Teachers’ world?



Teachers in basic and secondary schools in the country are in for a new deal, with President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement of a new welfare package for them. The good tiding was made public in Abuja by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on October 5, when he stood in for President Buhari, at this year’s World Teachers Day. If well implemented, the package will change the familiar narrative of teachers’ reward being in heaven. It means they will, at least, reap some of the fruits of their labour right here on earth.

According to the minister, the incentives include a special salary scale, provision for rural, science teachers’ and peculiar allowances. The president also approved a special pension scheme for the teachers, including extension of their retirement age from 60 to 65 years, and teaching service from 35 to 40 years. To restore the lost glory of teachers, those of them in the rural areas are to benefit from the low cost houses that have been approved as part of the package. They are also to benefit from, at least, one refresher training per annum, to bring them in tune with modern teaching practices.

Other benefits include prompt payment of salaries and timely promotion. Teachers’ biological children also have the benefit of free tuition. Moreover, the Annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards is to be expanded to cover more categories and the winners are also to be considered for National Awards and National Productivity Order of Merit Awards.

Teachers in training are not left out. Education students in universities and colleges of education are to enjoy bursary which is to be reintroduced, as well as get automatic employment at the end of their programme. Moreover, the best graduates are to be encouraged to take up careers in teaching as was the case in the past, so as to attract the best brains into the teaching profession.

President Buhari said these measures were taken to “address the challenges and set our country on the path of industrialisation where our educational system will produce the needed skills and human capital.”

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Without doubt, these are good ideals, at least on paper. Teaching has lost its glory, hence many youths do not see it as worthwhile. Even the society looks down on teachers because of the institutional factors that have relegated them to the background. This is in spite of the fact that nobody could have become somebody if he or she had not been taught. If, truly, education is the bedrock of development, it follows therefore that the teaching profession must be recovered from the abyss that it has sunk.

This is why we welcome what seems the government’s renewed interest in this otherwise thankless profession. That the changes are taking off right from the basic education level is particularly commendable because the foundation matters. When teachers are appreciated at that level, the tendency is for them to strive to put in their best. This is a win-win situation for both the pupils and the country.

Our fear, however, is that these goodies are for federal teachers alone. This means a preponderance of teachers is not covered; like those in state governments’ and the many private schools in the country. The possibility of these categories of teachers feeling inferior to their lucky counterparts will stalk the profession, and this is not good for the system.

There is still more to be done to make the impact of the special packages for teachers global. It is a good beginning, no doubt. State governments and private school owners should look forward to it as the standard. If necessary, the Education Tax should be reviewed with the proceeds shared in a manner that would encourage the state governments as well as private school owners to key into the model set by the Federal Government for teachers.

Teaching is a core developmental aspect of life. It deserves all the encouragement humanly possible to ensure teachers give their best.

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