A New Dawn for Teachers?

PLSCOPE BY Eddy Odivwri    Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive.com

POLSCPE By Eddy Odivwri       Eddy.Odivwri@thisdaylive

Perhaps, the most exciting news of the year is the news of the robust consideration of Mr President to grant teachers a special salary scale.

It was clearly the best gift from President Mohammadu Buhari to teachers on World Teachers’ Day, last Monday.

The last time teachers were this honoured and made glad was in 1974 when the Udoji Award was given. Ever since then, teachers have remained pitiable gatekeepers of vested interest.

I recall that it was with the Udoji Award that many teachers were able to build their own houses, train their children in colleges and higher institutions without tears They were also able to buy motor cycles etc.

For too long, teachers have been neglected, forsaken and relegated to the very bottom of socio-economic ladder of life. They are merely consoled with the deceptive promise that their reward is in heaven. What about those who don’t make it to heaven?

Not many reckon with teachers, not because of intellectual or skill incapacitation, but because of financial weakness.

It wasn’t always so. Times were, when teachers were prized members of the communities. Parents were eager to give out their beautiful daughters to be married by teachers. They were respected and consulted. Not anymore.

Essential and crucial as they are, teachers have continued to suffer neglect and relegation in the larger society. Yet, without them, we probably wont be able to read even this piece. They are given scant regard…. All because they have no financial muscle and cannot wield monetary influence in the society.

Few years ago, they were actually the butt of society’s jokes. They were literally regarded as the dregs of society. Parents became very reluctant to allow their daughters to marry teachers ostensibly because only the strong among them are able to live from hand to mouth.

In no small measure, this affected greatly the level of commitment and devotion to duty by teachers. Many teachers started devising extra means to make ends meet. So, it became commonplace experience that teachers, especially female teachers, also became traders and mini-business women; selling eggs, foodstuff, clothes, shoes, drinks and all such petty warts, during school hours. The consequence was that the real business of teaching and learning began to suffer significantly. And the dire consequences did not take long to surface: the standard of education In no time, like a cancerous infection, it spread even over to tertiary institutions as the universities and polytechnics began to churn out unbaked students as graduates, thus making a lie of the claim that all such graduates have been found to “be worthy in learning and character”.

The spin-off effect is that the tertiary institutions merely spewed out “unprocessed” graduates, many of whom are unemployable.

It is these fundamental defects in our educational system that gave rise to the advent of private schools where deliberate attempts have been made by the operators of such schools to redeem and restore the quality of education in the country. That explains why many parents are keen on sending their children to private schools, all the way from kindergarten cadres to even university levels, sometimes with tears.

What’s more, quite a number who have completely lost faith in the educational system of the country (be it private or public schools) resort to sending their children to foreign countries to “further” their education. It is so bad that even neighbouring countries like Ghana and Republic of Benin have been receiving many of our Nigerian children in their tertiary institutions. Little wonder that many foreign universities, often swoop on Nigeria advertising their schools, organizing interviews and offering all such assistive services in educational pursuits.

It is in the light of the foregoing that the announcement of the Special remuneration package for teachers by President Buhari should be appraised and appreciated, as a deliberate measure to wrest the Nigerian educational system from rot and wreck.

Indeed, the presidential package for teachers, termed New National Teaching Policy, though long in coming, is quite salutary. Some of the provisions of the new policy include a special salary scale, retirement age for teachers now to be 65, just as retirement by length of service will now be 40. There will now be allowance for rural teachers as well as Science teachers. Teachers’ children will now enjoy automatic admission and tuition free service when the children are in the same schools where their parents teach.

In a bid to boost teacher education, the policy provides for automatic recruitment for holders of B.Ed, just as such B.Ed students will enjoy some special stipend while still in school, even as Education students in Colleges and universities will enjoy special Bursary awards.

The policy also provides that TETFUND will now be used to fund teaching practices, just as Special Teachers Pension Scheme will be established.

No doubt, these are noble and courageous provisions in a policy that is bound to revive the nation’s educational system.

But from experience, enunciating the policy appears to be the easier part of the bargain. Implementing it is where the challenge comes in.

First, those who have exercised caution in hailing the policy worry about the acceptability of the policy by the state governments. Put differently, would the sub nationals embrace this policy? This question is crucial knowing the battle the NLC fought to get the states to accept the national minimum wage of N30,000.

With many states really struggling to stay afloat financially, would they have the capacity to flow with this new policy? Or, as somebody said, would it now provide another ground for agitation and calls for strike actions by Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT)?

This would also be an opportunity for the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) to get more involved in the training of teacher by ensuring that the curriculum and pedagogy content in the various teacher training institutions and centres are not only regulated but adequately updated to suit the dynamic needs of society.

It is however remarkable that there is no timeline to the take-off of this policy. Nigerians hope that the usual drag of bureaucracy would not unduly delay the implementation of this policy because teachers have been veritable long sufferers. This is a flaming opportunity that should not be allowed to burn out in wasteful red tapism.

Teachers, on their part must also rise to the occasion of reciprocating the gesture by retooling their skills and kits to, once again, make noble the teaching career.

With the new policy, not only will the integrity and social regard of the teachers be restored, society will indeed be better for it ultimately.

Who Carries the Day in Ondo?

By Eddy Odivwri

The stage is set. Tomorrow will be the epic battle for the soul of Ondo State. And many have predicted that so much blood will flow such that the Owena river will literally turn red.

Don’t mind those nay sayers who are prophets of doom. There will be no bloodshed. It will be a peaceful election. That was how they predicted that Edo will boil and heads will roll. Edo election has come and gone, It neither boiled nor did heads roll.

Ondo people are enlightened and are committed to peaceful polls

You talk as if you have not followed the frequent clashes between the thugs loyal to the APC candidate and sitting governor, Rotimi Akeredolu aka Aketi and those loyal to the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede. Do you know how many people have been injured and maimed, how many properties have been destroyed?

Did you forget that about a month ago, that fire burnt down the house where the card readers were kept? You think it was an ordinary fire? And you say they are enlightened? Who says we can’t have enlightened thugs?

Take it from me, there will be no blood bath. From Ilaje to Akoko, Okitipupa to Imeri, the election shall go smoothly. The principal characters have al committed themselves to peace. Bishop Hassan Kukah and Gen Abdusallami Abubakar have all prayed for them. Everything shall go well.

We all want everything to go well indeed. But what causes trouble is the desperation to win. Many politicians want to win by all means, whether the electorate wants them

or not.

Then that is no longer democracy. I believe the Ondo voters should be allowed to choose between Akeredolu and Jegede.

Why are you focusing only on those two candidates? What about the remaining 15 candidates?

Akeredolu and Jegede are the front-runners. The rest are all in the race to sweeten the competition as a contest. They are just the also-rans. Many of them know that they don’t stand any chance. How many of them have you heard about their campaigns like the APC and PDP candidates?

What about the Deputy Governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi who is the candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP)? Do you know the party is a major force in the state, what with the implicit support of the former governor of the state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko?

You cannot dismiss the ZLP, trust me.

Is it not the same Ajayi and Mimiko that Gov Akeredolu described as having no effect whatsoever in the politics of the state?

What did you expect him to say of his opponents? He may have said so out of sheer political mischief? After all, he had decalred that former Gov Mimiko is his enemy for life and that nothing will ever reconcile them. So his utterances about that party is apparently biased and springs from a bad place. But he would be shocked by what will hit him.

Are you implying that Akeredolu will not be returned?

I have not said so. Read the handwriting on the wall. You will know that his days are numbered in the Government House. Many Ondo people do not think he has done well enough to be re-elected. Many of them believe he is being influenced by external factors outside the state. And the people seem verily averse to such godfather overshadowing image in the background .

External factors? Godfather? How and when? Did Bola Tinubu campaign for him again?

Did the Lion of Bourdillon enjoin Ondo people to also reject Eyitayo? Which external forces are you talking about?

Put your ears to the ground and you will hear what the people are saying. Ondo people want to be completely independent, not having a governor that takes instruction from outside the state.

But Akeredolu has done major things for the people of the state, so if he is taking instructions from outside the state, it has benefitted the people of the state. If you don’t see anything else, can’t you see the legacy bridge he constructed at Ore, which has solved a lot of traffic gridlock in that transit town?

There are talks that ZLP and PDP would combine to fight their common enemy which is APC. And if that happens, then APC would be on its way out in the state.

Are you sure of your facts? Don’t forget Ajayi was until recently a top member of the APC.

Do you think the APC will allow itself to suffer another defeat within one month, after the disgraceful loss in Edo?

Again, put your ears on the ground. You will hear things. This is the age of digital politics.

The era of presidential intervention in elections ended with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This Buhari is not ready to assist any political weakling. If any governor cannot fly on the basis of his own performance, then let him crash. That is the unspoken policy. That was what saved Godwin Obaseki in Edo State. It may be the same pill that could kill Aketi politically.

I think the most we can ask for is for the best candidate among the lot to win. That is the only guaranty that Ondo State will not only be peaceful but progressive. And all politicians must be sportsmanly enough in accepting defeat without fuss. The era of post-election violence and destruction is long over. Let peace prevail.