While reading the new letter to Members on the floor of the Senate, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan explained that the harmonized retirement age for teachers in Nigeria Bill 2021 seeks to increase the retirement age for teachers from 60 to 65 years, and also increase the possible years of service from 35 to 40 years.
In the intervening time, the development has received torrent of commendation and glowing tributes. The reason for this form of reaction is not farfetched.
First, education typifies the bedrock of development of any nation. ‘With sound educational institutions, a country is as good as made -as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects’. In the same line of argument, development experts are in agreement that teachers play a strategic role in nation building and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education. Second and very key is that governments and parents across the world appear to have come to term that as soon as their children step into the school, ‘the single most important factor in determining their achievement is not the colour of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have. It’s who their teacher is. It’s the person who will brave some of the most difficult schools, the most challenging children, and accept the most meager compensation simply to give someone else the chance to succeed’.
Again, pondering over these decision by the Federal Government, it is obvious that there exist, to some extent, this time around peripheral reasons to applaud the latest step particularly as teachers have provided often, great leadership and innovation ensuring that no learner is left behind, working individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue. But an objective analysis of the policy direction reveals that it is laced with limited options.
Let’s go into analysis of this claim.
Even President Muhammadu Buhari during the celebration of the world teacher’s day 2020 was not only in agreement with but emphatic that only great teachers can produce excellent people and students that will make the future of our country great. A positive or negative influence of a teacher on any child will have an effect on that child. Going by the above agreement, this piece holds the opinion that as a nation, if we are desirous of helping our teachers in ways that will help our children as well as build the nation; the first step to take is payment of discipline attention to the nation education policies and teachers training and retraining processes.
At this point, we must not also fail to remember that the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers recognizes this fact. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.
Aside the fact that the sector has in the past witnessed series of similar promises from previous administrations, many believe that solution to education sector in Nigeria cannot be found in ‘bogus promises’ such as increasing teachers’ retirement age, rather, it’s about the government going back to the drawing board to bring back teachers’ training colleges. “It has become imperative for governments to address/rework education policy in Nigeria.
Education sector in Nigeria and teachers on the other hands have suffered sets of challenges which include but not limited to; payment of lip service to, and in some cases, total abandonment of the National Policy on Education by successive governments through perennial underfunding of the sector. And in more damaging cases, the money government voted for running the schools does not get to the schools and the little that gets there is normally wasted by those whose responsibility it is to manage the schools.