By Chika Mefor
It has come again that time when teachers all over the world are remembered and celebrated for their efforts and sacrifices in nation building and global development. Teachers, through their contributions in grooming learners and providing them with the intellectual, moral, doctrinal and all-round knowledge necessary for their smooth sail through life, are sure movers in the development of any nation. CHIKA MEFOR writes.
The teaching profession has often been referred to as the mother of all professions because it is founded at the very roots of all other professions. All the other professions are nurtured and midwifed by the teaching profession. Simply put, without teachers, there won’t be other professions. Teachers are found in every facet of life to impart knowledge and dispense discipline to learners.
The role of teachers in nation building is inestimable, hence it is often clichéd that, “the reward of teachers is in heaven.”
While the aforesaid cliché may not be far from the truth with regards to the invaluable and indispensable role that teachers play in global development, it is however not acceptable, the perception that, “the teachers’ reward is in heaven,” which has been twisted or misinterpreted to mean that teachers and their contributions and sacrifices should not be accorded the appropriate financial rewards and compensations.
This twisted perception about the reward for teachers appears to be more commonplace in Africa, particularly Nigeria, going by the way and manner the issues that pertain to the welfare of teachers are not prioritised. Teachers are obviously the most relegated and disregarded professionals in Nigeria despite the crucial role they play in national building. This is seen in the tiny wages they are paid for the strenuous tasks they perform.
The great sage, Nelson Mandela, once said that education is the tool with which we can change the world, while Malcolm X corroborated this fact by opining that, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” If the above quotes are anything to go by, then the teachers who are the primary stakeholders in the business of dispensing education, should be accorded their pride of place in the scheme of things.
Casting a long look at the welfare of teachers in Nigeria, one will see clearly that the teachers in this part of the world have been so relegated to the background that they are sometimes made to beg for their entitlements before they receive it. This is even as the so-called entitlements are nothing to write home about and cannot even meet the least of their needs. It is commonplace for teachers to embark on other after-school businesses to augment for the tiny remunerations and emoluments they receive as reward.
“All states that are owing workers or teachers, the time for revenge and pay back is fast approaching. For the governors that are owing teachers or workers, if they don’t want to incur the wrath of teachers or workers, they better pay up now because this is a payback time as we approach 2019,” he said.
He issued the threat against the backdrop of the protracted refusal of this crop of governors to pay up workers in their states, especially as these governors know how much the workers depend on their meagre take-home salaries.
Over the last three to four years, the problem of owing teachers and workers their salaries across the various states of the federation, has indeed escalated. Across the states of the federation, teachers and other state workers are made to toil from month to month without any compensation for their labour. A breakdown of the debt accruing to teachers and workers from the different states of the federation shows that Kogi and Osun States have maintained the highest debt profile, while many of the other states are not free from the debt.
While it is obvious that Nigeria has more teachers than it can conveniently employ, the Nigerian teachers have been touted to be very efficient in delivering on expectation. Recently, when President George Weah of Liberia visited Nigeria, he implored the Nigerian government to intervene on behalf of his country for the augmentation of the huge teacher deficit in his country. This goes to show that there are actually countries that are willing to handsomely reward teachers because of the value they attach to teachers, and their lack of teacher manpower to meet their educational needs; while on the contrary, there are countries like Nigeria with a surplus of the population of teachers required by the country, and that do not consider it a priority to reward teachers appropriately.
The teaching profession in Nigeria has had to contend with a legion of challenges, which it has managed to meander through. A major problem that has bedeviled the profession is quackery and the proliferation of fake and unqualified teachers, a menace that the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) has been battling for some time now.
In a bid to nip this problem in the bud, the TRCN has mandated all teachers in the country to ensure to get registered on their catalogue before the end of 2019. This order has led to a great cut down in the number of fake teachers in the country.