Standard of Education: What We Ignore
I have heard the elderly, my teachers, random parents, my seniors, and lately accomplished educators and scholars of repute lament about the falling standard of education countless of times. I have actually come to be part of the complaining team after coming to the conclusion that my generation was, at least, marginally better than the one that followed it. The most recent I remember was when I enrolled in an MA programme at BUK, I met PhD students who assured me that things were a bit better few years ago even though the professors are the same. Of course things are, I suppose, a little better for the lecturers as most of them acquired more degrees, got promotions, and most probably, have held one position or the other within the institution, or even more importantly, without, where their influence was political, in addition to being intellectual, in the course of their scholarship.
However, the standard keeps falling, or so we lament. Of course, I agree that education is not faring better although I am a core teacher myself. Perhaps nothing anyone can do about the slide. Perhaps the government at the various levels has exhausted all possible solutions without much success. I don’t know.
But certainly there are things we don’t care to say, or we say only when it is politically correct to say them. Last week, the traditional and social media were awash with the news of Mrs. Obiagelli Mazi, a level 12 primary school teacher in Borno state who came to media stardom as a result of the passion she has for the job which was obvious by her uncommon punctuality in the school he teaches as witnessed by the state governor, Prof. Bbagana Zullum. Like most people, Mr Zullum is now my man of the moment. He is, I dare say, the most practical of all northern, perhaps it is Nigerian governors, and probably one-in-a-century Nigerian governor, for the meantime. Several incidents attest to his uncommon passion for his people. Of course Zullum, unlike nearly all our other governors, has the poor as the focus of most of his programmes and concerns. But that’s a discussion for another day.
I was really pleased with Mr Zullum prompt generosity to Mrs Mazi, although something bothered me from the word go. Accordint to reports, and the video clip that went viral, Mrs Mazi has been teaching for thirty one years and she is on grade level twelve (GL12) but with a salary of thirty five thousand naira only! Well, that’s really worrisome given that reports say that Mrs Zullum has paid the minimum wage Borno state workers since December. How comes a level 12 teacher is earning thirty five thousand naira, even when the eighteen thousand minimum wage should have far exceeded that amount going by Mrs Mazi’s salary? Or is this saying the minimum wage, the eighteen thousand and the thirty thousand excluded the primary school teachers? Something is clearly wrong and we don’t care to talk about it.
When Kano state implemented its thirty thousand minimum wage, for instance, many primary school teachers spoke on BBC and other radio stations to complain that they were either excluded or not paid the very first month. n fact, some saw deductions from their salaries. Yet the government responded with vague statements, countering in uncertain terms, the claims of the poor teachers.
A friend in Zamfara called to equally complain that in their state, despite the aggressive start by the governor, workers were still paid peanuts as salaries. Worst hit, he said, are the primary school teachers who are still paid six thousand five hundred, as minimum wage. He gave me an example where a level fourteen (GL14) teacher who has exhausted all avenues for promotion is paid fifty four thousand as his monthly salary. Of course no one cares to ask the hard question as why is this so. But we will sit and lament about the falling standard of education. Other teachers at higher level may boast of being more certificated or earning better packages in salaries and allowances, but let us tell ourselves the hard fact that all our lamentations as pointless so long the teachers at the basic level are not valued by both the government and the generality of people. Of course, I am saying that teachers should earn as much as the politicians or the university lecturers; no. All I am saying is that they should at least be treated with equivalence to other workers.
Usman Zakari Ibrahim
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