By Abiodun Adesanya
For about five years now, there has been an attempt by the Nigeran Union of Teachers to gain the attention of the government at both federal and state levels. One key demand from this body is that the retirement age of public primary and secondary schools’ teachers should be increased from the usual 60 years to 65 years. In the same spirit, 35 years of meritorious service should be increased to 40. Apparently, this is an attempt to allow teachers to stay longer in service for another 5 years.
The efforts of the NUT in actualising this move is not only glaring but persuasive as the attention of the presidency has successfully been drawn. However, in this unsolicited but crucial opinion, I shall be adducing why the government and the populace should reject this proposal, owing to the socioeconomic implications it will have if passed into law.
It is pertinent to state grounds buttressed by the NUT for arriving at her proposal. Among these are; (i) that the current retirement age is no longer in fashion and that some of them retired but not tired. (ii) That it will remove discrimination between them and their higher institutions’ counterparts. (iii) That it is a way the country will gain more from their wealth of experience and lastly (iv) For a better performance and to increase quality teachers.
On the first ground, it is trite said that “age is just a number” and as such, has nothing to do really with effectiveness. Also, it is commendable that some of our teachers retired but not tired. It is rather crucial to reiterate that there is time for everything under the sun. Let us call a spade a spade, even if the retirement age is 70 years or more, there will still be a number of teachers who will not be tired of teaching. As regards the second ground, NUT needs to be reminded that the basic qualification(s) for lecturing in a higher institution is not the same as that of primary and secondary teachers. Would it be said that there is a university in Nigeria where one can be employed as an academic staff member with NCE, OND, HND or even B.Sc certificate?
On the third premise, I stand to be corrected that 35 good years is enough for one to contribute immensely to the advancement of education. I believe our Nigerian teachers are highly competent and industrious. As the saying goes, “what worth doing at all is worth doing well”. I restate, 35years is enough to share and to draw from their wealth of experience, as an extra 5years will have little or no effect. The principle of wear and tear should be also taken cognisance of. On the forth premise, I see it as a mere move to persuade the Nigerian populace as thirty-five years is more than enough to improve oneself let alone a league of teachers.
Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that if the 65-year Retirement Bill is passed into law, it will have great financial implication and increase in the rate of unemployment. Talking about unemployment, it is quite unfortunate that while majority of graduates are yet to be gainfully employed, the NUT is clamouring that incumbent teachers should stay longer for five years. The Minister for Education was quoted to have said “Nigerian teachers to some extent require a reasonable retirement age like their counterparts in India, Canada, Belgium that have increased the retirement age for teachers to 65 years” _(Vanguard, December 14th, 2018)_. But he failed to remember that while the rate of unemployment in Nigeria stands at 23.1% and underemployment is 20.1% , making a total of 43.3% (as of 2018 Q3, NBS), that of India is 6.1% (NSSC Report, 2018) and Belgium is 5.20% (Nov. 2019).
On the financial implication of the bill, if passed, it will increase the recurrent expenditure of government budget at both federal and state levels. Monies meant for other key issues in the education sector which would have better improve the quality of Nigerian education would be diverted to paying salaries throughout this 5 years. I am of the opinion that the NUT should focus more on how government would provide more funds to the education sector and not increasing retirement age. Also, the Federal government only allocated 6.7% (N691.07b) of 2020 budget to the education sector. This is far below the UNESCO recommendation for any serious government as far as education is concern.
In conclusion, I urge NUT to channel her demand towards proper funding of education and not increase in retirement age. NUT should remember that her members are only government employees who should not be dictating how many years they will use for the government (employer). I urge government at all levels, the National Assembly and the good people of Nigeria to reject the 65-year Retirement Bill as such does not mean well to an average Nigerian.
Abiodun Adesanya writes from Obafemi Awolowo University.