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Mixed reactions over 65 years retirement age for NASU members

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• Start processing your own bill, NUT advises union

Mixed reactions have continued to trail the demand by Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) to include members in primary and post primary schools in harmonised retirement age for teachers in Nigeria bill.

NASU had on March 22 embarked on a three-day strike to press home its demands.
The Federal Government had excluded non-teaching staff in its planned legislation to extend retirement age of teachers to 65 and years of service to 40 from current 35 years, with special salary scale and enhanced allowances.

Although the extension to 65 years for teaching staff is still a subject of controversy as some stakeholders faulted it, NASU is seeking extension of same privilege to its members in primary and secondary schools.

Speaking on what informed its decision to press for the demands, NASU National President, Dr. Makolo Hassan, insisted that members are also partners whose services can not be dispensed with.

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Hassan said: “When the President promised the Nigeria Police special salary sometime ago, no set of staff was excluded. To be a teaching or non-teaching staff is a choice and does not make one set of staff superior to the other. I therefore, call on Federal Government, to in the interest of industrial harmony, extend the same treatment to non-teaching staff.”

Reacting to the development, Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi noted that in trade union matters, it is not illegitimate for unions to make demands, but what is crucial is how government responds to such demands.

“Government must not allow itself to be stampeded into policy summersault that will throw the whole system into a turpsy turvy.  What we are witnessing is the result of disjointed instrumentalism in policy formulation and implementation framework of government,” he said.

But Dean, Faculty of Education, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Tunde Owolabi wondered what non-academic staff at primary and secondary schools would be doing beyond 60.

He said issue of emolument could be viewed from either productivity or economic viewpoints. 

“The issue of elongation can be argued again by looking at the teeming population of youths who are unemployed. Instead of elongation of age, will it not be better to use the same resources to employ youths?

“Proponents of age elongation are probably looking at life after retirement, which at 65 years cannot even be guaranteed. What should be done is to put in place some social security measures separate from pension for the aged. This is more beneficial and rewarding. Employ youths in numbers, retire when you can enjoy your benefits and social security from government,” he advised.

An education consultant, Julius Opara however viewed the demand as misplacement of priorities. He noted the likelihood of some civil servants adjusting their ages before joining the workforce, meaning that some workers whose real ages could well be over 70 are still in service at both primary and secondary levels.

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“My opinion may not be popular at this time but the truth be told, most teachers are already mentally and physically weak before attaining the age of 60; hence an extension to 65 years would amount to decline in productivity as well as lack of mental and physical strength to cope with the rigours of teaching this level of students. 

Opara reminded that from research, productivity declines from age 50 and further drops at 60.

“Teaching in this part of the world requires a lot of physical and mental strength because we still operate manually in most government schools, lesson notes are still manually prepared and delivered; corrections and assessments are manually done and a lot more. This type of work requires a lot of strength and vigour to pull through. 

“As a consultant, I have had to speak with a lot of teachers who are above 55 years and nearing retirement age, most of them would have preferred a more structured retirement plan and quick payment of gratuity after retirement. The current situation is that most teachers who retire at 60 have to wait for three or five years in some cases, before their gratuity is eventually paid. NASU should demand for better gratuity, prompt payment, good retirement plan and structure. They should ensure strategic pre-retirement programme for teachers to better position them for life after retirement. When this is properly done, retired teachers can become consultants to public and private educational institutions and education industry value chain,” Opara added.

He argued that extension would only cripple the system, which is already in a bad state. Besides, Opara said the move would increase unemployment rate and shut out young graduates

Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Lagos Chapter, Adedoyin Adesina queried the professional competence of NASU members to make such demands.

He alleged that it is a calculated attempt by NASU to truncate the process, which the NUT struggled to actualise. He said: “NASU wants to reap where it did not sow. The back door method to benefit from where it did not contribute is unacceptable.”

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Adesina advised the union not to resort to blackmail, urging members to initiate a process that would facilitate presentation of their own bill with necessary packages as expected.

He said it is quite disheartening that the sister union could take such steps without consulting NUT.

“The proposal for elongation of service year for teachers was proposed by Hon Adesegun Adekoya after research on how to address problems in the sector and how other countries of the world are getting their educational system working and functional.

“There were public hearings where intellectuals suggested that early retirement and little or no recruitment over time has allowed mentoring and quality teachers leave service.

“It amazed some of us when we heard that NASU is protesting against the process we duly followed. The questions that readily came to mind are what process has NASU followed in initiating its own bill for members? When public hearing was put in place, why did the union’s leadership not come out to advocate for its members? What is the professional competence of those in question?

“In my opinion, the sister union did not do what is expected. Some of us believe it is a calculated attempt to truncate the legitimate process NUT started,” Adedoyin added.

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