Geoffrey Anyanwu (Enugu), Olanrewaju Lawal (Birnin Kebbi), Rose Ejembi (Makurdi), Layi Olanrewaju (Ilorin), Paul Osuyi (Asaba), Gyang Bere (Jos), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo)
On National Teachers’ Day, October 5, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari surprised everyone together with the men and women, who have been performing the important responsibility of moulding others, thereby enhancing the intellectual and material development of the nation. Indeed, for a long time, teachers in the primary schools have been forgotten with many believing that their reward is in heaven.
But the president during the teachers day celebration rolled up his sleeves, and quietly released a bombshell, by announcing that the Federal Government had created a special salary structure for primary school teachers as well as making other concessions.
Most of the promises made by the Federal Government were part of the demands presented by the President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Nasir Mohammad Idris, who had listed six priority areas.
Some of them include an upward review of the retirement age of teachers and education officers; establishment of a Teachers’ Salary Structure (TSS), the establishment of the National Secondary Education Commission for proper coordination and effective management of secondary education in the country; implementation of a new minimum wage for all teachers, including primary and secondary school teachers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); and approval and implementation of the 27.5 per cent professional allowance for teachers of Federal Government Colleges.
Across the country, elated teachers like Malam Sofiu Ibrahim, a school teacher in Ilorin East Local Government of Kwara, described the gesture by President Buhari in this way: “It is a welcome development. This is what we have been expecting years ago. We are among the poorest set of classes in Nigeria. My major problem now is the implementation of the increment.”
In this report, Sunday Sun takes a panoramic view or reactions from a cross section of states:
In Enugu State, before President Buhari announced the new salary structure for primary school teachers, there was an outstanding issue of non-payment of the new minimum wage to primary school teachers. Expectedly, the existing situation killed the joy which the announcement of the new salary scale would have brought to the teachers in the state.
While most of the civil servants in the state, including secondary school teachers, have enjoyed the approved new minimum wage since February, the primary school teachers are still being tossed up and down.
Some of the primary school teachers told Sunday Sun that they were not excited about the pronouncement as they were yet to receive the minimum wage approved by the government for public sector workers. So, in the meantime, they want the government to first settle the minimum wage issue, to be able to tackle the new development.
Commenting on the issue of the new salary structure, Chairman, Association of Primary School Head Teachers, Enugu North, Dr. C. Ogbu, said that she heard from other people that some governors said, “they cannot pay primary school teachers the new salary scale that was announced by the president on Teachers Day.
“We have the outstanding issue of not being paid the minimum wage in Enugu. As primary school teachers, we feel very bad about this, we are being marginalized and I don’t know why. The treatment they are giving to us is not fair, remember all of us went to the same school, we are going to the same market, we even have higher qualifications than those of them in secondary schools, why are they marginalizing us, why are they treating us as if we didn’t go to the school where others went or as if we have our own market, I don’t understand what is going on. The simple truth is that they have not started paying us the minimum wage others are receiving not to talk of the new salary scale, we are not talking of that yet.”
Another teacher who pleaded anonymity said: “My brother if there is anything you people can do to help us, please do at least for Christ sake. We even planned to go on strike, but they stopped us from going on strike, by doing what they are doing now. They told our leaders to submit old gross and new gross, meaning the old payment they are giving us and the new one so that they will now know the difference between what we were being paid and what they should start paying us. They have done that, we have submitted them, everything. The leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers in the state has met with the representatives of the government and they requested that they should be given some time. That is the situation now. For the new salary structure we are just hearing it and hope it will come to fruition.”
A major concern for the teachers is the thorny issues of who should be responsible for paying primary school teachers. A female primary school teacher who wished not to be identified, told Sunday Sun: “We find ourselves being tossed about; when you go to the local government they say it is the state government that is responsible and you go to the state government they refer you back to local government. It is indeed frustrating here. You are talking of new salary scale for us when we have not received the new minimum wage almost a year after. We will appreciate it if all of them come now. I thank the president for recognizing primary school teachers.”
One of the local government chairmen who managed to take his call said that he had not received a memo on the said new salary structure for primary school teachers, hence could not discuss it.
Attempts to get the state’s Commissioner for Education to comment on the issue did not yield fruit as he neither picked his call nor replied text messages sent to him.
Payment of the new salary structure announced by President Buhari is yet to take off in Kebbi State. Cross section of primary school teachers and their leaders who spoke with Sunday Sun explained that they are still receiving old salary.
The Kebbi State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Halidu Umar Alhassan, told Sunday Sun: “In Kebbi State, primary school teachers are still receiving old salary. On the issues of whether the local governments are ready to pay or not, the fact is that the directive on the implementation has come from the governor. We will meet with the governor on this matter next week. For now, we cannot say more about it until after our meeting. The outcome of the meeting will decide our next action.
“This package by Federal Government is long overdue. It is almost 20 years that we have been agitating that the salary scale for teachers should be adjusted. It is when the teacher’s salary is adjusted that we can enjoy good education in this country. Nigeria is the only country paying teachers the least salary. But with this development, qualified teachers will come out en masse to join the teaching profession and education sector will receive a boost with quality professional teachers. We thank the president for this salary scale, but the only problem we are having is with the state and local governments.”
Equally happy with the decision of President Buhari regarding the remuneration of primary school teachers, the National President of NUT, Dr Nasir Idris, who interacted with journalists in Birnin Kebbi commended President Buhari for the extension of service years of teachers and adjustment of their salary.
He said: “The extension of teachers’ service years has been long overdue. We have been on it for a long time. No government has done this for us, but when we met President Muhammadu Buhari, he listened to us and approved it. And on the salary structure, when you look at our schools, some of the classrooms have no teachers. Now that the president has decided to do this, there are many people who will want to become teachers now. I want to implore all students who are reading education to continue and be ready to join as professional teachers.”
Mary Agishi, a teacher with LGEA Central Primary school Gboko under State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) is currently on Grade level 7, Step 11. Agishi’s current position is not where she ought to be given that she has not been placed in her proper place being a university degree holder. She is still hopeful that she would eventually get proper placement before long. Her reason for such hope is that she has received an advancement letter from the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board, which in 2013 granted approval for her to be placed on the salary scale commensurate with her qualification.
Commenting on her situation, Agishi, who is quite pleased, impressed and grateful to President Buhari for the pronouncement of the new salary structure and the extension of the teachers’ length of service, said: “If placed properly, I should be on Grade Level 10 by now.”
However, Agishi, like her counterparts in other parts of the country, is not sure that the state government will be willing to pay the new salary right now because those who were even before her have not been paid.
“From what I heard, most of the governors are against the new salary structure. So, I’m not sure it will be implemented here for now. I’m, however, looking forward to the increment soon and I’m praying the governors agrees to implement it soon,” Agishi, who had joined the teaching service with the National Certificate of Education (NCE) qualification in 2008 and currently earns N49,000 per month, said.
Also speaking, Supervisory Councillor on Education for Ado Local Government Area of Benue State, Hon. Attah Ede, said: “We received the news as a good one because it has been the desire of our government to make primary schools viable and attractive to people.”
Ede added that the new development would further encourage and motivate primary school teachers to put in their best in terms of rendering qualitative teaching and learning.
“Recall that the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, had placed primary education on first line charge which is evident in the massive renovation and furnishing of primary schools across the 23 local government areas of the state in addition to the regular payments of primary schools teachers.
“Ado local government council would liaise with relevant stakeholders and appropriate authorities to ensure that the teachers begin to enjoy the new salary scheme as soon as possible,” Ede said.
In Kwara State, there is mixed feeling among primary school teachers as the state government has not made any statement concerning the new salary structure for the teachers.
While some are elated, the majority are sceptical because the state and particularly local governments might not be able to pay given that minimum wage previously approved is yet to be paid to all categories of workers in the state.
However, some retired and serving teachers have called for “cautious optimism” until the governments at the federal and state levels fully implement the mouth-watering package.
“Teachers must pray harder for the promises to be implemented because some of us dedicated the whole of our productive life to teaching and ended up with nothing despite unending promises especially during occasions like this,” Malam Musa Abubakar, a retired teacher in Kwara, said.
A secondary school teacher in Oro Irepodun Local Government of the state, Victor Adeshina, said: “My worry is how they (the government) will get the money to pay. Look at it this way: university teachers have been on strike for a very long time and non-academic staff recently threatened to join them. Up till this time, many states are finding it difficult to pay the N30,000 minimum wage and, therefore, I don’t know how our own will work out.”
Mohammed Yusuf, a primary school teacher in Ilorin South Local Government, expressed this view too: “I don’t think the salary scale approved by President Buhari will have any impact on teachers working under state government like myself. This is because we are employed as teachers by the state government, but it is the local governments that pay our salary and they don’t have money,”
Although teachers in Delta State are still basking in the joy that greeted the announcement of a new salary structure, implementation of the new improved scale seems to be a major obstacle. Already, some officials who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity said that the state government was never consulted before the Federal Government took the decision. “The state government, for instance, augments the monthly allocation of councils to enable them pay salaries particularly of primary school teachers.”
Commenting on the new salary structure, the state Chairman, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and Chairman of Isoko South Local Government Area, Itiako Ikpokpo, fumed: “First of all, the president has no authority to increase the salary of those he is not responsible for. It is only teachers in the unity schools that the Federal Government pays their salaries. But teachers in the unity schools are quite insignificant. Majority of the teachers are under the purview of the state and local government councils.
“For me, this policy does not make sense; you must make policies that make sense. The Federal Government should have consulted the states and local governments before taking such decisions.
“At the moment, we are unable to implement the new minimum wage and you are increasing teachers’ salary under special structure.”
Also, the state Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, disclosed that the matter was being discussed at the level of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum: “The governors are discussing it. We do agree that teachers deserve a better pay, but it was wrong for the Federal Government to go ahead and increase the salaries of workers which they don’t pay. Majority of the teachers are the responsibility of the states and local government. At the moment, most local governments are unable to meet the salary obligation to the teachers.”
Primary school teachers in Plateau State are anxiously awaiting the implementation of the new salary scale. However, there is still some concerns given that teachers have not started receiving the minimum wage previously approved for public sector workers. It is also noteworthy that many teachers have worked for many years without getting any increment. One such teacher is Deborah Ezekiel, who has been working for 15 years, but has not received any increment in salary. She is earnestly praying for significant increase in her salary and for full implementation of the new salary scale.
“I am not certain about how much will be the increment in my salary, but I am sure if the new special salary scale for teachers is implemented, I will get something better to take care of my family,” Ezekiel said.
Another teacher, Manji Dauda, said that they would begin to reap their reward here on earth before getting to heaven, if the new salary structure is implemented.
The ALGON Chairman of Plateau State, Hon. Ezekiel Vulgap said that the local government chairmen in the state are working towards addressing the issues of the new salary scale for teachers in the state, adding that providing conducive working environment and remuneration for teachers in the state would be given topmost priority.
“I am addressing teachers and other workers in the state and my local government area in Mikang. My colleagues in other local governments are also doing the same thing. Our desire is to make life conformable for workers in the state particularly teachers who are training our children to be worthy leaders tomorrow.”
Feelers from Abia State indicate that teachers in the state are sceptical about the new salary structure owing to their unpalatable experience in receiving salary based on the existing structure. Some of the teachers who requested not to be named in this report expressed hope of not getting enhanced pay under the new salary structure.
The female teacher, in explaining the reason for the scepticism expressed by teachers said: “For some time now, payment of our salaries has not been regular and if that is the case with the present salary structure, what will then happen if the new one comes into effect.”
Mary, a primary school teacher, doubted if local governments would be able to pay the new salaries under the new structure, given that they are owing a backlog of salaries under the present structure.
“Let’s tell ourselves the truth, with the old salary structure, we are owed months of salary arrears, who knows what will happen if the local governments are told to implement the president’s directive?” she asked rhetorically.
Efforts made for the state Commissioner for Education, Kanelechi Nwangwa, to speak on Abia state’s readiness to implement the new salary structure for teachers was unsuccessful as he did not pick his calls or respond to text messages sent to him.
However, a senior official of the state government who asked not be identified said that the government was yet to decide on the implementation of the teachers new pay package.
“We don’t have the details of the president’s pronouncement; until we get that and government meets, there may be little or nothing we could do about that.”
Like some other states, the Taraba State government is yet to receive any communication from the Federal Government in respect of the new salary structure for primary school teachers.
The state Commissioner for Education, Yohannas Jigem, told Sunday Sun that the state only read about the new salary structure on the newspapers. He said that the state would welcome the new salary structure if the Federal Government would also make commensurate increment in the allocation to the state to accommodate the extra cost.
His words: “As we speak, we are yet to receive any communication from the Federal Ministry of Education about a new salary structure for teachers, so I cannot say much about it. What I will tell you is that if the Federal Government is reviewing the salaries of teachers, they should as well make an upward review in the funds allocated to the states to enable the government factor in the extra cost.”
Also speaking, the state Chairman of ALGON and Chairman of Ibi Local Government Areas, Mr Bala Bako, said that the local government areas currently lack the capacity to pay any increment in the salaries of the staff, except if there is also an upward review in the allocation to the local governments to enable them foot the bill.
Bako said that he was yet to also receive any official communication about the new salary structure. He said that the Federal Government should show its seriousness by first making adequate provisions for the local government areas to be able to take care of the bills.
One of the teachers who spoke to Sunday Sun said that the review would be a major boost to their morale if implemented.
“You are aware that we have not even started receiving the present minimum wage. Our salary is currently nothing to write home about. That is why you see that most teachers now pay more attention to their personal businesses than the work. We are hoping that the announcement by the president would materialise and we would have a breath of fresh air,” he said.