By Ujunwa Atueyi
The recent pronouncement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, that the National Assembly will increase teachers retirement age from 60 to 65 years has generated disagreement in the industry, with many describing it as the worst package for teachers.
From the speaker’s viewpoint, the overall aim was to retain more experienced teachers in the public primary and secondary school system, as according to him, “wine gets better with age.”
While some argued that such policy move requires due consideration of differences and peculiarities in various states, owing to the unemployment rate in the county, others insisted that the proposal is in the best interest of the Nigerian child.
Dogara had while receiving a delegation from the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) mooted an upward review of teachers’ retirement age to benefit Nigerian children.
“We have done it for the tertiary institutions and the judiciary, so nothing should stop us from taking the bull by the horns. It was the same consideration that motivated us to raise that of university lecturers and judges. So this is something we can pursue.
The National President of NUT, Comrade Alogba Olukoya reportedly called for the review to increase the teacher retention rate in our schools.
However, the beneficiaries of the gesture has described the development as undesirable, leaving many to wonder if the leadership of the union is actually representing or misrepresenting the views of their members.
A director and technical drawing teacher at Lagos State Technical College, who pleaded anonymity, said the proposal is not a good package for teachers in the light of what is happening in the country.
“This is the worst package for teachers! Those mooting the idea have argued that it has been done in tertiary schools and the judiciary but I want to state that the working condition of teachers and those in the universities and judiciary differs.
“When a devoted teacher gets to the age of 60, his outputs, effectiveness and productivity diminish. It is better to employ young graduates and continually train and exposed them to the demands of the society than retaining a director.
A retiree, Mrs. Victoria Benson, argued that every committed teacher should retire at age 60 to pay attention to his health and some signs that come with ageing, adding that since government does not have adequate and functioning retirement plan for tits workforce, those who can do 65 to 70 years can use the additional five years to plan for their retirement.
She said “It depends on individual’s health, some people are very fit and can go beyond 60 years of age and still be very active in service, while some might not be up to 60 years and they are already weak, inefficient and unproductive. So health status is very vital in deciding when teachers are due for retirement. So for me as a retired teacher, it is good for every teacher to retire at 60.
“Anybody that is committed and dedicated must have imparted, mentored and transferred knowledge to reasonable number of learners and young teachers before age 60, after that age, I wonder the kind of impact such an individual will still make. Those supporting the proposal might be looking at the financial benefits. Government is not taking care of the retirees and one can use the extra five years to save for retirement.
But the Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servant of Nigeria (ASCSN), Kings’ College, Lagos, Mr. Uche Chukwuemeka Jude, has described the pronouncement as the best thing that is about to happen in the sector.
He said, “It is a good development for teachers as experience matters a lot. It is not really good to have new entrant into the system without being mentored and it is the old ones that would mentor the new ones. So the leadership of the union has done greatly.”