Tangerines for teachers

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

To teach is to triumph – literally, over the stygian darkness of ignorance and everything it overwhelmingly represents. Teachers, more than any other group, know this. They know just how valuable one of the world`s oldest professions that succeeds in renewing itself every day is.

A dying teacher once instructed his family thus: “There are fifteen students in my class. I want them by my graveside when I am to be buried so I can leave them with one last lesson on how the grave expertly hides the ignorance of death.”

In Nigeria, teaching does not only hide ignorance; it immobilizes it and renders it toothless. By its unmatched ability to train the mind especially by imparting formal education in formal environments, teaching forces ignorance to recede, thereby thwarting its scheme to keep the mind mired in ignorance.

But teaching as treasured and as treasurable as it is does not just happen. It relies heavily on the agency of teachers. Many of those who teach have attested to the fact that few feelings can match the quiet exhilaration that comes with seeing the darkness of ignorance recede, never to return. Many teachers have testified that seeing the mind trained by the tools that teaching brings, especially in children, is to witness a miracle in many ways.

Yet, in Nigeria, teachers are given tough rows to hoe. “Your reward is in heaven,” cry many of those who do not want to give teachers their dues. Thus, the ponderous procession of neglect continues.

Teachers in Nigeria are poorly remunerated. Their welfare usually suffers servitude to the whims of the authorities, and it is not uncommon to see teachers go on strike for prolonged periods, in protest against absolutely shocking conditions of work.

Some states in Nigeria have been known to owe teachers for months when the mismanagement of public resources begins to take its toll. For those who teach in private schools, their nightmare is always complete when their welfare is left entirely at the whims and caprices of shylock school proprietors.

A woman was always leaving her baby with her baby sitter. While she always left enough food for the baby, she always left her baby sitter with so little to eat. One day, the baby sitter got so hungry and so angry that she ate the baby.

That is what happens when the futility of folly causes the complete neglect of a crucial link in any system. Yet, in Nigeria, that is what is happening. The Giant of Africa wants to boast children that are well taught and well formed, yet it is not prepared to do much to improve the lot of its teachers who must play critical roles in the process.

With the demagogues of terrorism lurking in every corner and seeking young impressionable minds to conscript, convert, indoctrinate and devour, it is teachers that stand as sentinels. Without them, the walls will crumble. It is why they must be well equipped.

The recent signing into law of the Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Act,2022 by the administration of Mr. Muhammadu Buhari must be considered remarkable.

The Act which jerks up the retirement age for teachers in Nigeria to 65 years of age or 40 years of pensionable service whichever is earlier, from the previous provisions of 60 years of age or 35 years of pensionable service is surely a boost for the morale of teachers who mostly labour in vain in Nigeria.

Although implementation has proved a difficult challenge, it was also in a bid to boost the morale of teachers that the Federal Government announced in 2021 that teachers would enjoy a new and improved salary structure in the country to go with other incentives such as allowances, housing and training in 2022.

The Federal Government in its bid to improve the welfare of teachers is obviously driven by the fact that teachers are a crucial link in education – perhaps the most crucial link. Without them, the whole chain of education will come jarringly loose.

With terrorists besieging many parts of Nigeria and cutting off the education of children, who better to serve as the bastions of education than teachers? And who better to motivate them than a government which is doing right by teachers.

 

 

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

 

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