By Nimi Princewill
Becoming a teacher in Nigeria, doesn’t exactly align with the prayers of most young Nigerians who seek God’s direction in their search for a glamorous future occupation. Try suggesting the teaching profession to an intending “Jambite” and you’d almost certainly be rebuked for your unreasonable statement, with a fervent “God Forbid!” to ensure such absurd wish never come to pass!
Aside from the snide remarks which undergraduates studying education struggle to endure on a daily basis from peers of other disciplines (which are considered to be more honorable and economically viable), a great portion of ‘Edu’ students, already seem to have programmed their immediate-future endeavors away from the classroom.
A teacher’s reward is rumored to be in heaven. Well, while such complimentary divine assurance is expected to draw some attraction to the teaching profession, the farther it scares people away from it!
It’s not news that a huge number of Nigerian teachers are broke! Irreparably broke, both penny wise and otherwise. In fact, practitioners in commercial trades like taxi driving, Keke/Okada riding and tailoring, have proven over time to be far richer, if one should aggregate their daily income as compared to the meager monthly wages of classroom teachers!
While teachers at the public sector have gotten themselves accustomed to recurring long and dry spells of unpaid salaries, the stars aren’t shining any brighter for teachers at the private schools. The exploitative and capitalist private schools I must add…
Having studied education, and of course, endured the accompanying stigma that came along with it, I got really curious to look up the welfare package of teachers in some private schools. I realised, only a few Ivy League schools (even with their enviable net worth) thought it wise to pay teachers a little above forty thousand Naira monthly (about $127). They bragged a lot about it too. A sum, some gatekeepers receive as remuneration for manning the gate of an oil company!
My adventure with the other regular private schools were even more devastating! I witnessed a massive troop of BSc degree holding graduates, queuing up for exhaustive hours to be recruited by private schools who were absolutely unapologetic about their fixed monthly salaries which varied between twelve, fifteen, twenty and twenty-five thousand Naira respectively, (transportation and other expenses included). Who cares about what’s left in the teacher’s purse after blowing up a chunk of his or her insufficient pay on transportation to the job? Nobody right?
The fortunate few who got the job, were ridiculously overworked beyond their capacity, and compelled to teach multiple classes/subjects (which sometimes, fell within the outskirts of their discipline). A lot of times, these enslaved teachers are owed their entitlements for months, but are still mandated to deliver their best on the toxic job! I guess, this shows to a large extent, the very little value we place on the noble teaching profession as a nation.
As teachers remain hopeful for their reward in heaven (since the teaching profession has turned out to be the least avenue for wealth creation), can they at least make a decent living from their jobs (both at the public and private sectors) as the professionals they are for a change?