The Sun News

In Abuja, teachers reap rewards on earth

•Clement Okodo, Nigeria’s best teacher, gets brand new car, says, I never knew anyone was watching me
•FG rewards others with laptops, fridges, presidential certificates

From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The teacher’s reward is in heaven, so goes the popular saying. Well, not anymore. For Nigerian teachers, their reward starts here on earth.
Last week, joyful tears flowed forth from many eyes, as a number of teachers got their well-deserved recompense from the Nigerian government.
The general saying that hard work pays was justified in the lives of these basic and secondary school teachers whose amazing diligence and commitment to duty was recognized by the Federal Government. The teachers were handsomely rewarded at an event to mark the 2017 World Teachers Day in Abuja.
The awards came in the forms of certificates of presidential recognition, a brand new car, refrigerators, generators, laptops and other items. They were courtesy of the 2017 President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award (PTSEA) which was initiated to reward teachers and schools that had outstanding academic performance in the previous academic year.
Mr. Clement Nwoye Okodo, a teacher from Central School, Abagana, in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State, emerged the best overall teacher in the country.
He informed that he never knew that he was being watched while performing his duty in the classroom and would be recommended for a national award.
The ceremony, which took place at the Eagle Square in Abuja, was the climax of the week-long activities to mark the 2017 World Teachers Day with the theme, ‘Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers.’
The activities featured a press conference, symposium and other memorable activities. Top government functionaries, diplomats, heads of parastatals in the Ministry of Education and other dignitaries were in attendance to celebrate the teachers.
The teachers, on their part, entertained their guests with a march-past, drama and cultural dance, all of which contained messages that amplified the campaign for better working conditions for the teachers. Abia State came first in the march-past, while the Ministry of Education and Nasarawa State came second and third respectively.
In 1966, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Labour Organisations (ILO) proclaimed October 5th every year as World Teachers Day. The essence was to celebrate teachers across the world, particularly those in developing countries, who, in spite of poor conditions of service and remuneration, have continued to give their best for the betterment of the society.
The 2017 edition was well celebrated across the states amidst complaints by the teachers expressing discontent with some states government who have kept owing teachers’ arrears of salaries and other entitlements.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu told the teachers that he was aware of their challenges and assured them that better days were ahead. He assured them that his plans for them and the entire education system would soon mature.
The minister congratulated those that were selected for the awards, and later handed individual awards to the deserving teachers. He also encouraged others not to be discouraged by the poor conditions of service but continue to put in their best on the job.
Mr. Clement Nwonye Okodo, from Anambra state emerged the 2017 overall best teacher. The feat earned him a brand new Nissan Almera.
Cheers and jubilation rent the air when he was invited to the VIP box to collect the key to the brand new car. His family and friends, as well as colleagues from his school and the state, joined in the celebration.
Okodo, who could not hide his joy, confessed that he never knew that someone somewhere was watching and could recommend him for such a great honour. He thanked the government and promised to double his efforts in producing future generations that would provide solutions to the political, security, ICT, environmental and other global challenges.
Mr. Olojede Olawale Jimoh and Ajayi Michael Oni, who emerged first and second runner-ups respectively, got several prizes, including laptops, generator set and refrigerator. Mrs. Oluderu Bilkisu Oluwakemi won the best administrator award, while Adelegan Moranike Sarat and Ogunkola Deborah Adefunke emerged first and second runner up respectively. They were also rewarded with prizes.
Ojodu Junior Grammar School, Ikeja, Lagos, emerged the best school of the year, while Girls’ Day Primary School, Malumfashi, Katsina State and St. Louis Grammar School, Ikere Ekiti, emerged first and second runner up respectively. They were also rewarded with prizes.
President Buhari, in his remarks, informed the gathering that the award winners were neither chosen based on recommendations from a political godfather nor were given based on favoritism, but on empirical and verifiable evidence of dedication, diligence and commitment to duty, resulting in outstanding performance.
He encouraged others to tread the path of the awardees and rededicate themselves to duty, so they could stand a chance to be recognized for such an honour in future. He reaffirmed his earlier promise that gone were those days when teachers welfare was relegated to the back seat. He promised accelerated attention to any cause that would promote the betterment of Nigerian teachers.
The education minister had, at a pre-event press conference in Abuja, said: “Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to repay teachers for their good works to humanity because it is unquantifiable. The world would have been wallowing in ignorance and darkness if not for teachers. We all, at one point in time, came under the tutelage of teachers but it is regrettable that their welfare no longer matter to us.
“As minister of education, I have been exposed to unpleasant conditions with which teachers work. In spite of that, they still give their best happily and professionally. But I have made commitment to make amends where necessary by ensuring that a conducive environment is provided for teachers to work. I love teachers and I am happy that their fate is in my hand and I will do all I could within my power to make them proud again.”
The National President, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Mr. Micheal Olukoya, said the day was meant to draw attention of government and relevant authorities to the avalanche of issues relating to the professional status, terms and working conditions of teachers.
He reminded the president of the non-payment of salaries and allowances of primary and secondary schools teachers for several months, in addition to the failure of some state governments to promote graduate teachers in primary and secondary schools beyond salary grade level 14 and 16 respectively.
The NUT boss thus implored the Federal Ministry of Education to facilitate the development of a comprehensive scheme of service for primary and secondary school teachers, as was done for teachers in Unity Schools. This, he added, would ensure a uniform scheme for all teachers in Nigeria.
The labour leader also demanded an upward review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, in addition to the payment of 27. 5 per cent professional allowance to teachers in Unity Schools and other primary and secondary schools either owned or operated by the police, military and paramilitary organisations.
He also reaffirmed the earlier decision that teachers would embark on strike if the move to transfer their financial fate to local governments scale through.
“Our concern was not the issue of local government autonomy but the possible transfer of management and funding of basic education system, especially the responsibility of paying teachers, to the local governments. Local governments have neither the capacity nor the political will to fund and manage primary education system. Handing over primary education to them would result in total collapse,” he warned.

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