Benin, Jos, Yenagoa, Ilorin, Dutse and Umuahia — A bill seeking for the extension of the retirement age of basic and secondary schools' teachers from 60 to 65 years has been presented to the National Assembly, with Minister of Education Adamu Adamu saying, at a public hearing on the proposed bill that allowing teachers stay longer in the profession was a step in the right direction.
However when the news broke, it threw the educationists into a division - some welcoming the proposal premised on a number of grounds and others kicking against it.
Edo State secretary of the Nigeria Union Teachers (NUT), Moni Modesty-Itua, said the advantages of extending the retirement age for teachers far outweigh the disadvantages in the sense that it would give room for experienced teachers to control students, adding that at present, skilled teachers have become veritable tools for private schools after retirement where they continue to impart quality education.
"As you know, government has not been employing teachers across the country leading to shortage of teachers. So, with the new retirement age, there will be qualified teachers who will handle teaching in matured ways," the state NUT scribe stated.
He said the bill has potential to improve the standard of education.
Also speaking, a basic education teacher, Joe Ileogben, concurred that reforming retirement age was a good development.
"There is shortage of teachers in our schools and the older teachers have garnered experience; are very active and can also deliver quality education," he said.
He said knowledgeable teachers would further help the authorities in the area of policy formulation.
Plateau State NUT Chairman Comrade Ayuba Gana, who was also at the public hearing, said the move would ensure teacher professional development.
Gana said the bill is welcome because new teachers would easily acquire skills from the experienced ones.
The NUT chairman called on the relevant authorities to do all it takes to ensure speedy passage of the bill.
The Headmistress of Vatt Primary School in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area, Plateau State, Esther Samson, said government must carefully examine all options before accepting the new age, adding that it would be of assistance to the education system.
A lecturer with the International Institute of Tourism and Hospitality, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Mr Deedee Edsintei, described the planned increase in the retirement age for teachers in public secondary schools as a welcome development which would not only boost productivity, but expertise in the educational system.
Highlighting the importance of the plan, Edsintei, said it would help in improving the educational system in the country, as basic and secondary schools were the foundation for education.
He said: "It is a cheerful development if government agrees to have secondary education teachers retire at the age of 65 to 70 years, because secondary and basic education are very important; we need maturity and experience to groom our young generation.
"The curriculum these days is not like what we had in the olden days, so I expect the Federal Government to ensure that teachers undergo trainings so that as they are getting older, the productivity in the system gets better.
"Teachers in both tertiary institutions and secondary schools are doing the same job; if the retirement age for those working in the tertiary institutions is 65, it should be extended to those in secondary schools," he said.
A teacher in Kwara State, Malam Tiamiyu Mukhtar Akanji, also said extending teachers' retirement age is a good development but government should also pay attention to their welfare and professional development while in service.
"Teachers usually retire but are not tired. So the authorities should even reduce their age to get them stay longer in service as that will reduce discrepancies in the age issue. This is evident in the agility of some teachers even after their retirement.
"Their salaries and retirement benefits should also be considered," Akanji said.
Another teacher, Mr Abubakar Abdulwahab, similarly expressed optimism that the new retirement plan, if implemented, would change a lot about the teaching profession, adding that the welfare of teachers should be considered alongside the age limit.
In Jigawa State, Iro Abdullahi, a Junior Secondary School teacher, said if the plan becomes reality, it would be one of the great ideas that would take education to the 'next level' in the country.
Abdullahi, argued that the wealth of experience of those that put several years in the field of teaching would remain not only a great asset to the sector but a window for formal change in education in the country.
He pointed out that if the basic level was fixed well, all other stages of education would be attained without much headache and that the retirement age increment would expand the room for mentorship as new teachers would find it easy to obtain effective guidance for better performance.
Abdullahi, however explained further that as good as the policy is, it also has some negative consequences, saying that where the older teachers could not retire as usual, there won't be room for the younger ones.
"As much as we love to benefit from the wealth of experience of the old hands in the profession, that does not mean we will turn a blind eye to the need for the younger generation to come in. The danger is when you don't inject new blood; continuity will remain a stumbling block," he noted.
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor, Academics, Federal University Dutse, Professor Usman Adamu Izge, said it was a step in the right direction, looking at the teacher deficit at basic and secondary schools in the country, adding that over the years, teachers were retiring and government on its part was not recruiting and that had created a gap in the teacher-student ratio.
But Prof Izge said the biggest minus to the policy was that there would not be room for tnew teachers.
A teacher at Government College Umuahia, Abia State, Mr Obinna Ihejirika, said the plan would allow teachers to get additional skills and that an experienced teacher was required to handle certain students than a newbie.
He said the only disadvantage inherent in the plan was that the young graduate teachers may take some time before getting into the system.
Mrs Francesca Onuoha, a social studies teacher at Community Secondary School, Ikwuano, also in Abia, however disagreed with the plan saying that extending retirement age by five years has a negative effect on the economy and the students.
In her words: "Extra years mean extra money to pay salaries, benefits, and if you don't pay them, they won't want to stress themselves, they will draw the economy backwards.
"The money that will be used to pay them can be used to open up more roads, and other projects for the benefit of the people. After 35 years teachers in serviceshould go and rest," she said
Also, a retired school principal, Mr Vincent Nwanneukwu, said absence of experienced teachers in the educational sector had to an extent contributed to the deteriorating standard of education. He said most of the graduate teachers were not employable because they lacked the requisite knowledge to handle student needs.
He said the proposal might reduce employment opportunities and some of the old teachers may lack the necessary ICT skills for a digital classroom.
Usman A. Bello, Dickson S. Adama, Bassey Willie, Romoke W. Ahmad, Aliyu M. Hamagam & Linus Effiong