The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) has challenged the federal government to fulfill the promises made to the union since 2020 while lamenting the plights of Nigerian teachers.
It said the shortage of teachers had become worrisome, especially at the basic and senior secondary sub-education sectors.
National President of NUT, Titus Amba, stated this at the 2023 World Teachers Day Celebration on Thursday in Abuja with the theme, “The Teachers We Need for the Education We Want: The Global Imperative to Reverse the Teachers Shortage.”
This is as President Bola Ahmed Tinubu promised to ensure teachers’ reward begins to manifest on earth, saying they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
At the event, seven cars, and two motorcycles were given to the best teachers in public and private schools and best schools as well, while consolidation prizes of deep freezers, fridges and generator sets were given to runner-ups.
Amba expressed concerns over the alarming infrastructural deficit prevalent across the nation’s basic and senior secondary schools.
“This near absence of optimum educational facilities has paved the way for inimical activities, which are hampering the smooth running and development of our school system. These include examination malpractice, kidnapping, abduction of students and teachers, etc.,” he said.
He stated that reports from practitioners had indicated an alarming rate of retirement of teachers without a corresponding recruitment to fill the gaps.
He also observed that there was low enrolment into education courses in tertiary institutions as they were considered the last options by admission seekers.
The NUT president said trained teachers these days accept the job of teaching as a stepping stone and leave for greener pastures once the opportunities come their way.
“The challenge of attracting and retaining young dedicated persons in the teaching profession will remain unabated if the living and working conditions of teachers are not given due attention and addressed in the interest of teacher effectiveness and greater service delivery,” he said.
While noting that inadequate funding and investment in education is one of the major barriers to functional quality public education in Nigeria, he said the budgetary allocation to education at the national level over the years had been observed to be far from the international benchmarks of at least 4 to 6per cent of GDP and/or at least 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the national budget.
He said, “The NUT is therefore, using this global event to join Education International (EI) and other partners to advocate and demand adequate and equitable funding for public education under the framework of the GO Public! Fund Education campaign.”
He called on all tiers of government to respect and safeguard the right of every child to quality education by providing adequate funding and investment in education.
“Let us rise to support, value and respect teachers who create the future of our tomorrow’s leaders and strive to improve their pay, their working conditions and empower them to stay in their well chosen profession.”.
“We urge the federal government to direct the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to treat the funds of basic education as a first line charge and the funds be channeled through the state governments’ monthly allocations,” he said.
At the event, the president who was represented by his vice, Kashim Shettima, said Nigerian teachers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
He regretted the challenges confronting Nigerian teachers, which include overcrowded classrooms, scarce resources, and limited opportunities for professional development, which he said were the result of prolonged neglect of the noble profession.
“It is my promise that we will work tirelessly to build a society where the teacher’s reward begins to manifest here on earth,” he said.
He said Nigeria’s future could only be safeguarded by investing in education, empowering the teachers and providing every child with the tools to reach their dream destination.
“Our commitment to actualising our education reforms is to drive the emergence and sustenance of a system that recognises that education is the mother of new ideas and groundbreaking discoveries.
“With well-taught workforces, we are not only going to build a nation that thinks but one that lives in an interconnected world, a world where the exchange of knowledge and ideas knows no boundaries.”
“Without motivated teachers, we can’t build a nation that fosters such international cooperation, builds bridges of understanding, and addresses global challenges such as climate change, poverty, and healthcare. So, education, to us, and I believe to you too, is not just a means to individual success; it is a path to global harmony and sustainable development.”
Noting that every educated person is a product of teachers, President Tinubu expressed the nation’s gratitude to Nigerian teachers, reassuring them that their profession is prime in the vision for the nation and her development agenda.
“So, by investing in education, by empowering our teachers, and by providing every child with the tools to reach their dream destination, we have safeguarded the future of this nation,” the President said.
The president directed the two ministers of education to collaborate with the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation to comprehensively revise existing guidelines to ensure that anyone seeking to benefit from the Harmonised Retirement Age of Teachers in Nigeria Act 2022 must be fully prepared to return to the classroom, equipped with the latest teaching techniques and skills, especially in the realm of information technology.
He encouraged teachers to consider taking advantage of the retirement policy, bearing in mind that eligibility is not automatic.
“To benefit from this Act, you must possess contemporary teaching skills, including proficiency in information technology, as we strive to equip our students for both the challenges of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.”
Speaking, Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, said the day offered an opportunity for society to celebrate its true heroes, describing teachers as the champions of Nigeria’s transformation.
He said celebrating and rewarding excellence in the teaching profession was the government’s way of encouraging and attracting qualified persons to the sector.
He said, “We are aware that the personal experiences of teachers in the field are a journey filled with both challenges and rewards. The travail of educating young minds goes beyond the confines of the classroom. It is a continuous effort to inspire, motivate and guide students towards their full potential.”
However, teachers should note that their words resonate deeply with their students and pupils thereby reaffirming the importance of the educator’s role in nurturing creativity or cluelessness and curiosity or apathy.
The minister said there was a need for teachers in Nigeria to be appreciative of efforts by the Federal Government to reposition the teaching profession.
“The Presidents’ Teachers and Schools Excellence Award was integrated into the Annual World Teachers Day commemoration to reward excellence nationwide by appreciating school administrators, effective schools and teachers nationwide.
He said: “Teachers in Nigeria can now retire at either 65 years of age or 40 years of service whichever comes first and their salary has since been placed on the first line charge for timely payment.”
The minister also disclosed that students studying Education courses in the country’s public universities and colleges of education enjoy bursary awards while service teachers can access housing, insurance, special allowances, and the option of migrating to other countries especially the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and South Africa if endorsed by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).
Earlier, Minister of State for Education, Yusuf Sununu said the day is to celebrate all teachers for their immense contributions, recognize their invaluable innovations and reflect on the support they require to effectively deploy their talent and vocation in the provision of quality education.
He said accordingly, the 2023 theme aptly addresses the issues that currently mitigate the envisioned progress by all nations to provide quality Education.
“The implications of this theme were copiously explored during the symposium organized for education experts and the outcome will be integrated into policies, initiatives and strategic plans to move the sector forward,” he said.
Sununu said the awardees of the day were teachers any nation would aspire to have for the provision of quality education.
The awardees have gone above and beyond in their pursuit of educational excellence, embraced new teaching methodologies, nurtured talents, and made a lasting impact on their students and communities to emerge as winners and runner-ups.