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The Anguish of Teachers in Kwara

The sun had set for some time and students were excited to grace the playground. It was almost break time! Teachers too were hastily rounding off their classes after the morning teaching session. This was when this reporter arrived at Pakata LGEA Junior Secondary School, Ilorin.

Mr Abdulrahman who appears to be in his late 30s was in class with the JSS3 students, his voice was audible enough to be heard at a distance of 10 meters away from the class. He was standing in front of the students, demonstrating what he was explaining.

“This is where we will call it off for today,” he concluded as he moved out of the class to meet this reporter who was waiting by the class window.

Abdulrahman was completely drenched in sweat. He took out a handkerchief and wiped some of it that had found a haven on his face. His hands were filled with chalk-dust which had also plastered his shoes and some parts of his shirt. His looks were close to that of someone just stepping out of a flour manufacturing room.

“As you can see, this is what we pass through to instil knowledge in students,” he said as he gestured to this reporter to follow him to the office.

Mr Abdulrahman is a Mathematics teacher at Pakata Community Secondary School, Kwara State. He is passionate about teaching the students and usually organizes extramural lessons for them especially when they are about to write external examinations.

He has been a level 7 teacher since 2011 without being promoted, he still earns #33,000—the salary of a level 7 teacher. He struggles every day to make ends meet due to his poor salary. Ironically, this has never affected his commitment to his profession or his performance in the class. For Abdulrahman, teaching is a passion.

Teaching is known to be a noble profession owing to the vital contributions of teachers to the development of a nation. They are the architects who mould the erudite in other professions.

But the failure of the government to improve the working conditions of teachers often leads to poor performance in the discharge of their duties, thereby degrading the standard of education — the bedrock of any nation.

Teachers in Kwara state allege that the Kwara State Government has failed to offset the salary arrears owed them since 2015. Some of them also maintain they are overdue for promotions.

Some teachers who are battling with these challenges shared their ordeals with this reporter and pleaded with the government to come to their aid.

Teachers Bemoan Overdue Promotions.

According to Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Kwara State, the last time the Kwara State Government patched up overdue promotions of teachers under Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) was in 2014, while that of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) teachers was in 2016. Even then, some teachers were unable to benefit from the exercise. Most of the beneficiaries of promotion at the time lament that the promotion only reflected in paper and bears no effect on their salaries.

Mr Abdulganeeyu was employed with an NCE result in 2011, as a level 7 officer, he insists that he has been due for promotion since 2016. Contrary to his expectations, he has remained in Level 7 for the past 9 years.

“I was employed in 2011 as a level 7 officer, I only received the promotion letter of Level 8 but it’s yet to have an effect on my salary. Even, I am supposed to be in level 10 right now. Up till now, I am still collecting N33,000, a salary of level 7 officer, where my salary is supposed to be N45,000,” he explained.

Shaking his head bitterly, he expressed how the stagnancy of his salary has affected his economic reality. He juxtaposed the country’s economy with his measly salary noting that it’s not sufficient for him to make ends meet.

 “With the situation of Nigeria, N33,000 as salary is not enough to do anything. When I was employed in 2011, I had a wife and 1 child. Now, I have four children, and with this low-income, you should know how hard it is to cater to them. 

“There are lots of things I should have achieved, but a situation where the salary is barely enough to feed the family, how do you expect one to achieve in life?” he asked.

Tangible Pain of Unpaid Salary Arrears 

CAMPUS REPORTER gathered that, apart from underpayment and overdue promotion, the Kwara State Government is owing SUBEB teachers an aggregate of 3 months, 43% salary. This is an accumulated leftover of salaries owed the teacher from December 2015, under the administration of former Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed, until May 2019.

State Universal Basic Education Board(SUBEB) teachers are teachers who teach Primary to Junior Secondary School, the State Government pays their salaries from the federal government allocation to the Local Governments.

The Kwara State Government, under the administration of Abdulfatai Ahmed, claimed there was a shortfall in the Federal Government’s allocation allotted to Local Government Councils. The government then resorted to a pay cut method – payment of a percentage of the total income to the teachers, and this left some residual percentages of their salaries unpaid till date.

Most of the affected teachers took up side jobs to sustain themselves while some extorted their students. Mr Usman who is also a teacher affected by the situation recounts how salary fluctuation at the period affected the service delivery of some of his colleagues.

“[During the] time when they owed us these arrears, most of the teachers were not punctual at work. They had to sneak out of school to hustle, but as for me, teaching is my passion it didn’t affect how I delivered my service. We expect the Government to pay these arrears for the betterment of teachers welfare.”

Narrating the moment as a trying one, Mr Tajudeen recounts: “It was very difficult at that time, I found it difficult to feed myself and the family, I had to forfeit my Master’s Degree admission into the University of Ilorin at that time.”

He explained that the teachers are lagging behind in the society and that if the government pays the salary arrears it will ease the burdens on teachers.

Teachers are Struggling to Make Ends Meet

Despite having the great responsibility of moulding future leaders, the welfare package of the Nigerian teacher is among the worst in the world. They languish in starvation and find it hard to feed themselves and family. Teachers’ salary package has remained pitiable for decades and the quest for its increment has always proved abortive despite the succession of many administrations. As a result, even passionate ones can become demotivated.

Mr Adeyemi is a Basic 4 teacher, employed with an NCE Certificate in July 2012, he got promoted to level 8 in 2016 but his salary still remains stagnant.

He explained that dealing with kids is not an easy task. Adeyemi recounts that he is only a teacher by circumstance. What would have been a thing of joy for Adeyemi, who grew to love the profession, is sadly a regular regret. He sees his mates thriving in other professions while he is not. Adeyemi says he is now full of regret and has vowed to leave his job the minute he gets a better offer.

Compared to civil servants in other sectors, the income of primary school teachers in Kwara is significantly low. And the failure of the government to provide a motivating welfare package for them has made many lose their passion and interest in the teaching profession bringing about the deterioration in the quality of education.

Another teacher, Mr Sani, bemoaned the low status of teachers in the society, he noted that teachers are seen as mere riffraff among their fellows, he pointed out that if the government does not make teachers happy, it discourages them from performing effectively in the class.

An Empty Stomach Cannot Teach Effectively—NUT Chairman

The Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Kwara State Chapter, Mr Saliu Toyin, explained that the Union has been working tirelessly to ensure that the government ameliorates the loopholes. He, however, said the efforts of the union on the issues of salary arrears and yet to be implemented promotion are yet to be addressed by the government.

We have made our position known on the issue, we have met with his excellency, and we have conveyed the grievances of our members to him. We have told him that the issue of SUBEB teachers’ salary arrears is yet to be addressed.

He acknowledged that the inadequate salary has impeded the morale of teachers noting that it is hard for a starving teacher to teach effectively.

 “The morale is low; an empty stomach cannot teach effectively. If they say they are training teachers, they are training empty stomachs.” he said.

He explained that the overdue promotions are the major bone of contention of the aggrieved teachers while calling on the government to do the needful.

“The major grey area now is the issue of promotion; other core civil servants have been promoted up till 2019. Meanwhile, the last time that teachers were promoted was 2015-16, why the discrepancy? 

“The teachers under the state Government who are called TESCOM teachers (Senior Secondary School teachers) were promoted last in 2014 those that were promoted between 2015 – 2017 were promoted without financial backing, those of SUBEB(Primary and Junior Secondary School teachers) were promoted last in 2016 and without financial backing.”

He further stressed that SUBEB teachers have not been enjoying the Teacher Salary Allowances (TSA), he, therefore, appealed to the Government to look into it. He also appealed to the Government to address the issue of promotion because the promotions are long overdue.

What has the Government Done?

As of 2019, the total salary arrears owed by the Kwara State Government was 3 months and 58%.  However, in January 2020, the Kwara State Government paid 15% from it making the residual arrears to remain 3 months and 43%. 

The Kwara State Commissioner of Education, Mrs.Fatimoh Bisola Ahmed, while speaking with CAMPUS REPORTER explained that discrepancies of overdue promotions and unpaid salary arrears of the teachers are leftover by the previous administration and the Government is working towards resolving it.

“The issue of salary arrears of SUBEB teachers, overdue promotions and salary discrepancies, they are issues we met on the ground but which we have been working tirelessly to rectify.”

She explained that, in a bid to address the grey areas, the Government organized a screening exercise for all the teachers in the state early this year. The screening was to gather accurate data of workers on the payroll of the state government.

“I believe you are aware of the screening exercise that the State Government recently conducted. It is part of our effort to properly profile our staff, and see how we can tackle all these challenges.”

Speaking on how the Government plans to improve the welfare of teachers, she explained that the Government is aware of their plights and methods to ameliorate it would soon be unfolded.

“On plans to remunerate teachers, we are working on it as well, and we shall be unfolding the measures which we believe would solve the problems [soon],” she explained.

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