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Towards a more humane treatment of teachers

Governors of all political persuasions are doing their utmost best to denigrate teachers and the teaching profession. One consequence is the diminution of the importance of a once-revered occupation that laid the foundation for the nation’s human capital stock. Longer term, the country may reap a harvest of evil fruits if we do not curb it.

No fewer than 12 states owe salaries of teachers as we write. The indebtedness ranges from 28 months to one month. In other words, some states owe teachers for more than two years. It is difficult to contemplate and then to grasp the implications for the livelihood and well-being of persons so owed.

The record of infamy is as follows. Osun State, 28 months; Nassarawa State, 26 months; Kogi State, 25. Others are Benue State, 12; Ekiti State, 9; Bayelsa State, 7; and Taraba State, 6. Abia State owesfive months as does Kaduna State. Teachers in Ondo State have not received salaries in four months, in Kwara State for two months as in Delta State while Oyo State owes one month.

The habit has become contagious. State Governments of all political persuasions and across the economicspectrum find it convenient or expedient to owe teachers. It raises many troubling questions for public administration, policy and values in our country. It amounts to a fiscal and psychological assault on teachers.

A core question in public administration is whether the country has too many teachers for its public schools thus necessitating the indebtedness. Are the wages of teachers not part of the annual budgets for states? Why is it so convenient to forget the salaries of teachers or to treat it as a last resort?

What is the policy direction on education in Nigeria and across the states? Nigeria articulated a National Policy on Education in 1997 that sought the attainment of at least four core objectives. Theyare the inculcation of national consciousness and national unity and the inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society. Others are training of the mind in the understanding of the world and the acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and competencies, both mental and physical, as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of his society.

Our educational system takes in kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary education. The first three are foundational. It is at these levels where strong foundations are necessary that the states have a proclivity to fail the significant factor of production that enables all the other elements.

There have been many gyrations in policy. We moved from the Universal Primary Education programme in 1976 to the Universal Basic Education following revisions in 1981 and 1990. With UBE we should have six years of primary education and three years of Junior Secondary education as a national guarantee to each child of nine years of uninterrupted and free schooling. The Universal Basic Education Commission is supposed to drive this national commitment. Section 15 of the UBEC Law states the policy as well as the national resolve to offer adult literacy and non-formal education, skill acquisition programmes, as well as education for groups such as nomads and migrants, girl child and women, Al-majiri street children and the disabled.

We need teachers to bring these policies to fruition. There is no educational system without teachers. They are the moulders of the future and a pillar of any focused society and nation. By educating the youth, teachers enable regeneration and the propagation of societal values. Studies have shown a link between high impact teachers and student performance (Chetty, 2011). The link goes from ensuring they make better grades to becoming better adults and earning higher incomes. Countries are thus going back to the tradition of hiring their best brains as teachers.

There are further considerations. Nigeria has the largest population of out-of-school children in the world. Such dubious distinctions will worsen if we continue to treat with disdain those who can change the narrative by their service and commitment.

We are now in the Information and Knowledge Age. Countries of the world are in a marathon race for development of high capacity human capital. They do so by prioritising matters regarding education, in particular teachers as the vital factor of production therein. The National Policy on Education posits that the end of education in Nigeria would be to instil values such as respect for the worth and dignity of the individual, faith in man’s ability to make moral decisions, the acquisition of competencies necessary for self-reliance and shared responsibility for the common good of society.

Disempowered by denial of their economic rights, our teachers would find it difficult to push these values. A nation that shortchanges its teachers cheats itself long term. End the harassment of teachers now. Clear the backlog of unpaid salaries.



The post Towards a more humane treatment of teachers appeared first on BusinessDay : News you can trust.

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