Lack of Quality, Education Bane of Nigeria’s Underdevelopment — NUT President

Lack of Quality, Education Bane of Nigeria’s Underdevelopment — NUT President

By: Femi Mustapha

Policymakers and development planners have recognized the pivotal place of education as a means of increasing output, as it can improve health and productivity and provide an escape from poverty.

Hence, considering the place of education in nation-building, countries worldwide have been investing in this all-important sector, as the development of any nation may be traceable back to its level of stock of human capital, which normally entails education and health.

While these two factors are key to national development, several studies have found that the former has a positive impact on the latter.

The nexus between education and growth as an engine for increased economic growth has continued to attract the attention of economists and policymakers.

Speaking to the media in Kaduna recently, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Audu Titus Amba, argued that education has an impact on society, both at the micro and macro levels. However, the quest of a country like Nigeria to maximally utilize education to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and increase output has been a challenge.

Comrade Amba, who is the number one teacher in the country because of his position as the NUT President, said failure to recognize the correlation between quality, knowledge, economic growth, and prosperity is the bane of the country’s underdevelopment.

According to him, investment in education secures returns in the form of skilled manpower that could be geared to the needs of development, both for accelerating economic development and for improving the quality of society.

Amba expressed dismay that the challenges of shortage of teachers, poor infrastructure, inadequate funding, and the refusal of some states to implement the ₦30, 000 minimum wages, among many others, have thrown Nigeria’s education system into a ‘crisis.’

Comrade Amba, who is the Deputy President of the Nigerian Labour Congress and Vice President of Education International, African region, opined that poor planning has become a cancer worm in the education sector.

The NUT President, who claimed to be a ‘Teachers’ welfare’ advocate, disclosed that Nigerian Teachers are not well taken care of, and their take-home pay is nothing to talk about.

In his words, “They are the most relegated civil servants who are professionals. Teaching is a profession, and going by its status, it is expected that there should be a difference between ordinary civil servants and professional organizations.

“We all are aware that in other professions, like the Nurses, they have a peculiar salary status that they enjoy.

“For us in this country, we are still battling with that, and I believe that as we speak, the ₦30, 000 minimum wage has not been implemented by some states.

“About five years of pronouncement, by this January, we’ll be entering into negotiation with this government on the minimum wage review cause it’s every five years that it is reviewed, and since the ₦30, 000 minimum wage was announced.

“Already a committee has been set up at the state level and the federal, so we go into negotiation again with the government.”

“So if you ask me, if I’m okay with what is happening to my colleagues, Nigerian teachers, I will say no, outrightly.

“As a labour leader, our main function is to make sure that our members’ welfare is well catered for, the system that we lead, the institution that we also lead or that we are, is well taken care of, not only in terms of our members’ welfare but even the system itself.

“So having said so, yes, we thank God for where we are, but as Oliver Twist, we keep on asking for more, we keep on telling the government the need for them to do more if at all they are doing.”

The NUT President stressed that as a unionist, he is not only concerned about the welfare of teachers, but with issues that have to do with the educational sector—how the sector is being looked into, how it’s being taken care of, how are the schools, how are they managed, are teaching materials being provided and so on.

“Are the environments conducive for even the pupils not to talk more of the teachers themselves?

“There are situations where you find children sat on the bare floor to learn, not to talk of giving the teacher a chair to sit; you even see the teacher lean from the window or wall just to get some rest, and you expected such teachers and pupils to perform.

“Not only in primary school, go to some of our secondary schools, you find students sitting on the bare floor or looking for a block to sit on. They will tell the students, if you are coming, bring your sitting stool or chair.

“It got to a level, where some children, because of the habitual way of sitting on the floor to write, finds it difficult to write when you give them a sitting table; I’m a teacher, so I can attest to it.

“So once we put all these things together, you’ll see that we still have a long way to go.

“For some of us that have crossed the age of fifty to fifty-five years like me, when I was schooling here in Kaduna at U/machibi in Television, my classroom had a locker. I would put my things and keep them there till the next day when I come I open it.

“What about those in our locality who are peasant farmers and cannot afford private schools, even if you say the school fee of private school is ₦5, 000, they still cannot afford it, and this is why education needs to be taken care of in terms of infrastructure, learning facilities, and more importantly, the welfare of teachers.

Every day as leaders, our agitation to the government is for them to look more sincerely into the educational sectors.

“Any country that says education is expensive should try ignorance with no education; you will see the outcome.

“In this country, as I speak today, go to some federal universities, and you will shed tears. In most schools, you will see a lecturer, lecturing over a thousand students in a small lecture hall where seats are not there and it’s over-saturated, and he’s the only one that will speak while students are hanging by the window or door.”

Comrade Ambar admonishes the Government to go back to the drawing board and look at where the country has gone wrong in the education sector because, from primary to tertiary, all is not well in that sector.

He stressed that the problem confronting the country is that its decision-makers don’t plan, and even as a family, if you don’t sit down in your house to plan, definitely you will not get it right.

We as leaders have been speaking with the government at the federal level. There are intervention funds that weren’t touched and can be available for this purpose.

Comrade Audu Titus Amba hinted that the union is working round the clock to ensure all the state governors in Nigeria pay ₦30, 000 minimum wages to primary school teachers and the implementation of teachers’ retirement age policy approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him, the government sent a letter to the Union urging the leadership to send names for the new minimum wage that is to be completed, and in November, the lists were sent to the appropriate authority. So it is only when the committee is constituted that the negotiation will begin.

But the written one would expire before March, so we hope to conclude the negotiations before March.

“The attack on us labour leaders in Imo State in November caused some delay in arrangements because I was away for medical treatment after the attack.

“However, hopefully by January, it will be paid, it’s like three months, but there’s an agreement, and the tendency of the agreement has not been disregarded.”

Speaking about his home state Kaduna, Comrade Ambar said there is a new sheriff in town in the person of Gov. Uba Sani, who so far has proved to have the listening ears of the people.

This, according to him, is a diversion from the terror regime passed through in the past, and some wrongs of the past against teachers in the state are being corrected by the current administration in the state.”

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