Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The event took place a few weeks ago, but the ripples have remained on the lips of many Nigerians.
On the occasion of the 2020 World Teachers’ Day, the Federal Government brought smiles to the faces of teachers across the country. The theme of the event was ‘Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.’
The programme featured a pre-event press conference addressed by Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, in Abuja, a symposium and an elaborate event at Eagle Square, Abuja, where outstanding teachers were rewarded.
There were various categories of awards for teachers from the Federal Government and corporate bodies, including President’s Teachers’ and Schools’ Excellence Awards.
The President’s award was initiated to appreciate teachers with outstanding records of diligence, commitment and dedication to the teaching profession, as well as schools and administrators that have done extremely well in education service delivery.
There were presidential recognition certificates, new cars, school bus, refrigerators, generators, laptops, desktop computers, and several other teaching and learning items.
At the event, Asubiojo Henry Olaoluwa, a teacher from Amoye Grammar School, Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State, was crowned the best public secondary school teacher in Nigeria.
Aliyu Alhasan from IPDI, Minna, Niger State, and Akpan Eno, from St. Joseph CRS School, Iboko Offot, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, emerged first and second runners-up, respectively. Istifanus Caroline, a teacher from ECWA L. Crawford, Kaltungo, Gombe State, emerged the best private junior school teacher.
Oriwu Senior Model College, Ikorodu, Lagos, emerged the best public senior secondary school. Government Model Secondary School, Pankshin, Plateau State, emerged best public junior secondary school.
Grundtvig International Secondary School, Anambra State, was the best private secondary school, while Intercontinental School, Kano, emerged best private junior secondary school.
Mgbojuri Jephter Omoshi from Igbokoda Grammar School in Ondo State emerged best public school administrator, while Ebue Jecinta Chioma, from Urban Girls Secondary School, Enugu, emerged best public junior school administrator.
Asubiojo Henry Olaoluwa and Caroline Istifanus were rewarded with brand new Hyundai cars, while Oriwu Senior Model College was rewarded with a brand new school bus.
Desktop and laptop computers, refrigerators, plaques as well as teaching and learning materials were presented to different schools and individual teachers that have obviously distinguished themselves in the teaching profession in last 12 months.
There was loud ovation, cheers and jubilation when the top prize winner, Asubiojo Henry Olaoluwa, was invited to the podium to collect the key to the Hyundai car. His family and friends, as well as colleagues from his school and the state, joined in the celebration.
President Buhari, in his speech, announced the approval of a new special salary scale for teachers in basic and secondary schools, including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.
He also approved special pension scheme that would enable the teaching profession retain its experienced talents, and also extend teachers’ retirement age to 65 years and teaching service years to 40.
The President ordered the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and colleges of education with an assurance of automatic employment upon graduation. He also directed the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to make financial provisions for teaching practice in universities and colleges of education.
Buhari, who spoke through the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu at the event, said the special packages was to attract and retain the best brains into the teaching profession and also encourage best graduates to take up careers in the teaching profession.
He announced that payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students as well as granting them automatic employment after graduation is now a government policy.
The President also announced the approval of the building of low-cost housing projects for teachers in rural areas, as well as expansion of annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Excellence Award to cover more categories. He directed that outstanding winners of the teachers awards should be considered for National Awards and National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM).
He said: “I have also ordered that there should be free tuition and automatic admission for biological children of teachers in their respective schools to encourage and retain them in the system.
“I have directed the Minister of Education to ensure accelerated implementation of these policies and measures in collaboration with states and local governments, Office of Head of Service of the Federation, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, and other relevant agencies.”
While congratulating the winners, he noted that they were neither chosen on recommendations from political godfathers nor on favoritism, but on empirical and verifiable evidence of dedication, diligence and commitment to duty, resulting in outstanding performance.
President, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr. Nasir Idris,thanked the President for the packages and presentations. He assured that more contributions would come from the teachers as regards the development of Nigeria.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented at the event, recalled the role teachers played in the lives of individuals, community and nation.
He encouraged other teachers to rededicate themselves to duty so they could also be recognized someday.
Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, in his remarks, decried the increasing drop in respect and recognition for teachers in the society like it was in the 1960s and 1970s.
“But today, the society, sadly, have tilted towards temporary appearances that negate the standard of teachers as role models. We think this should stop forthwith. Teachers deserve recognition and respect, but the first step is to have qualified teachers in practice,” he said.
He harped on the need for more teachers in schools, the minister commended the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), National Universities Commission (NUC), TETFund and other bodies for their distinctive efforts that have resulted in upgrade of unqualified and under-qualified teachers.