Michael Alogba Olukoya
As teachers in Nigeria joined their counterparts in other parts of the world to mark this year’s World Teachers’ Day on October 5, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has reiterated its call for an improved welfare package for its members across the country. Uchechukwu Nnaike and Funmi Ogundare report
Amidst the pomp associated with this year’s World Teachers’ Day with the theme ‘Take a Stand for Teachers’, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) restated the call on individuals, institutions, industries and governments at national and state levels to rise up and uplift the status of teachers.
President of the union, Comrade Michael Alogba Olukoya, in an address titled ‘Take a Stand for Teachers’, regretted that teachers are among the lowest paid professionals in most countries of the world, hence they are so downtrodden and unappreciated. “Even when their colleagues come to power as in Nigeria today, their salaries and welfare concerns remain at the lowest ebb and their profession still as the status of obsolescence, social contempt...”
Olukoya, who cited the ILO/UNESCO’s perception that “the role of teachers is an essential one for the progress of moral and cultural values, as well as for economic and social progress, as it is through education that everyone can make full use of his/her abilities and intellectual capabilities”, said teachers are not accorded the respect they deserve and are not motivated to attain their potentials.
He wondered why the 27.5 per cent Teachers’ Special Allowance remained in limbo four years after an agreement was signed between the NUT and the state governors in 2008 and why no teacher has ever been found worthy of honour in the country. “No wonder teaching remains a stepping stone to other professions in the country. No nation grows above the level of her education and no educational enterprise has outgrown the status of teachers...”
The NUT boss stressed that the first step towards taking a constructive stand for teachers is for the Federal Government to “accord teachers in the country a deserving welfare package for the mother of all professions and the quintessential nation builders- the teachers”, adding that the current situation in which the Federal Government abandoned the primary and post-primary school teachers to the Governors’ Forum is both discriminating and unfair. “What the Nigerian Governors’ Forum gave us was a palliative in the area of allowances. Teachers still demand their long-sought after Teachers’ Salary Structure (TSS).”
He called for the establishment of a federal teaching service commission to cater for teachers and their services in unity schools, police, army, navy and air force children schools, as well as the State Security Service Community Staff Schools, regularisation of the appointments of casual teachers in all Federal Government Colleges; urgent attention in Plateau State, where primary schools and local government employees had been on strike for about six months.
Other demands included the extension of retirement age of teachers in primary and secondary schools; establishment of National Secondary Education Commission; renovation of dilapidated schools’ infrastructure to produce the expected results, among others.
In Lagos, members of the union converged on the NUT Pavilion, Ikeja, in their number and colourful attires to mark the day.
The Chairman, Comrade Kayode Idowu, who reiterated the call for an improved welfare, attributed the disruptive tendencies towards criminality bedevilling the country as a clear indication of the neglect of teachers. It is therefore a matter of utmost importance to address the debilitating challenges facing education and of course, take a decisive step towards improving teachers’ welfare.”
While acknowledging the massive construction, renovation of infrastructure in schools, he pointed out that the role of well-motivated teachers is indispensable to the effective learning of students. “It is also noteworthy the increased training modules for all categories of teachers in the state, but we demand a correspondingly benefitting financial rewards and dignity similar to that of our counterparts in other ministerial departments and agencies in the state.”
Idowu commended Governor Babatunde Fashola for his intervention in the intractable 27.5 per cent Teachers’ Specific Allowances (TSA) crisis and expressed hope that the governor would keep his promise to start the implementation next January.
He also called on the state government to employ more teachers to address the shortage of teachers in schools, especially primary schools, adding that employment should be based on proficiency, devoid of age barrier.
The guest lecturer, Dr. Sola Aina of the Department of Educational Management, Lagos State University (LASU), who presented a paper titled ‘Teachers as the Engine Room of Development’, said teachers must be placed at the central stage of the country’s developmental agenda.
He identified the focus of the vision 2020 to include declaration of a vibrant energy and infrastructural development sector to propel the economic and social life of the country; generation of employment; improved security of lives and property; respect for the rule of law and due process, zero tolerance for corruption; education and human capital development, among others, saying that no nation could achieve its objectives if teachers are not placed at the strategic and central stage.
Teachers in private schools were not left out in the celebration, as series of programmes were also organised for them.
At Halifield School, Maryland, for instance, parents were invited to relieve teachers at the primary section, while a seminar was organised for teachers in the secondary section to appreciate them.
The Director, Mrs. Halima Oke, said the event was organised to celebrate teachers because they are hardly ever celebrated, yet they do so much to bring up children for the future.
She expressed the need for all to recognise the work that teachers do and give them more confidence by paying them better. “At the government level, teachers are disregarded, when there is insufficient money to pay salaries, teachers are left, I think government should treat teachers better, government should give education the pride of place that it belongs.”
Oke said private schools could not do so much for their teachers because of the many levies they are saddled with. “This money can be used to take care of teachers’ welfare since government is not doing it. They should empower private sector to do it for their teachers because teachers in the private sector do more work than their counterparts in public schools.”
At a symposium organised for private school teachers by Standard Mandate International (SMI), Chief Learning Officer, Kith and Kin International School, Ikorodu, Kaoli Olusanya, said it was not enough for teachers to get a degree in education and complain that the government is not doing anything to help them, but that they should develop themselves and impart knowledge on others from the training they received.
In his paper, ‘The Facilitation of Learning: The Paradigms, the Risk and the Opportunities’, he said such training was important and should be continuous.
“The investment in education, in terms of training the teachers, has to start with the teachers. All we are saying here is we want to change the concept, we want to change their understanding , as well as change the methodology of teaching, it is the teachers themselves that will execute it in modern trends.”
He noted that non- conducive environment and inadequate facilities hamper teachers’ ability to deliver the modern method of teaching.
Chief Executive Officer of SMI, Pastor Nelson Ayodele, said attaining improved quality of teachers is an ongoing process, while describing learning as a life-long development characterised by maturation and change in behaviour.
“The approach is to have a broad-based dimension to the contemporary issues in educational process. The mindset is that a deep understanding of this will change the perception and orientation of every educator as they become facilitators of learning and not the ordinary instructor which they have always been known for”, he said
Chairman Association of Private Educators in Nigeria (APEN), Dr. Femi Ogunsanya, stressed that change in education must start with the right training. “Teachers must change their mental perception and empower themselves with the use of the internet to access information. A teacher must also learn to listen to the students because they are all learning. Learning is not something that should be done from top to bottom only, but also from bottom up.”
Head Teacher of Tender Touch School, FESTAC Town, Mr Barnes Sakil, also urged teachers to change their attitude to work and maintain a stand on the teaching profession.
“It will not be a talk and chalk method alone, but we should also give the learners a chance to express themselves. We don’t have to impose our method on them.”
Principal of Kings High School, Satellite Town, Mrs. Achor Dooember, argued that since the country is breeding a knowledge-based children, the teacher should help them discover knowledge.