Primary education is regarded as the most important phase in a child’s academic pursuit because that is where the foundation is laid. On October 5, Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate World Teachers’ Day.
In Nigeria, however, primary school teachers in public schools face numerous challenges. Apart from being the least motivated on the academic ladder across the country, they are poorly remunerated.
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They also lack working tools and training, among other challenges. Many of these teachers lament irregularities in their salaries, months of accumulated arrears of allowances, as well as percentage payments. Daily Trust spoke with some of the teachers in some states and now reports.
Lost hope in Kaduna
A primary school teacher in Kaduna, who simply identified himself as Musa, for fear of possible victimization, lamented irregularities in their salaries.
He said they could wait for 58 days before receiving their salaries. He said life had been difficult for many primary school teachers in the state due to salary cuts and without any payment criteria. “Sometimes a graduate receives less salary than a holder of the National Certificate in Education (NCE),” he said.
Musa said that despite complaints to the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and other authorities concerned, not much has been done.
“There is no date for payment of salaries as teachers must work for 53 to 58 days. Minimum wage was not fully implemented for primary school teachers as compared to their counterparts in secondary schools,” another teacher said.
He also alleged non-remittance of pension deductions into teachers’ pension accounts, adding that the majority of them had next to nothing in their pension accounts, which vary, based on local governments.
Another teacher who was deployed to Soba Local Government Area said he stopped going to work months ago because he did not have transportation fare. He said he had not received his salary for almost 15 months since he was listed among those who absconded.
“When we complained, they paid us for March/April in 2020 and stopped. We have not received any salary since then. I started work in October 2019 and life has been very difficult for many of us. We told them that we could not continue working since we don’t even have resources for transportation to our various schools,” he said.
The NUT in the state confirmed a delay in the payment of salaries, as well as salary cut for primary school teachers since April 2021, without explanation.
The chairman of the union, Ibrahim Dalhatu said, “This issue of unpaid salaries has to do with primary school teachers. We don’t have such problems in the secondary section.
“Primary school teachers are paid by local governments, and there are certain processes. For example, they have to wait for the money to come from the federal government to the state. These processes are responsible for the delay in paying their salaries,” he said.
He said the government had not explained to the union why teachers’ salaries were being cut. He added that they had written severally to the authorities, demanding explanations, but they have been ignored.
“We suspect that they have reverted to the N18,000 minimum wage. But we don’t know and cannot even ascertain that they are paying the N18,000,” he said.
Efforts to speak with the State Universal Basic Education Board were not successful as the executive chairman of the board was said to have travelled out of the state for an official assignment.
Teachers angry in Niger
In Niger State, apart from the non-implementation of teachers’ salary scale, their salaries are paid in percentages, with a lot of deductions. The chairman of the NUT in the state, Adamu Mohammed Akayago, said they were the lowest paid.
Akayago said teachers in the state were on the verge of revolting as they were not happy with the situation of things. He said the union would be engaging the state government next week to further press for the implementation of the teachers’ salary scale and address the issue of percentage payment before they would decide on the next line of action.
“The governor issued an executive directive when he presided over our meetings about three consecutive times, but his lieutenants failed to act on his directives,” he said.
The commissioner for education in the state, Hannatu Jibril Salihu, was not reachable at the time of filing this report, while calls to the public relations officer were not answered.
A primary school teacher who didn’t want his name mentioned, said the new teachers recruited in 2019 were owed four months’ salary arrears, from January to April 2020.
“As time went on, the salary issue became something else; they started paying based on percentage. Sometimes you would receive N20,000, and other times, N28, 000. As I am speaking now, for the past two months, my salary was N13, 000 and N11, 000 respectively,” he said.
He said life had not been easy for teachers, especially with the current high cost of food items, noting, “I have to engage in other menial jobs to feed my family.”
Benue teachers resort to fate
Teachers of primary schools in Benue State are feeling dejected and have resorted to fate following months of accumulated salary arrears. A teacher in one of the public schools who gave her name as Jennifer said she no longer bothered about her unpaid salaries, hoping that someday all would be well again.
Jennifer told our correspondent that she was owed a backlog of 10 months by the state government.
“What will I do, or who will I ask? I have decided to stop worrying about things I have no control over so that I won’t die before my time.
“We are used to being owed. It is when we see the alert on our phones that we know we have been paid because we can’t ask anybody. But we are moving on as typical Nigerians. We will always say that God is faithful. Our payment hasn’t been steady. Most of us are yet to receive June salary this year,” she said.
Another teacher who also confided in our correspondent explained that “For the past 10 years, my salary has not improved. As we speak, I am being owed 10 months, including September.
“There is a backlog of unpaid salaries from previous years and in different stages for different categories of teachers.”
Similarly, a male teacher said the situation had impacted negatively on his family, especially with the rising prices of foodstuff in the market.
At the time of filing this report, there was no explanation on the plight of teachers in the state, as the chairman of the NUT, Comrade Levi, was not in his office when Daily Trust Saturday visited. Also, calls and text messages sent to his telephone were not answered.
But the commissioner for science technology in the state, who is presently overseeing the Ministry of Education, Dr Godwin Oyiwona, said the state government was equally concerned about the situation. He added that some of the arrears owed teachers were inherited from previous governments. Oyiwona, however, noted that the Ortom administration was doing everything possible to clear those outstanding arrears.
Teachers not paid in Taraba
It is difficult to precisely say the reason behind the non-payment of primary school teachers in Taraba State. This is because authorities in the state are not responding to inquiries by our correspondent on the issues.
But our findings revealed that the teachers are owed salaries for six months.
Findings also revealed that the state branch of the NUT was rendered powerless, such that they cannot tackle the issue.
Apart from the non-payment of salaries, there was an alleged interference into the union’s activities by the state government, leading to the creation of a parallel leadership.
The alleged interference in the activities of the NUT is said to be an attempt to control the new leadership of the union and impose candidates.
In response to the situation, concerned primary school teachers formed a union chaired by Amina Danladi.
Danladi told Daily Trust Saturday in Jalingo that apart from the non-payment of their salaries, primary school teachers had not been promoted for the past 13 years.
She said the attitude of the government to primary school teachers showed that it did not attach priority to primary education.
She also alleged that registers, scheme of work and chalks were not provided to schools, a situation that makes teaching very difficult, and called for the intervention of the national secretariat of the NUT.
The executive chairman of the Taraba State Primary Education Management Board, Mr Yakubu Agbaizu, refused to see our correspondent in his office.
He did not also answer calls and text messages on the issue by our correspondent.
Teachers smile in Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Lagos, others
It is a different scenario in Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Lagos, Ekiti and some other states as employers have been keeping to their part of the contract. Teachers and government officials said salaries were being paid when due.
The public relations officer of the Kano State Ministry of Education, Malam Aliyu Yusuf, said the state government was able to maintain a steady flow of teachers’ salaries.
He, however, said the only issue was lack of promotion, which the state government inherited. He said the government had considered that and the issue would soon be resolved.
A source at the ministry of education said Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had succeeded in being on the same page with local government chairmen, hence the constant flow of funds.
“You know that local government areas contribute a certain percentage for the payment of salaries apart from what comes from the federal government. In Kano, the governor ensures that salaries of teachers are treated as first line charge,” he said.
In Jigawa State, the NUT lauded the government for timely payment of teachers’ salaries and other entitlements.
The chairman of the NUT in the state, Comrade Abdulkadir Yunusa, who confirmed the development in a chat with Daily Trust Saturday, however, noted with concern, the acute shortage of teachers in schools across the state.
Confirming the shortage of teachers, the commissioner for education, science and technology, Dr Lawan Yunusa Danzomo, said efforts were on to remedy the situation. Jigawa has a total of 15,800 teachers.
He added that the state government recently recruited 6,500 teachers, comprising 1,900 permanent teachers and 4,500 under its J-Teach scheme.
Borno teachers are paid, but…
In Borno State, teachers receive their salaries regularly, but there are complaints about the amounts, unpaid allowances and lack of career progression, mostly at the basic level.
An executive member of the teachers’ union in Maiduguri said poor salaries and unclear goals had resulted in low motivation in the workplace.
He said, “Primary school teachers under local education authorities are facing productivity problems as a result of low salaries. For instance, I am on GL 13/14 after spending 26 years in the employment of a local authority, but you will be shocked to hear that my monthly salary is just N63,306. New employees with NCE qualifications earn between N10,000 and N18,000. There are teachers on levels 12 and 15, as well as lower levels, who have not received yearly increments and allowances for 12 years.”
“Most schools have few teachers, who are expected to cater for the diverse needs of hundreds of pupils in schools following the employee verification exercise. For example, as we speak, Bidiya Primary School in Shani Local Government Area, with over 700 pupils, has only four teachers. This is the situation in Legeda and Borkulok primary schools,” he said.
He said although the governor had approved the reemployment of 1,224 out of the 10,000 teachers sacked, the problem of teacher shortage still existed in schools. He added that the problem was compounded by insurgency. He said 600 teachers were killed by insurgents in different attacks.
Meanwhile, during a visit to Baga town, Governor Babagana Umara Zulum promised that more teachers would be hired by the state. And the new employees would be allowed to pursue in-service programmes to obtain teaching qualifications, while those who failed their exams would be engaged in non-teaching jobs.
Teachers lament in Imo, Rivers
Teachers and civil servants employed in the local government system in Imo State are lamenting the non-payment of salaries for 19 months.
Those who spoke with our correspondent in Owerri said they had been made to go through harrowing experiences.
Going by the claim of the teachers, they have not been paid since Governor Hope Uzodimma was sworn in on January 14, 2020.
The civil servants said the last time they protested the non-payment of their salaries, the state government told the Archbishop of Owerri, Dr Anthony Obinna that they were agents of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
One of the people who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity said, “When we protested at the Government House, the archbishop asked us to produce our letters of engagement to prove that we were truly government employees. We did that and the archbishop gave the governor the facts of our employment.”
He said he was mourning the death of his son who died because he could not pay for his medication.
The man, who displayed his employment detail, appealed to the government to pay teachers and other civil servants in the state.
Some of them lamented that instead of presenting their cases to the state government, their directors rather compiled their names for disciplinary measures.
Efforts to get the reaction of the chairman of the NUT in the state, Mr Philip Nwansi, were unsuccessful as calls to his known telephone number were not answered.
It would be recalled that the teachers staged a similar protest in March when Governor Uzodinma claimed that those who were yet to receive their salaries were ‘ghost workers.’
Grace Ajaegbu, a teacher in Community Secondary School, Udo in Ezinihitte, Mbaise Local Government Area, said she had not been paid since the inception of the present administration.
“I started teaching in 1992, but since the present administration began, I have not received a dime,” Mrs Ajaegbu said.
Also, teachers in Rivers State-owned schools recently staged a peaceful demonstration at Government House, Port Harcourt, over the non-payment of five years arrears of their salaries by the state government.
The protesters had argued that despite a court order, the state government was yet to pay them.
But at various forums, the state government maintained that the teachers who were yet to be paid belonged to private institutions.
Daily Trust learnt that the state government is paying the non-teaching staff of the affected schools while teachers are yet to be paid.
Ondo teachers get part payment
Teachers in Ondo State said life had not been easy as the state government owed them three months.
A headteacher in one of the government-owned primary schools who pleaded anonymity told Daily Trust Saturday that the government was paying them half salaries and sometimes 30 per cent.
“We were paid 30 per cent of our salaries in June while the balance was paid in July. We are yet to be paid for July, August and September,” she said.
She also said that despite the situation, they still teach and take care of the children.
“All we can do is appeal to the government to pay our salaries because the cost of living is now too high. Foodstuff and other basic things have become too costly, yet we have to survive,” she added.
Good news in Lagos, Ekiti
Findings by Daily Trust revealed that Lagos State does not owe teachers’ salaries as the government encourages and rewards hard work among its workforce.
The chairman of the NUT in the state, Comrade Akintoye Hassan, confirmed that the state does not owe teachers.
According to him, teachers receive their salaries on the 23rd or 24th of every month.
He also said that the promotion of teachers was up-to-date.
“I am a beneficiary. I was promoted to the position of deputy director of education,” he said.
He said the government was also investing in the construction and rehabilitation of blocks of classrooms across the state.
“In Lagos State, the use of chalk and blackboard has become history. What we use are a marker and a whiteboard. It has always been a good story for teachers in Lagos, though not at its best yet,” he said.
In March, 13 outstanding teachers got car gifts from the state government.
Winners of the award were selected from public primary, junior and senior secondary schools and technical colleges in the state.
Also, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tuesday fulfilled his promise to the best performing teachers. The governor had in 2019 promised to provide houses to two teachers who bagged the best teacher award and best school administrator in the 2019 President and Schools Excellence Award (PTSEA) respectively.
In Ekiti State, the Kayode Fayemi-led government has been paying teachers’ salaries regularly.
However, it was gathered that the state owes some primary school teachers six months salaries.
The state government at the 2021 World Teachers Day gave two cars to the best teachers in the state. Mr Olusonji Bamidele and Jimoh Azeez won the prize for the secondary and primary school category respectively. The state also gave cash and other gifts to other teachers for outstanding performances.
A teacher who does not want to be quoted begged the governor to pay them their arrears.
“It is better to make all teachers happy by paying their arrears. The governor did well during the teachers’ day celebration but I see that as ceremonial. That notwithstanding, Governor Fayemi is far better than many governors who don’t even care to pay teachers.
A secondary school teacher in Oyo state, Shade Famakinwa told Daily Trust on Saturday that the Seyi Makinde-led government pays salaries on the 25th of the month.
Famakinwa said this is the first time in the history of the state, she is receiving salaries as at when due.
‘Teachers deserve respect’
Payment of salaries and allowances of primary school teachers in some states will continue to be a herculean task considering that primary schools are the property of the local government councils, experts said.
According to them, just like the way most local government councils are battling for survival with the little allocation given to them by the state governments, it becomes more difficult to run the affairs of LGAs and to pay not just teachers but also the staff of the councils.
In addition to minimum wage, which many state governments failed to implement or agreed to implement but failed to pay, primary school teachers would continue to suffer.
Also, it is no news that monetary allocations to some LGAs are most times diverted by state governments leaving the councils stranded.
According to a school administrator, Chima Samuel, “Unless the local governments become autonomous or primary education becomes the responsibility of the state government, the troubles faced by teachers will never end.”
A former school administrator, Malam Muhammad Hadi, said most of the crises bedevilling Nigeria could be attributed to the poor foundation of children.
“Teachers are expected to mould the character of pupils so that they would become patriotic citizens but sadly, the teachers who play a key role to achieving this, are the most neglected these days.
“This could be attributed to the attitude of our leaders who take their children to private schools; they don’t care what happens in government schools and therefore, it is garbage-in-garbage-out,” he said.
Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Abubakar Akote (Minna), Magaji Isa Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina), Mohammed Abubakar (Dutse), Misbahu Bashir (Maiduguri), Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos), Bola Ojuola (Akure), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt) & Chidimma C. Okeke