The plan to increase the retirement age of teachers in primary and secondary schools from 60 to 65 years is laudable. It is also gratifying that the Federal Government is backing the bill that will see the plan through which is being sponsored by the deputy chairman, House Committee on Public Service, Adekoya Abdel-Majid. The bill recently passed a second reading at the House of Representatives.
The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, disclosed this at a recent public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Basic Education and Public Service on the need to insulate teachers from the retirement age for public service.
The minister stated that the move would improve the standard of basic and secondary education in the country. He also contended that the policy would enhance the performance of teachers and the quality of teaching in the nation’s basic and secondary schools.
Abdel-Majid, who sponsored the bill, emphasised the great role that teachers play in the economic, technological and social development of any nation. He insisted that the more years a teacher spends on the job, the better he delivers his services to the learners based on the wisdom of age and experiences gathered over the years.
The lawmaker had argued that a vacuum was being created in the nation’s elementary and secondary education system, as teachers were being retired without commensurate recruitment.
We recall that some Nigerians had called for an increase in the retirement age of teachers in the basic and secondary education system. Early last year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, endorsed the move. He said at the time that since the retirement age had been raised in the tertiary institutions and the judiciary, the retirement age of teachers should be increased.
We applaud the calls for the increase in the retirement age of teachers in basic and secondary schools. The move is quite welcome. Over the years, many passionate teachers have been forced out of the teaching profession owing to their age. In many instances, such experienced teachers are allowed to leave the system when their services are mostly needed. Some of the lucky ones are engaged by private schools.
In a nation struggling with developmental challenges in almost all sectors, getting the qualified teachers is a herculean task. The country cannot continue to discard experienced teachers, especially when their services are needed the most.
At 60, some teachers are in their peak and still useful to the sector. So long as there are no signs of senility or incapacity, it is believed that a teacher gets more experience as he advances in age.
At the last edition of World Teachers Day in October, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented the shortage of teachers in the country. The president, who spoke through Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, noted that with over 10 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, no fewer than 250,000 new teachers are urgently needed in the country to achieve the recommended teacher to pupil ration of 1:30.
In many other climes, the age of retirement is being raised. Canada has increased the retirement age of its workers from 65 to 67. In the United Kingdom, Belgium, Switzerland and many parts of Europe, the retirement age is 65. It is 65 in Australia and India and between 62 and 67 in the United States.
Nigeria is in urgent need of teachers with experience to mentor the younger ones. In a society gripped by social vices perpetrated mostly by the youth, the importance of mentorship by well qualified teachers with many years of experience can hardly be overstated. Training and retraining of old teachers in modern teaching techniques, including, computer skills, is no less important. With the proposed raise in the retirement age of teachers, a refreshing blend of the old and the new might be what is needed to galvanise the education sector.
We are in agreement with Zakari Mohammed, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, that teachers are the bedrock of any nation. Indeed, their wealth of experience must be fully tapped into to enhance the wellbeing of the society. Preserving teachers in our schools until they are 65 can go a long way to achieve that laudable goal.