these inchoate policy grabs which do not even factor in the struggling sub-national governments, may not take us far.
How far will the granting of these stipends to education students actually attract better brains to the teaching profession which is already bedevilled? In most states, to get a teaching job requires political connection, and politicians always favour their family and party members, thus shutting out many so-called “better brains”.
In any case, does being an Education student automatically make one a “best brain”? What is the guarantee that beneficiaries of the bonanza (especially the talented ones) will not go abroad or ignore the signed bond and move on to other sectors?
The best way to attract the best brains to the teaching profession is to make teaching the best paying job as is done in more advanced countries. School environments should be made conducive for learning while teachers’ welfare and regular upgrades are guaranteed. A situation where serving and retired teachers are always going on strike due to government neglect cannot sustainably attract the best to the profession.