The Sun News

Serving with sighs and wonder

 How some private schools overuse teachers but pay them peanut

 First degree holders collect N10,000 as salary;  Masters, N15 – N20,000

 We’re really concerned and doing something about it 

  – Prof. Ajiboye, General Secretary, TRCN

By Jet Stanley Madu

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has its motto as: “service and justice.” Some private schools in Nigeria don’t seem to believe that service should go with justice. As they say in Nigerian pidgin English parlance: where you work is where you chop; hence it is called workchopu. But these private schools don’t believe in this dictum; so they overuse the services of teachers under their employ and pay them peanut at the end of the month.

Many teachers argue that it starts right from the time you go to look for a teaching job after your youth service or graduation. You go there with high expectation but you come back disappointed. Take, for instance, the case of Mrs. Janet Emerie. A mother of two, married to a commercial transport operator, she holds a Bachelor degree (B.Sc) in Political Science. After her mandatory national youth service to her fatherland, she decided to take up a teaching appointment in a certain private school located in Iba Estate, Ojo, area of Lagos State. She was driven by her passion to impact on people, and the need to be employed in order to help augment her spouse’s earnings. But, according to her, the two schools she approached for employment shattered her dream.

She got a shocker when, after being short-listed for an interview, she got to know that she would be placed on N20, 000 monthly salary. She left the venue of the interview, never to return to the school again. The second school she visited fared even worse. They agreed to pay only N10, 000. She left the school with a resolve never to be a teacher all her life.

Hers is not an exception. Mrs. Nona Dimma applied to be absorbed as a Christian Religion teacher in a relatively large school, based in Okokomaiko area of Lagos but with branches at Old Ojo Road and Ojo Road, Ajegunle. The school has an average of between 20 and 25 students in a class. With a Bachelors degree in Christian Religious Studies, a post-graduate Diploma in two other courses and professional qualifications, she was “most astonished and dismayed and disappointed” to be told she would be placed on a N25, 000 monthly salary.

Unemployment now at crisis level

Many contend that the unemployment situation which has reached crisis level is essentially responsible for why private school operators overuse teachers and other staff but pay them peanuts. Instances abound where teachers with Masters degrees take home as little as N15, N20.000 at the end of the month.  For instance, at a private school in Egan, Igando, a Lagos suburb located off the Iyana-Ipaja/Egbeda – LASU road, degree holders are paid N10, 000 while their Masters degree counterparts are paid between N15 and N20, 000, depending on their years of experience. Yet they work like horses. The Sun Education learnt that each subject teacher is made to teach all classes from the junior to the senior in the school said to have a fairly large population.

In addition, they not only act as class/form teachers and mark class registers, they are also expected to set weekly texts for all the classes and mark, grade and record them as part of their continuous assessments as well as prepare their term and sessional results. Then at the end of each term, they set exams for the students and mark, record and compile the results. This always leaves the teachers exhausted and sometimes sick. In spite of the unimpressive salary and untold suffering, they hang in on the job.

Giving an insight into why some private schools pay teachers meagre salaries desipite overusing them, Mrs. Mary Okey, Head Teacher of a nursery and primary school based in Tudunwda area of Abuja (she exonerated her school from the teachers’ poor salary syndrome), noted that the problem stems from the fact that private school owners derive their funds solely from tuition fees and sundry levies.

Schools which pay well versus those which don’t

A teacher who teaches English in a private school in Ikotun, Lagos, but who would not want his name nor the exact amount of his salary mentioned in print, disclosed that his salary is between N20, 000 and N30, 000. He blamed Nigerian teachers’ predicament on the ruling class, even as he argued that the teaching profession remains a noble profession where practitioners deserve the best deal. “When you look at the private sector, you’d notice that there are some schools that really pay teachers well,” he said. “But when you look at the percentage of those who pay well, and those who don’t, you’d notice that those who pay poorly are more than those who pay well.”

He is correct. The Sun Education investigation reveals that many private schools pay their teachers very well. They include Greensprings School, Anthony and Lekki campuses, Lagos, Deeper Life High School, Pampers Group of Schools, Surulere, Lagos, CEDEC International Group of Schools, Olodi Apapa, Lagos, Rainbow College, New Atlantic Hall, Lekki, Corona Group of Schools, Grace Schools, Gbagada, Lagos, Covenant Child Academy, Ijeshatedo, Lagos, Loral International School, Festac, Lagos, St. Jude Private School and many others. 

At Alaka in Surulere Local government, we encountered a teacher with Pampers Private Schools but who preferred anonymity. A Masters degree holder from the University of Lagos, she revealed that this is her 10th year as a teacher in the school. She receives a little above N100, 000 as her monthly salary. Mrs. Elizabeth Nneke, the Director of Studies, Covenant Child Academy, said she and other teachers in her school are lucky to work in a place where their efforts are adequately appreciated and rewarded. With first degree in Business Education and Masters in Guidance and Counseling, she said the issue of degree holders being paid N10, 000 and Masters, N20, 000 sounds like a fairy tale to her, though she refused to disclose her salary, noting that it is a private matter.

Apart from the salary, she said she had derived many benefits working in the school, one of which is the pleasure of attending international courses and tours to Ghana and South Africa. “Even this year, I would have travelled with the Project Director (Dr. Mrs. Delight Olise) to the United States of America (USA). But, I wasn’t granted a visa. These are all-expenses-paid by the school. And, I’m not the only one. There are several other teachers and staff who also travel abroad, courtesy of Covenant Child Academy.”

Why some schools don’t pay well and what TRCN is doing

The Principal of St. Jude Private School, Festac Town, Mr. Idowu Abayomi Shina said although his school pays its teachers handsomely well and does not overuse them, he reveals that the reason that many private schools are not able to do much for their teachers is due to excessive levies imposed on privately-owned schools by government. He lamented that private operators in this sector are made to bear the brunt of these levies even when they enjoy no form of assistance from government.

Even at that, the school proprietress, Mrs. Ijeoma Jatto, insists that the issue of good remuneration for teachers is of utmost importance to the development and stability of schools and growth of education generally. She is also of the view that motivating teachers transcends good salary to other incentives such as training and retraining.

Prof. Josiah Olusegun Ajiboye, the General Secretary, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), while acknowledging the disparity between the salaries of teachers who teach in public and private schools, assured that the council is aware and is doing something about it.

As he explained in a chat with The Sun Education, the Council has started interacting with proprietors of private schools in Nigeria. The aim, according to him, is first and foremost, to ensure that the teachers in their employment are certified, duly registered and licensed by TRCN. “You know before you talk of remuneration, you have to talk of professionalism first. That is the reason for the establishment of TRCN. When that is done, we will follow up on adequate remuneration. Like in other professions, there are benchmarks on the kind of salary you can take based on your qualification and status in that profession. Gradually, when teaching is firmly rooted as a profession, we will also come out with such benchmarks. For now, the minimum wage in Nigeria is N18, 000. We expect private school owners to abide by this. It is my conviction that very soon some of these issues will become a thing of the past. Professionalism is really the answer, and that’s the way to go.”

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