ON October 5 this year, the Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, gave out cars and monetary rewards to teachers in public schools in the state. He presented two customized KIA cars to two teachers at a rally held at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, as part of activities commemorating this year’s World Teachers Day. The cars were presented to the best teacher in primary and secondary schools as an act of appreciation of their role in imparting knowledge to the future leaders in the state. The runners-up also received N200,000 each, while the teachers that came third got all N100, 000 each.
Fayose equally gave N50 million to the teachers in the state and directed that the money be shared equally among them irrespective of grade and status. This, he said, was in recognition of the feat by the state, which came first in the results recently released by the National Examinations Council (NECO). The governor, who has made the rewarding of teachers a yearly exercise, urged the teachers to ensure that their students performed even better in subsequent examinations. “I am doing this because Ekiti’s name has been brought under the world’s focus once again, and it is my wish that our academic feat be repeated over and over again. After all, to whom much is given, much is expected,” he said.
Indeed, similar gestures have been made by government and corporate bodies in other states. For instance, in 2013, the Ogun State government presented cash awards to outstanding teachers in the state. In addition, there is the Maltina yearly competition, at which the nation’s best teachers get rewarded for their performance and patriotism. In a clime where teachers’ reward is said to await them in heaven, the gesture of rewarding teachers is no doubt salutary. Indeed, speaking at the World Teachers Day celebration in Lagos, the state deputy governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, insisted that teachers must receive and enjoy the rewards of their labour on earth, before doing so in heaven. She noted: “Our vision of providing the best education delivery for our citizens can only be achieved when adequate care and attention are given to our educators. This explains why the Lagos State government has always focused on ensuring the welfare, personal development, training and promotion of the educationists.”
It is good to reward achievement, especially by teachers who occupy one of the most important and critical sectors of national development. It is significant that since Governor Fayose started the reward scheme in Ekiti, there had never been any recorded protests about the choice of the awardees, meaning that their colleagues also recognised their sterling contributions to the impartation of knowledge. Besides, such a scheme has the potentiality to encourage other teachers to work harder and beat the records of the awardees of previous years.
It is indeed worthy of note that in spite of the recession in the economy, a few states in the country still manage to recognise the contributions of teachers in the society. In this connection, we urge all states in the country to emulate the gesture by the Ekiti State government. While teachers in fact deserve more and should be more handsomely rewarded, the fact that they are getting cars and cash may spur them to greater heights. More important, the symbolism of the reward is that the government still cares about teachers, who were once so important that parents competed in betrothing their daughters to the males among them for marriage.
Still, given the pivotal role that teachers play in national development, it would not be out of place for private individuals of proven integrity who have the means to initiate similar awards, in conjunction with the relevant state Ministry of Education. In addition, corporate organisations would do well to take an active interest in the welfare of teachers, quite simply because the job of rewarding teachers is that of the entire society. Many of the organisations have programmes in place to appreciate talents in the entertainment sector, particularly musicians. However, by initiating programmes to reward talents in the teaching profession, they would be contributing to national development on a grander scale. In the final analysis, however, the key to making Nigerian teachers have a sense of belonging in the society is to upgrade their conditions of service, and implement them strictly. That way, even if they are not getting awards, at least they would not be living like the dregs of society.