Wednesday, 14 May 2014

On Teachers and their Importance to Society

My last post, on the First Day of May, was an S.O.S. Open Letter to the Kogi State Governor (I come from Kogi State, by the way, incase a few are wondering.), a call, a challenge to improve the laughable state that Education has found itself - in Kogi State and in Nigeria even, the ridicule that the concept of Teaching has become. Education is important and has become even more important in Nigeria in the face of the senseless killings and terrorism bedevilling the country at the moment. It was written by my friend and brother Ibrahim Husseini.

Today, interestingly, I saw one of my Secondary School class teachers, he used to teach Economics and he was pretty good - seasoning his class lectures with jokes, and not the normal hideous jokes that teachers are known for, pretty good jokes that earnestly put smiles on our faces, and sometimes so much smile that it was accompanied by beads of tears. When you laugh so much, you cry.

He did not remember me, I could tell. Even though after I had told him my name, he nodded and smiled, even though he said 'Oh,', even though he said 'Take care of yourself,' just before he walked away; I could tell he had absolutely no idea who I was. He had taught so many students, it was almost mentally impossible to remember each and every one of them by their faces, and especially impossible to remember me as I was not the type to bring attention to myself when I was in school.

He had tattoed knowledge in our memories from his, I will never forget the concepts: 'Demand and Supply', 'Law of Diminishing Return', 'Various Definition of Economics', 'Labour and Productivity', 'Fiscal Policy', 'GDP', 'Inflation' and so many others because of that man: he engraved them in my head, in our heads, he engraved knowledge. Took from his and added to ours.

He wore a very well starched white shirt, as if he was trying to compensate for something - the shirt had a blue collar and a blue eagle badge at one of its chest pockets, and a well ironed plain black trouser. My school was a private school and I wondered, after I watched him walk away, if he had been content, fulfilled as a  teacher. If passing knowledge to spoilt rich kids was as fulfilling as he had imagined it would be when he first took the job. I wondered how much he was paid - if it was enough to take care of his family, his wife, his kids, his relatives that may have believed that his status of 'employed' and 'city man' was enough to take care of everybody in the village not minding how much he was paid, since to them, the fact that one lived in the city and was 'employed' meant one was reeking with wealth.

Teachers should be paid well, they should not live like paupers. It is simple. They have one of the most important jobs on earth. This brings us back to the extreme usefulness of Ibrahim's Open Letter. A society that mistreats its teachers is a society that mistreats education and any society that mistreats education is evidently heading for the gutter.
My Economics teacher taught in a private school and still I did not think his salary was good enough. Only the government can change this, if the government improves the public schools and pay teachers bountifully, as they should, the private schools will have no choice but to do same.

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!

N.B: Pray For Nigeria, we are going through difficult times. It's been exactly one month that the girls from Chibok were kidnapped, they have still not been found.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Save Our Souls by Ibrahim Husseini


An Open letter to Governor Idris Wada, Executive Governor of Kogi State.

“Every city should make the common school so rich, so large, so ample, so beautiful in its endowments and so fruitful in its results, that a private school will not be able to live under the drip of it.”
Henry Ward Beecher

Your Excellency Sir,
I greet you in the name of the general discomfort and anger being felt by all the workers in your state, especially PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERS.
I wish my letter were on a much more pleasing note as it may interest you to know that this is actually the first time I have written an “open” letter to someone as “distinguished” as yourself. I must take you down memory lane, in order for you to understand my sincere grievances and concerns for the poor teachers of Kogi State, who some of you politicians readily refer to as nuisances.
I may be too young to understand the intricacies and complexities of Kogi politics, but I am not too young to understand the illegality of your oath taking ceremony which was administered by the President, Customary court of appeal; Shuaibu Atadoga instead of the constitutionally recognized Chief Judge of the State; Justice Nasir Ajanah. I have nothing against all of these, as I believe it is fate and destiny at work.
What I find hard to stomach and accept as destiny, is why your administration has chosen to throw education to the gutters. It is on record that in less than two years into your four year term, you have conducted series of “screenings”, five(5) by my last count. Your Excellency Sir, five screening exercises in two years of your administration is too many by any standard and a complete show of cluelessness and corruption on the part of those you have contracted to conduct the exercises with the teachers at the receiving end of it all.
The industrial actions have also gone unchecked either on the basis of non - implementation of the Improved Teachers Salary Scale or the National Minimum Wage. With the last industrial action lasting for a whole term (June 2013 to September 2013). It is no longer news that government primary schools have become day-care centres where parents who cannot afford the “real” schools take their children/wards, which is unfortunate to say the least.
As a result of your administration’s attitude towards education, Kogi now ranks as one of the top investment destination for private school operators with ill-equipped private schools springing up in every nook and cranny of the State.
It is also on record that your government under a fraudulent ICT empowerment scheme sold laptop computers of seventy thousand naira (NGN 70,000) at the rate of one hundred thousand naira (NGN 100,000) after publicly claiming to have approved 10% subsidy on the sale of the laptops to teachers who have been groaning in pain over non-implementation of minimum wage and 27.5% allowance and rising cost of living in Kogi.
Only in January 2014 did your administration approve 65% implementation of the minimum wage for primary school teachers in the state while other workers including secondary school teachers have been enjoying this national “blessing” for two years now. The delay in payment of salaries has also worsened with primary school teachers collecting February 2014 salary in the second week of April 2014, not to talk of the fact that teachers celebrated most religious festivals and holidays of 2013 without pay.
Sir, you can take a covert walk around Lokoja, the state capital and ask ordinary Kogites on the streets what they think of government’s handling of primary education and you will know the extent to which this extremely important sector has been ridiculed during your administration.
Lastly, as it is not in my nature to point out problems without proffering simple solutions. There is still enough time to set things straight;
1. Pay teachers their salaries as at when due
2. Approve 100% implementation of the minimum wage and settle outstanding debts.
3. Conduct a sincere and corrupt free screening to detect ghost teachers within the work force.
4.As a leader, do not feel too big to ask other performing governors the methodology in setting things straight in a system as corrupt as ours.
“The countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow”
Barrack Obama.

08085024782, 07059223419.