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Teachers’ new retirement age sparks fresh debate

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Professor Josiah Ajiboye

New age will weaken productivity, says Labaika
• It’ll encourage mentoring, Lagos NUT Chair

The move by the Federal Government to rebrand the teaching profession and attract best brains through the extension of retirement age and special allowances is currently causing ripples among education managers and stakeholders.

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While some educationists applauded the government’s decision, describing it as the way to go in attracting best brains to the profession, others believed the policy may worsen the already bad situation in the sub-sector.

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last Wednesday approved the Harmonized Retirement Age for Teachers Bill, 2021, which seeks to give legal backing to new measures by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to enhance teaching profession in the country.

The retirement age bill, which has been forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration and approval, seeks to move teachers retirement age from 60to 65 years, while the years of service will also move from 35 to 40.

But educationists were divided in their views on the development. An administrator, Mr. Emma Jimo and National President, Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) Kazeem Labaika said this is not what the country or teaching profession needs at this point in time.

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They pointed out that at 65, teachers could be consulting for schools without necessarily been in active service. They argued that the policy would only be recycling certain citizens, closing doors against many.

According to Jimo, the best thing is to make the teaching profession attractive, so that many young people can come in. “Certainly this is not what Nigeria or the profession needs. At age 65, teachers could become consultants without being in active service. The new policy will shut out young people who may want to take up teaching jobs. It frustrates them and worsens hatred for the teaching profession by potential entrants.

He, however, said it would increase maximum fulfilment, career actualisation and happiness of many, including dependents of such employees.

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For Labaika, the teaching profession is short of manpower and there are many young people who are graduates of education in need of jobs. “We need to understand that productivity begins to drop at age 50; and at age 60, the level of productivity would further drop. Extending the length of service by five years would only suggest that we would mentor new recruits and I hope this would be implemented in the law. If the new Teachers Salary Scale (TSS) is also implemented, it would increase the number of personnel in the sector and this will foster its growth.”

According to him, with the extension of the service year, productivity could reduce. “For this reason, I will suggest that young teachers be employed so that they will be mentored by older ones due for retirement. Presently, there are only 14,000 secondary school teachers in Lagos State, when we are supposed to have 30,000 teachers for secondary schools. I implore them to employ more teachers to fill existing vacancies, so as to bridge the enormous gap between teachers and students.”

Labaika added: “The number of teachers in public schools in Edo state is not more than 2,500 and this will metamorphose into crisis if not looked into. Teachers are retiring and recruitments are not being done. Lagos State is making efforts to close the gap and had said that in a few years, it would employ 1000 teachers while we have 630 secondary schools in Lagos. There are no teachers for some subjects and some of those subjects have suffered neglect because provisions have not been made to employ people who will close up the margin.

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“These are the issues at hand and they require urgent attention and for this incentive by the Federal government to be appreciated and highly commended, they need to recruit more teachers.”

But for Adesina Adedoyin, Lagos State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the policy should be applauded, as it would give room for mentorship. He disclosed that successive governments did not recruit teachers, while experts in the field are moving out of the system, which is why the sector is suffering greatly.

With the new policy, the NUT chief said mentoring would be more effective than it was before, while also encouraging them to put in more efforts, so as to ensure that service delivery is improved upon.

However, Adedoyin pleaded that to further encourage excellence in the system, admission cut-off mark for education should be at par with other professional courses like engineering, medicine and law.

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He argued that educational courses should not be made dumping ground for admission seekers, “so that they can recognise those who are passionate about becoming teachers. Adedoyin said if this is looked into, it would curb mediocrity in the sector.

For Olasunkanmi Opeifa, 2018 winner, Maltina Teacher of the Year Award, the elongation of service year is a beautiful idea though subject to individual preferences.

“Personally, I may not have a reason to stay for as long as the stated retirement age and may just retire before 60 and may go into some private practice. However, some persons who do not share my sentiments may likely stay back because they believe that the incoming generation has a lot to learn from them. With the five-year extension, if plans are put in place to bring those who would be due for retirement to occupy some positions in the ministry or for education consultancy, that will be a bonus to the already wonderful plan.

He added, “A lot of questions have reached my ears concerning special allowances scale. Teachers are really expectant, jubilant and waiting for its implementation. If the pay scale is implemented, it will do a lot to cater to the needs of teachers; physically, emotionally and intellectually, as I will personally carry out more research to improve my knowledge-base. It will also encourage and motivate young people who are passionate about the teaching profession to get into the system.”

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Former Head, Teacher Education Department, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof. Olusegun Kolawole, said the benefits of the policy are enormous and strong enough to change the perception of the public about teaching and teacher education.

According to him, the policy would make teaching profession to compete with others, attract brilliant students who otherwise have abandoned the profession for other lucrative ones and by implication, improve the quality of education in the country.

“In short, the policy which is long overdue, is the answer to a long problem, a problem that is as old as teacher education in Nigeria. This is what we need now to boost the morale of teachers, reposition teacher education, attract brilliant students into the profession and put teaching and teacher education on a high moral pedestal. There is a strong correlation between the quality and welfare of teachers and their job performance. Teachers are the most important factor in the teaching and learning process and they need to be of good quality, be carefully recruited, prepared, be well-motivated and retained.

“However, the shortcomings I see are in the realm of quick implementation, countrywide adoption and financial commitment to make it work,” Prof Kolawole stated.

When asked if the policy would not shut out young people desirous of taking up teaching jobs, the professor said: “It would rather attract young, brilliant and knowledgeable people. Currently, they run away from it because of the poor condition of service. The policy would make recruitment into the profession now attractive, competitive and interesting.”

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