Column Opinion

Nigeria Without Teachers…

By Prince Charles Dickson Ph.D

I know the biggest crime is just to throw up your hands and say “This has nothing to do with me, I just want to live as comfortably as I can.” ~ Ani DiFranco.

Dog wey wan lost no dey hear owner whistle

I want to end the year 2022 in this manner.

A #BIGTHANKYOU to Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Gordi Udeajah (Abia), Charles Ogugbuaja, (Owerri), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Obinna Nwaoku (Port Harcourt), Monday Osayande (Asaba), Ayodele Afolabi (Ado Ekiti), Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) and Adewale Momoh (Akure) all of Guardian and all media practitioners that put in the shift to tell stories that we don’t want to hear and yet we know. Writing under the caption As the year ends… Sad tales from states over unpaid salaries, arrears.

The highlight was—

• Imo teachers yet to be paid two and half years

• Delta teachers receive old salary

• In Rivers, teachers not promoted in seven years

• Ondo teachers drive Bolt, Uber to survive

• Ekiti owes four months

• Rufus Giwa Poly lecturers owed 11 months

I will pick the “koko” of the matter because as usual we will go ahead like nothing has been said or written.

In Abia State, hundreds of public school teachers have not received their salaries since October 2018. The Guardian gathered that teachers are now living in abject poverty, which, invariably, has affected their performances in class. Already, public secondary and primary schools have been closed down for months over the state government’s inability to pay teachers’ salaries.

According to sources, secondary school teachers are owed 14 months; state college of education (technical) 27 months and Abia State Polytechnic 30 months.

Others include, Abia State University seven months, primary school teachers seven months, state college of health sciences and management four months, pensions between 14 and 24 months, gratuities not paid for over 15 years and unpaid leave allowances from 2018 to 2020.

In Imo State, the same fate has befallen teachers. Since February 2020, they have not received their salaries. The governor, Hope Uzodimma, on assumption of office in January 2020, ordered suspension of teachers’ salaries.

In Enugu state, they declared an indefinite strike on July 27, this year, over inability of the state government to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage, primary school teachers in Enugu had always received their full salary.

Ekiti state teachers have expressed mixed reactions over backlogs of unpaid salaries and other allowances. The state university teachers described the situation as near hopeless, wondering when their nine months’ salary arrears would be paid, while accusing the government of paying lip service to education funding. Ondo can brag that they are owing ‘only’ two months.

Rivers, Anambra , Delta, Oyo were not owing, but had issues, from non-promotion of the teachers, to refusal to employ new teachers or over non-implementation of N30, 000 minimum wage to primary school teachers. In this list is Kogi state that pays a percentage salary, rather than full.

Now before we start blaming the government and all the hullabaloo, a cursory look into the International Labour Organisation’s Global Wage Report 2022–23 tracks the horrendous collapse of real wages for billions of people around the planet. The gaping distance between the incomes and wealth of 99% of the world’s population from the incomes and wealth of the billionaires and near-trillionaires who make up the richest 1% is appalling. In Nigeria, it is a case of priority and a deliberate act and art now mastered by politicians to leave the populace uneducated.

If you take a walk in any city on the planet, not just in the poorer nations, you will find larger and larger clusters of housing that are congested with destitution. They go by many names: angwa, tudun wada, ajegunle, nyayan, bastis, bidonville, daldongneh, favelas, gecekondu, kampung kumuh, slums, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Here, billions of people struggle to survive in conditions that are unnecessary in our age of massive social wealth and innovative technology. But the near-trillionaires seize this social wealth and prolong their half-century tax strike against governments, which paralyses public finances and enforces permanent austerity on the working class. In Nigeria, teachers bear the brunt, they suffer it like there is no tomorrow.

The constricting squeeze of austerity defines the world of the bastis and the favelas as people constantly struggle to overcome the obstinate realities of hunger and poverty, a near absence of drinking water and sewage systems, and a shameful lack of education and medical care. In these bidonvilles and slums, people are forced to create new forms of everyday survival and new forms of belief in a future for themselves on this planet. In Nigeria, the dog has simply refused to adhere to the call of her master.

In this context of immense poverty and social fragmentation, people turn to different kinds of popular religions for relief. There are practical reasons for this turn of events, of course, since churches, mosques, and temples provide food and education as well as places for community gatherings and activities for children. Where the state mostly appears in the form of the police, the urban poor prefer to take refuge in charity organisations that are often connected in some way or another to religious orders. But these institutions do not draw people in only with hot meals or evening songs; there is a spiritual allure that should not be minimised.

We are playing with fire and ask me where are we, as a nation educationally? I would tell you; we are at the point where kids write exams after staying at home after eight months watching premier league, Mexican soaps, and going to several MTN/GLO music gigs and making TikTok skits.

I weep for this nation because we cannot have a nation with a generation of young persons who lack qualitative education baptized in the waters of the 4E’s Enlightenment, Exposure, Experience and Emotional Intelligence. Beyond those well-prepared speeches at convocation grounds and occasions, the Nigerian School system is dead and most of us cannot see any reason this should be the portion of a nation that has and continues to produce a lot of first-class brains nationally and internationally.

Despite all the propaganda of free education by some states, the UBE thing has been all propaganda with most States Primary Education Board serving as a conduit pipe for educational donor agencies’ money to State CEOs.

Really where are the teachers that taught us schools in Nigeria, in the same Baptist Secondary School, Ansaru Deen, St. Gregory, Sardauna Memorial, Barewa College, the Unity schools and many such in which discipline, and morals. Today, teaching is part of a journey to something better (sic).

Now young graduates do all sorts of things to make a living when their paper qualification cannot fetch them the big break or the executive seat and all the years at the University or Polytechnic did not prepare them for the task ahead and the society itself is not ready for them.

In 2023, pupils will still receive classes under the trees, after Grammar school our young ones may only have the likes of Obasanjo to thank for how to write an open letter skill.

One morning it is six years mandatory primary education by noon it is nine years by night who knows. One state is returning schools, another is taking it back, the policy makers do not even have faith in the system they claim to be reforming.

I have said as a nation, we have the wherewithal to make education from primary to tertiary free, let ability be the determinant. The way we are treating our educational system, I dare say that when the consequences spill, may it not be like the gun, it does not know who carries it, the dog is running, to where and who it will bite, only time will tell.

Contact the writer: pcdbooks@gmail.com

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