By Jet Stanley-Madu
The Proprietress, CEDEC International Group of Schools Olodi-Apapa, Unachukwu Ijeoma (PhD) spoke extensively on the derivable benefits in paying teachers well. “It is a well motivating factor”, she insists, asserting that poor remuneration contributes to high teacher turnover.
“Of course, we don’t need to over-flog the issue. The benefits are enormous. Like we all know, we have a lot of issues in schools – teachers moving from one school to another; that is one of the reasons they move about. Everybody wants to thrive on a green pasture. But, when the pasture is dry, the animals walk away –look for another field.
“We’re all on the field. There must be motivation. And the main motivation employees look for now is adequate remuneration. In as much as the recession is overwhelming all of us, school owners have to try as much as possible to go an extra mile to make sure teachers are properly remunerated. Not just properly but as at when due.
“That is very, very important because these are employees. They have their own plans, and they have their own budgets too. They have their own challenges. And they need to meet up with these needs. In as much as everybody wants to make their ends to meet, teachers have their own ends too and are striving to make sure they meet.”
Effects of poor remuneration for teachers
Paying the teachers poorly invariably adversely impacts both school and students, she said. “Fact is, every teacher has his or her own style of managing the students. So, when you come with your style this term, the children will try to adjust to it. And just when they’re trying to adjust and re-adjust, you see the teacher leave. Then, the proprietor brings another teacher; the students begin to adjust and re-adjust. By the time you know it, the session has gone. And the children would be found wanting in various areas.”
To buttress her points on the tremendous gains inherent in paying teachers handsomely, she gave instances of how her institution has gained tremendously in satisfying her teachers, both in terms of good salary and other incentives.
“We are 21 years old. I bet you, a lot of our teachers are still here,” she enthused. “These are people, pioneer teachers who started with us and we don’t joke with them. We have a programme which we call long service award. Here, if you clock 20, we give you that award. If you clock five, you have the first award. Ten, another award, 15 another one, 20 another. We celebrated our 21 years of existence, and all those staff that started with us and are still here were celebrated.
“Beside remuneration, other motivations also drive staff generally, particularly, teachers to put in their best in all they do. For instance, celebrating them with awards. Everybody wants to thrive where there is joy, where there is peace, as much as there are challenges. And as much as possible, we try to reduce their challenges to the barest minimum. And we keep on encouraging them because they’re putting in their lives to make sure the system grows. And so, they need to be paid back”.
Criteria for adequate remuneration of teachers
Since private school operators do not adopt the public sector salary scale, Unachukwu gave an insight on the criteria she uses to remunerate her teachers, which most private schools should take cognizance of. “One, we look at your qualification,” she said. “We also look at your years of experience, very, very important. These are the key things we look at. Then, when it comes to promotion and raise, we also look at performance because some go out of their way to outshine others, to make sure they handle the children properly, to satisfy the parents. And so, when parents show us sign that we’re satisfying them, and we see it in the child, there’s a raise for you. And everybody itches to get to that level.”
She insists that motivating teachers should not begin and end with good remuneration. She holds that other incentives should be included in the effort to get the best out of teachers and even all other staff who work to grow a school.
“If you don’t train them don’t blame them,” she said. “I encourage and equip my teachers to work better. One of the things that encourage them is, the school is a training school. I train and also encourage them. Let owners of schools make the place conducive for teachers to work so that they (school owners) can benefit from whatever comes. As a trainer with a PhD from the University of Ibadan, I am particular about training them. And this has been helping.”
She chipped in some words of advice on how private school owners and operators can stem the tide of teachers’ exodus. She recognizes the fact that a private school outfit is also a business enterprise. “It is pertinent that both parties – employer and employee, realize that it is a business. So, we come together, reason and work together, and whatever comes out, we share.”