Photo Credit: Unsplash/Santi Vedri
BY ANIBE IDAJILI
One of the most honourable and selfless professions there is has to be teaching. Yet, there are many difficulties that teachers in Nigeria must overcome, such as low or delayed pay, inadequate learning facilities, and subpar working conditions. Notwithstanding these difficulties, inspiration can be found in the examples of teachers who go beyond being mere information providers.
Teachers are overworked in Nigeria, like they are in many other nations, and they are also expected to shape the future of the country with very little funding. Teachers are frequently cited as having a responsibility for the futures of the young people who are under their guidance and support.
MEET THE UNSUNG HEROES
In order to fulfill the demands of the profession they have chosen, teachers are expected to always give their all. While this responsibility is an enormous one, many teachers have risen to the occasion. However, for many teachers like Muhammad Bello, teaching has become far too challenging.
Bello, a teacher at a public secondary school in the Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, faces a challenge that is common: how can teachers remain motivated if there are no pay raises, bonuses, or opportunities for promotion? President Muhammadu Buhari has since signed a bill supporting new welfare benefits for teachers into law, but the execution is still tricky. Bello, a 16-year teaching veteran, is pessimistic and even wonders if his reward is in heaven.
“Like other teachers in this country, I have faced a lot of obstacles since I started teaching. Even though I adore my job as a teacher, there are moments when I wish I had taken a different career path. In retrospect, I am appreciative of the opportunity I had to shape young people, but I would advise aspiring teachers to really think about the possibility of teaching through several challenges.” Although it is not an easy task, Bello says, “It makes me happy to see my students succeed in life.”
The new welfare package offers tuition-free schooling for children of teachers, a new salary scale, an increase in the length of service from 35 to 40 years, an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 65 years, a rural allowance for teachers posted to rural communities, and automatic recruitment of B.Ed. graduates as well as many other benefits.
On October 5, 2020, President Buhari made the announcement, and more than two years later, the new salary scheme has still not been put into effect. However, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, the Registrar of the Teachers Council of Nigeria (TRCN), encouraged teachers not to have any fears. The TRCN, he claimed, was involved in the ideation of the plan and guarantees that it will be put into action.
“Though there has been some delay regarding the implementation of some aspects of the scheme, especially matters relating to finance. That is because of the global economic challenges that Nigeria is not exempted from,” Prof. Ajiboye had told Vanguard.
Elsewhere in Minna, Rachael David, a private primary school teacher who earns a monthly salary of N15,000 is convinced that her extra efforts are nothing special. As she and a student sat at a small table reviewing schoolwork, she recounts how poor teaching conditions are. Rachael, who exemplifies the sense of responsibility felt by many teachers in Nigeria, used to earn N10,000, which was later increased to N11,000 and now, N15,000, all within 10 years.
“While the majority of private schools in Nigeria underpay their teachers, I am aware that my pay is incredibly poor. I previously had to leave my current school to go to one that paid better. It’s unfortunate that the new school only cared about students’ tuition and not the quality of education provided. I had to return to my former job because I believe that teachers should be a key knowledge resource for their students,” claims Rachel.
Rachael views all of the extra effort as merely part of her job as a teacher. She hopes to be known as “the teacher that cares,” despite the fact that the profession may be quite demanding. She does, however, wish that the government raises would also apply to the owners and employees of private schools.
“There isn’t exactly a road map for getting through challenging circumstances. As teachers, we deal with a variety of difficulties, many of which are out of our control. We’ve developed the stamina we need to give our students and ourselves the best of who we are by caring deeply about them, embracing the lessons we learn, avoiding taking on too much at once, and reaching out to family and friends for support.”
BETTER WORKING CONDITIONS ON THE HORIZON FOR TEACHERS?
Hamid Bobboyi, the executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), claims that many government-run primary schools, particularly those in the north, have only one teacher. He bemoans the country’s declining teacher population and urges the Government to face this challenge at all levels of the nation.
According to Ade Omolabi, a Program Manager at a Nonprofit called YJHSSI, the lack of a decent welfare system for teachers has made the profession unappealing. Omolabi thinks many people join the teaching profession because they have no other options.
“All across the nation, the working conditions for teachers at all levels are abhorrent. Regrettably, it seems that the government does not place a high priority on education. The result has been a significant gap in the educational system. In fact, if it weren’t for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program, a lot of schools around the country would have had to close owing to a teacher shortage.”
Salisu Tanko, an advocate for education based in Minna, argues that all stakeholders must be involved in order to effectively address the issue of teachers’ welfare. He maintains that there can be no better time to start than now.
There may be a promise of a teaching career with better working conditions in the future. Till then, let’s be inspired by Bello, Rachael, and all the other teachers who are making every effort to be there for their children.
This report was supported by YouthHub Africa in collaboration with Malala Fund and RiseUp.