Without a doubt, teachers are pretty important to the society. They hold the key to the future since they help to mould future leaders. They don’t just teach, they are critical personalities who nurture young folks to mature, to understand the world and to understand themselves. Evidence shows that teachers, their professional knowledge and skills are the most important factor for quality education in any society.
It will be an understatement to state that teachers have an enormous role to play in the education of not only students but the education of a nation. They play multifaceted role in the society. In taking care of pupils and students put in their care for a considerable number of hours on a daily basis (it has been discovered that students/pupils spend a great proportion of their day under the watchful eyes of teachers), they act proxy parents. By helping to shape the destinies of numerous children, they perform the task of social workers. A teacher could equally be likened to a miracle worker who is well schooled in the art of helping a student to discover his/her untapped potentials. Whenever the innate but largely hidden potential of a student comes in contact with the therapeutic skill of a teacher, a miracle occurs.
It is in realization of the key role teachers perform that the Akinwunmi Ambode Administration in Lagos State has continued to make efforts towards motivating them to put their best into raising and developing the various skills required by the future generation of leaders that we all can be proud of. The love of the current administration for teachers and the teaching profession has been succinctly captured when Governor Akinwunmi Ambode opened a window of insight into what he thinks of teachers. He described them as “the catalyst to realize any meaningful, functional, quality and effective education delivery”.
This combined with the professionalism, passion, dedication and love of the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule for teachers, pupils and everyone concerned in moving the Education Sector forward. Little wonder that the Lagos State government has continued to consolidate on the many reforms initiated to adequately empower teachers and appropriately reward them.
Presently, the teaching profession which used to be derided a few decades ago, leading to dearth of teachers in our schools, especially, the public schools has been dressed in the colourful gown of a beautiful bride by the Akinwunmi Ambode led Administration.
In the last three years, over 2000 new teachers have been employed to help in grooming our future leaders. Currently, the process of recruiting 2,200 teachers into the State’s Teaching Service, with a view to further reducing the pupils/teacher ratio and improves teaching and learning, has aroused the interest of many job seekers. 65,818 applications were received for the 2, 200 teaching job opportunities which were recently made open to the public by the State Government. The job portal was closed at 12 midnight of Thursday, 6th September, 2018.
A breakdown of the applications shows that 44,725 people will compete for the 1,200 jobs in the Public Secondary Schools category while 21,093 applied to teach in the public primary sector. The rush for these appointments that will put food on the table of 2,200 people and their dependants is largely a function of the better deal that the State government has extended to teachers in the State’s public schools.
Teachers’ salary has been consistently paid regularly on the 23rd day of every month. This has helped them to plan effectively on their income and expenditure. Hence, they are now immune from what in Public Service parlance is referred to as “financial embarrassment”. Interestingly, this good deal for teachers in the State has equally been extended to retired teachers who now receive their pensions and gratuities promptly and without stress. The underlining basis for this is that once those that are still actively engaged in the Public Service are aware that the system will take adequate care of them when they exit the service, they will definitely put in their best to move the State forward. In the last one year, N1, 056,878,908.23billion was paid as pension benefits to retirees in the Teaching Service as accrued pensions and gratuity.
Equally, all promotable officers since 2015 to date have been promoted as at when due while training of officers has also become a regular occurrence. By the plans for 2018 training programme, a total of 11,491 teachers are expected to be trained by the end of year. As part of staff welfare package, car loans were awarded to 491 beneficiaries to the tune of N40, 170, 000.00k and N30Million Housing Loan was approved for 38 (Thirty Eight) beneficiaries in the Teaching Service in the last few months.
To boost the morale of teachers and achieve healthy competition whilst promoting and rewarding excellence, diligence, dedication, hardwork and commitment to work; Education Merit Award is organized annually in honour of outstanding performers in the various categories of Award in the Education Sector of Lagos State. More than 100 Education Merit Awards are given out with the Star prize of a brand new car awarded to the Best Teacher in both the Primary Secondary Schools’ categories.
Apart from improved teachers’ welfare, the state government’s huge investment in education infrastructure has also contributed immensely to the improvement of education in the State. These include the supply of Teachers and Principal furniture to all schools, a march away from the era when such officers use broken furniture to their discomfort.
Aside the many reforms initiated to adequately empower teachers and appropriately reward them; the Governor announced the approval of the promotion of primary school teachers to Grade Level 17 in order for them to be at par with counterparts in the civil service. This is quite unprecedented in the annals of the nation’s education reforms.
The commitment of the Ambode administration to the upliftment of education and the standard of living of teachers in the State was not lost on the direct beneficiaries. To this end, Governor Ambode was conferred with the award of the “Best Teachers Friendly Governor” in October 2017. The National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Comrade Michael Olukoya presented the award to Governor Ambode during the World Teachers’ Day celebration in Abuja in recognition of his efforts at providing enabling environment for teaching and learning to take place in schools while also prioritizing teachers’ welfare and rewarding hard work.
Without a doubt, current efforts to improve teachers’ welfare in the state would go a long way in restoring the lost glory of the teaching profession. To put the society in order, we have to get public education right. Herein lies the wisdom in present initiatives to uplift the standard of education in Lagos State.
Ogundeji is the Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Education