When Governor John Kayode Fayemi was sworn in for a second term as the executive governor of Ekiti State recently, his avowed priority was the restoration of the state’s core values of hardwork, honesty, and integrity.
Most importantly, the governor, not known for empty boasting, display of gangsterism or cheap populism, made it crystal clear that education was high on his priority list and he would give it the much desired premium.
No sooner had he mounted the saddle than the governor started walking his talk. Instantly, he removed the hostile policies imposed on education by his predecessor in office, revoked the education levies in primary and secondary schools and crowned it with the provision of N200 million to be accessed by the teachers as housing and car loans.
The loans, which are to be disbursed on a first come, first served basis, have placed the teachers in Ekiti State in the ‘numero uno’ position to receive such a largesse in this second coming of Governor Fayemi.
Education is a means of propagating the felt-end immediate norms and values of any society. It is also a means of subsisting the old norms and values of _*Omoluwabi*_ in a state like Ekiti.
The experience of teachers in the state, especially in the last four years, is not anything to write home about. They were swindled and scammed by a man who claimed to be their friend and Messiah. Their welfare was disregarded. They were called all sorts of names. They were regarded as a needy and desperate people. At the end, they were made to keep begging for their hard earned salary and allowances to no avail.
The same salary and other welfare packages the teachers were getting as rights during the first term of Governor Fayemi suddenly started eluding them. In the words of Dr. Amin Ladan, Director-General of the National Teachers’ Institute, “teachers across Nigeria are de-motivated because their remuneration was abysmally low. This in no little way is inhibiting the profession and quality of education in Nigeria.”
Dr. Fayemi, as a person who values and prioritises education, would hear no such thing and is determined to improve the lots of Ekiti teachers. To him, teaching, which he had also practised before, is a noble profession. It shapes characters, calibre and the future of a people. Next to his parents, the governor would credit teachers as his biggest influence.
Dr. Fayemi’s argument is usually that no amount of educational reform or progress would rise above the desires for good teachers, and for any societal aspiration to be met in education, the teacher factor cannot be undermined.
During his first term in office, the governor’s love for teaching and the passion to see it as the noblest profession in Ekiti was grossly misinterpreted by the teachers themselves, while political rivals mischievously feasted on the cracks that ensued as a result of the misunderstanding. Some of the policies Governor Fayemi introduced, which were meant to assist the teachers in their capacity building, were either not properly communicated or misunderstood as an intention to demote, sack or promote some teachers. This resulted in misgivings, mudslinging and eruption of a wide gulf between the teachers and the governor.
But today, the governor has assured that he has come to bridge the gulf with the policies that will place the teachers’ welfare in the front burner.
The teachers too, rather than still clutching to the memories of those misinterpreted policies, should cast their minds back to those good old days when their salary and allowances were being paid by the governor as a matter of priority, when the governor increased their salary thrice in four years, when they were being paid relativity package, and when 25 per cent was attached to teaching in rural areas, and when they were being paid core subject allowance.
Those good old days are here again. Seeing that the profession he hallows and loves to identify with lost so much shine within a spate of four years of his absence, and the teachers were treated to miserly compensation for their responsibility, Fayemi, in words, actions and through body language, is assuring teachers again of his unflinching commitment to their welfare.
It takes two to tango. Fayemi believes that only well-motivated teachers can mould excellent students. The teachers too would want to reciprocate a good gesture by raising the standard of teaching. Unfolding events between the governor and the teachers will prove to anyone that the new understanding is working.
After all, it is the day two well-connected fingers decide to remove stubborn lice from the head that such lice would give up their unholy clinging on the hair. Certainly, the students will be the better for the new government-teacher understanding in Ekiti and the state will return to its exalted position in education again.
Dipe, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Fayemi on Public Communications, writes from Ado Ekiti.