Unpaid salaries hurting teachers’ morale

In many states across the country, public school teachers looked their best during the commemoration of the World Teachers’ Day last Thursday.

Wearing colourful uniform attires, they were found in public parks, squares and stadiums, under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), honouring the profession that earns them their daily bread.

However, salary arrears dampened the celebration in some states where the government owes salaries. Even states where salaries are regular, many teachers still expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of money they are paid and working conditions.

Many of the teachers in primary and secondary schools lamented that despite being noble and significant, the government did not accord teaching the necessary recognition compared to other professions.

Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Ogun, Ekiti, Abia, Oyo, Ondo, and Nasarawa states are among the 17 owing salaries (full or partial).

Others include: Taraba, Niger, Delta, Osun, Adamawa and Bayelsa.

A primary school teacher at Oba-Ile in Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State, Mrs. Olubunmi Ajayi, said teachers impacting knowledge to their pupils on empty stomachs was uncalled for.

She noted that there was no encouragement to enable them push forward and give their best.

“We are ready to raise the standard of education if the government provides an enabling academic environment with adequate instructional materials.”

In Kaduna State, though Governor Nasir el-Rufai claimed that his administration allocated 35 per cent of its budget to the education sector, teachers are not happy.

Commissioner of Education Prof Andrew Jonathan Nok said the government had built and renovated public schools and equipped them, while the teachers mourned the non-payment of salary arrears and leave bonuses – displaying their displeasure with black hand bands they wore to the teachers’ day event.

NUT Chairman Audu Amba said the profession faced a series of problems, including non-payment of accumulated salary arrears ranging from one to 11 months in the various Local Government Education Authorities (LGEAs).

“There is delay in the payment of LGEA teachers’ salary for up to two weeks after their colleagues in the state have been paid.  Another factor standing as a stumbling block to attaining freedom in teaching and teacher empowerment is the issue of outstanding payment of balance of leave grant for 2015, and non-payment of that of 2016.

“And for 2017, teachers don’t even know their fate on that. Mention must be made that, 10 per cent of teachers’ salary is deducted monthly and paid to them as their leave grant at the end of the year, so it’s a right and not a privilege,” Amba said.

Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State gifted three teachers new cars to mark the event. However, even though many were happy for the recipients, the salary arrears of five to eight months dampened their joy.

A primary school teacher, Mrs. Beatrice Oluwole, said the payment of salary backlog would have appealed more than the cars a few teachers got.

She said poor working conditions had killed her interest in the job, adding that she would have quit teaching if she had the opportunity to do so.

She said: “I won’t deceive you my brother, my productivity has declined because we are working almost on an empty stomach because the government owes us eight months’ salaries.

“Apart from hunger, some of us have health challenges.  With no money to care for ourselves, how can we give our best under these circumstances?

“Rather than wait for Teachers’ Day to present cars and some cash to a select few, the government should look for ways to pay our salaries and provide other incentives that will encourage us to work harder.  The issue of non-payment of salary is affecting our productivity and motivation.”

In Ogun State, Babatunde Folarin, who has spent 23 years teaching Geography and Biology in a public school, said he was not happy with the profession any more.

The former Chairman, Ogun State Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), said: “Teachers’ productivity varies from one end to the other in Nigeria. Some schools have not what it takes to do anything productive, while in some schools the infrastructure are there.

“In Nigeria generally, teaching is in a sorry state. As far as I am concerned, I am not happy with teaching now. There are too many rotten areas in this sector.”

Malam Abubakar Liman, who has spent years teaching in Sokoto, said many teachers loved their jobs but the continued underdevelopment of the education sector made them unhappy practising their profession.

He said: “It is unfortunate and frustrating that from the university to the primary school level, the Nigerian educational sector has been relegated to the background with teacher quality being one of the most affected.

“Many Nigerian teachers love their jobs but are not happy with it. This can be largely attributed to the virtual absence of good salary, remuneration for achievements, basic equipment and facilities for teachers as well as training and re-training.

Others include government employment of low quality and unqualified teachers which adds more burden to the qualified ones; political involvement in the sector with many key positions in the ministries and even in schools now politicised to the extent that individual party membership serves as a key determinant of his/her position in a ministry or school.”

Even though Cross River State does not owe salaries, some teachers say their take-home pay was barely enough to survive.

Mrs. Theresa Odey, a secondary school teacher in Calabar, said teachers should be rewarded here on earth like practitioners of other professions.

She said: “They keep saying our reward is in heaven, but we would also like to enjoy here on earth before going to heaven. At least, we in Cross River State are regularly paid, even though the money is nothing to write home about. I cannot imagine what teachers who are being owed are facing. The bottomline of what I am saying is that teachers need better renumeration. The pay should be such that people should aspire to be teachers just as people aspire to be doctors or engineers. This is the noblest profession in the world yet it is treated with so much contempt by those who should know better.”

A primary school teacher in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State, Mr. David Abang (not real name), said the poor pay affected his productivity.

“Honestly, I don’t believe my students get the best from me. Sometimes I honestly do not even have money to pay transport to school. Our pay is too poor compared to the job we do. The government is not even paying attention to teachers, who have the very grave responsibility of shaping the minds of the future. It is very sad and dangerous for the well-being of this country. Where I teach so many of the teachers are not even qualified. Most people only come in because they see it as a source of income and not as a vocation or calling. For most, at least the pittance that comes in is better than nothing, and so, the education of the child is not so important to them. The dignity of the profession should be restored, by getting only qualified teachers who have passion and further motivating them with good pay,” he said.

However, despite the poor or in some cases no salaries, some teachers said their satisfaction was intrinsic.

Philip Ajisola, a secondary school teacher in Ekiti State, believes he is a teacher by calling and delivers regardless.

“Teaching is a profession I chose by myself because I really love the job of moulding the future generation and I am putting in my very best despite being owed salaries.

“The non-payment of salaries has not affected my productivity because I see the students I am teaching as my children, and if my productivity drops, it will affect them. I love this job and I don’t want them to suffer for the offence they never committed,” he said.

For Paul Okoh, a primary school with Ben Nursery and Primary School, Makurdi, seeing his former pupils recognise him on the streets makes him happy.

‘’This acknowledgement from my pupils alone has brought joy and happiness to me even though the problem of non-payment of teachers for a year is pending in Benue State,” said Okoh.

Mrs. Theresa Odey , a secondary school teacher in Calabar said her conscience makes her productive.

“I would say I am productive enough because I am guided by a conscience, because if it is going by the reward we get for our jobs, our students would get nothing,” she said.

The NUT President, Comrade Michael Alogba-Olukoya, said despite the poor treatment of teachers, they were still doing their jobs because of the intrinsic reward that came from nurturing lives.

“We feel highly elated, happy because moulding people’s lives, to us, is a thing of joy. So the career fulfilment is there and we are happy with what we are doing. Any teacher must first of all have what we call passion, career love in order to deliver very well in the classroom. All of us feel happy and fulfilled in choosing that career. Even though people are not treating us well, it does not in any way mean that we should allow this to be seen in our psychic.”

(The Nation)

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