Excited giggles from three little kids in the bus on my way to my place of service yesterday morning was all I needed to be reminded that the Teachers strike was still on. The kids who were not in Uniform and obviously not heading to school as I was soon to confirm from their mother’s explanation to the lady sitting next to her on the bus, were being taken by their helpless mother along to work due to the strike. The kids perhaps in realization of the fact that they were at a wrong place at that particular time chose to remind themselves of where they ought to be with renditions of various nursery rhymes to the delight of both them selves and indeed all the passengers that cared to eavesdrop.
I wasn’t just eavesdropping, I was hurting seriously. The strike was now entering its third week. Two whole weeks of no academic activity in the nation’s primary and secondary schools has passed and no body seems to be beating an eye lid. If this bothers the Government at all, they are simply not showing as they have maintained rather with impunity that they cannot meet the teachers’ demands for pay rise.
Now, People not conversant with the plight of teachers in this country might be giving to seeing the teachers as purely greedy and insensitive people, but those of us who are both informed and know what is on ground will attest to the fact that this is a long over due battle.
It is an indictment on us as a nation that in this age, our teachers, the molders of character and custodians of our much cherished Human Resources without which we can never advance as a nation are not only the least paid, but also suffer the worst working condition in the country. I grew up to hear of an axiom that “the teachers reward is in heaven” which sort of justified the ill treatment they’ve received over the years by successive governments to such extents that teaching as a profession is to say the least almost a course in Nigeria today.
University students studying courses in Education are often looked at as being unfortunate, while those in the Colleges of education are considered never do wells. How on earth could one, except by extreme divine accident be studying Education? It is simply unthinkable and in reality, no sane Nigerian parent except also as a very last option will let his child enroll in a College of Education. Yet, we give birth and send our children to schools to be taught by teachers.
In my opinion, Nigerian teachers are the most dedicated bloc in the nations’ work force. They don’t sit around in air conditioned offices to gossip nor do they sign out billions with the stroke of the pen. Neither do they go on paid vacations abroad. They are always there every day at 8.00am at the school. They take their classes and prepare lesson notes. Periodically the pay hosts to inspectors who come to nose around to make sure they are doing their jobs. They mark and grade heaps of notes and test scripts and see to the all round development of the children. Most times, parents hand over impossible kids to them and they bear the cross diligently.
In addition to all these, their offices hardly have decent furniture, the number of students per teacher is just too much and of course they live constantly in the danger of all forms of attacks by their students and even parents.
Having borne this all these years, all they demand today is a modest pay rise (the recommended TSS which I hear has actually been approved in the 2008 budget). What is wrong in that? We’ve witnessed the Doctors, nurses, petroleum workers, University lecturers, etc demand for various obnoxious allowances on several occasions in the past. Now that our humble long suffering teachers are asking, why should they be so ignored?
The way the Yar’adua government has treated this demand so far tells the tale of a government that does not in any way care about the future of her youths and by extension not sensitive in any to the needs of her people. Perhaps they-the government – are not bothered because they are not affected as their children are in choice school within and outside the country. Little wonder the first thing they did, instead of addressing the issues raised by the teachers was to issue a warning to the NUT [Nigeria Union of Teachers] not to carry out her threat of picketing private schools. But should we leave our teachers to go through this alone?
I call on every Nigerian, at home and abroad who had had the privilege of sitting in a class and being taught by a teacher to rise up and support, in what ever way we can their current struggle to better their lives. That’s the least we can do to show appreciation for the role they played in seeing us to what ever current position we occupy and to tell the unperturbed government that Nigerians care.
For if we all keep quiet and the teachers lose this battle, we shall have all partaking in the sin and thus shall have a share in the responsibility of a continuously regressive Nigeria that can not produce man power skilled enough to keep up with the dynamics of our changing world, because, an angry teacher surely can not teach.
So Nigerian Teachers, aluta continua!!!
Ifedigbo Nze Sylva