The World Teachers Day celebration in October, 2020, brought a lot of smiles to the faces of Nigerian teachers following the pronouncement by President Muhammadu Buhari on the approval of a special salary scale for them.
President Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, also reviewed upward their retirement age to 65 and said the approval was to take effect immediately.
The approvals came after cries by teachers on their poor salary package, a development which many have attributed to be responsible for the falling standard of education in the country.
The president also approved the building of low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas and the sponsorship of teachers, just as he assured of prompt payment of salaries and timely promotion to eliminate stagnation. This is in addition to the Teachers Conversion Programme (TCP) and ICT training to mitigate the current dearth of qualified teachers.
A month after the pronouncement, the national implementation committee on the revitalisation and repositioning of the teaching profession was inaugurated. It was charged to focus on specific areas of intervention as approved by the president and submit its report after three months.
This is over six months now and the teachers are yet to get the special salary as promised.
A teacher, Olasunkomi Opeifa, said they were yet to see anything and “they are not even saying anything about it.”
Opeifa said; “As a teacher who is committed to giving quality education with available and self-acquired resources, I will want to appeal to the government to expedite its plan of restructuring teachers’ salary scale as announced on October 5, 2020.
According to him, the fulfillment of the new scale will go a long way to serve as a reward for old teachers who have served in moulding the country’s upcoming leaders, and motivation for young teachers.
“It will also place us at par financially with our colleagues in developed countries. May I shock you? Many of us will still use our new financial status to better the quality of education by acquiring personal technological gadgets that will enhance learning. Yes, we are that selfless; we are teachers,” he said.
While noting that the new salary scale will not just give them financial relief but psychosocial upliftment, Opeifa said many of them would be able to achieve their dreams with little stress and give their children proper upbringing.
He lamented that, “Many teachers are mentally ill (without knowing) because of their financial status,” adding and appealing that, “I strongly appreciate the thought and the promise of the new salary scale; yet, I strongly appeal that the implementation should not be delayed any further.”
Another teacher who does not want to be mentioned said she was happy after the pronouncement, especially with the fact that the president said it was with immediate effect, but that, “We are yet to see anything different.
“I was hopeful then and believed that we would get a lift financially, but up till now we are not sure of what is going on, but I pray it will come soon so that we can appreciate the government more.”
Reacting to the development, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, said the teachers who were saying their salaries had not been increased were right on one hand, but that on the other they were wrong.
He said being learned people they should understand that when certain pronouncements were made it takes time to process.
He explained that, “About the time it was made we were very happy that the bonanza had come, but I keep saying Mr President just fired the first shot; meaning that the journey has just started.
“Many times, some of these pronouncements have to pass through legislation and policies because they don’t just come into effect because the president pronounce them.
“The truth is that it is not just like cooking pepper soup; all these pronouncements have to pass through processes and at times when they are passing through the processes they can be smooth in one area and there may be bottlenecks in another area.”
Dr Ene further said, “Like the issue of retirement, we are still on it. Our letter has just gotten to the president, the National Assembly must legislate on it; that is the only way the governors will not argue and that is the only way it can become law of the land. So many people who don’t understand it will be saying there is no implementation, and when people speak like that, it will look like we are not appreciative of the authority.”
Therefore, the NUT secretary general believes that there is a possibility of the implementation coming through before the next World Teachers Day, saying, if not 100 per cent, the major ones will come.
On the delay, the Director of Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, told Daily Trust that six committees were set up to look into the new salary structure, saying it would not be an easy task.
According to him, the age of service was implemented almost immediately as the ministry dispatched letters to the relevant authorities.
The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, who is also the chairman of the main committee, while speaking to journalists at the weekend, said the new improved welfare package for teachers was another significant thing done by the president and that it was the most encouraging.
Mr Echono said, “Even in the public service, every day I am inundated with requests by people who originally studied education but find themselves working in different agencies and ministries, wanting to return to their original career because now the remuneration will be higher than the civil service scale.”
He said they would now have a tenure that extended five years more than what the average civil servant would go.
He further said, “And again, we have commenced the implementation of this; we are working closely with the Head of Service; she’s been wonderful and very supportive, and the salaries and wages commission too as we speak, is computing rural allowances, science allowances, hazard allowances and so on to ensure that teachers get their reward here on earth and not hereafter.”