By Felix Khanoba
The Federal Government took many by surprise last week Monday when it announced an appealing welfare package for teachers in the country, during this year’s World Teachers’ Day (WTD) celebration in Abuja.
The move, which has elicited commendations from several quarters, would however, see a large chunk of teachers missing out on the incentives as the Federal Government can only boast of 104 Federal Government Colleges (Unity Schools), while teachers in other schools are employed either by state governments or private individuals.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who rolled out the incentives to the admiration of thousands of teachers drawn from all parts of the country, said the decision would position the country on the path of industrialization where the educational system will produce the needed skills and manpower.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who represented the President at the event listed the new welfare package to include scholarships for teachers’ children, housing and car loans, special salary scale, among others.
He said: “In order to attract the best brains into the teaching profession, the policy of encouraging the best graduates to take up careers in teaching is hereby restored;
“The reintroduction of bursary awards to education students in Universities and Colleges of Education with the assurance of automatic employment upon graduation.
“The payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students as well as granting them automatic employment after graduation is now a Government policy.
“The Tertiary Education Fund (TEFund) will now fund teaching practice in Universities and Colleges of Education;
“Enhanced entry point for teachers in the Civil Service by restricting entry into the teaching profession to highly gifted, academically outstanding students/scholars with the right attitudinal and emotional disposition;
“Special Salary Scale for Teachers in Basic and Secondary Schools, including provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.
“Special Teacher Pension Scheme to enable the Teaching Profession retain its experienced talents as well as to extend teachers’ retirement age to 65 years and teaching service years to 40.
“Create a Career Path Policy for Teaching Profession in Nigeria and Teachers Conversion Programme and ICT Training to mitigate the current dearth of qualified teachers in the school system.”
The President also said he has approved other incentives to motivate and restore the lost glory of teachers in Nigeria.
He listed such incentives to include: “Building low-cost housing for teachers in rural areas.
“Sponsorship to at least one refresher training per annum to benchmark best practices for improved teaching and learning.
“Expansion of the annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards to cover more categories and for the outstanding winners to be considered for National Awards and National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Awards.
“Prompt payment of salaries and other entitlements including consideration for first line charge in annual budgets.
“Timely promotion of teachers to eliminate stagnation of teachers; provision of loan facilities, e.g. for agriculture, housing, cars, motorcycle, etc., to support teachers earnings; and free tuition and automatic admission for biological children of teachers in their respective schools to encourage and retain them in the system.”
While the President has directed the education minister to ensure an accelerated implementation of these policies and measures in collaboration with states/local governments, among others, only time will tell if these lofty promises would transform into reality.