For almost a decade, Madam Jane, a mother of three, has been a teacher employed by the Local Government Education Authority, Zango Daji, Kogi State.
She gets her monthly take-home promptly, which she spent in providing her children's basic needs including their tuition fees.
Everything went on smoothly. She was able to feed her wards. In fact, for her, being a teacher was very rewarding until a sudden twist turned things topsy-turvy.
The state government tampered with the teachers' salary structure and payment system introducing one deduction or the other. Since then, many teachers have had to contend with the new reality since the new administration assumed office, five years ago.
As of 2015, Jane was on GL8 and due to her performance, within six years, she got promoted to GL12. With that, she had expected an increase in her take-home pay. But at the current level (GL12), she is paid the salary of GL9; worst still, pegged at N24, 000. This amount is by far lower than what she got while on GL8 when her take-home pay was N39,000.
"On grade level 9, I ought to be receiving about N62,000 but I am getting only N24,000. It is only the government that understands the percentage it uses to carry out the obnoxious deductions in the payment of teachers' salaries," she remarked in a sad tone.
Few moments into the interview, one of her colleagues had called to inform her that there was an error in the payment of salaries carried out the previous day. Thus, teachers should be prepared to make refund.
Again, this became cause for concern, not only to Jane but all the teachers as the state would still deduct from the take-home they already consider as grossly insufficient.
"As I speak with you now, there is no official directive to that but we will not be surprised if the rumour turns out to be true," she said.
At some point, Madam Jane had tried to start a business to supplement the dwindling uncertain salary package but access to capital was a challenge. She had wanted to secure a bank loan, where her salary was paid into, but the bank don't give teachers in the state loans.
Incidentally, Jane is not alone in the situation. There are scores of other teachers who face the same challenges as they strive to meet life's basic needs.
Some teachers' take home at the end of the month is as ridiculous as N5,000 due to the obnoxious percentage pay which found itself into the mode of payment since the present government came to power in the state.
Still, while this category of teachers considers themselves lucky to even expect a pittance at month-end, others have either been laid off over alleged certificate forgery or have been working for ages without salary.
This salary uncertainty is not peculiar to primary schools alone as the same scenario is replicated in secondary schools, where teachers are under the same fate.
At St. Mary Primary School, Lokoja, a teacher who sought anonymity told our correspondent that the teachers are in perpetual fear and cannot demand what they considered their fair deal.
"Let me tell you, in primary school, a director who is supposed to earn about N70, 000 goes home with about N40,000 because of the percentage deductions," another teacher said.
He said considering the significant roles played by teachers in developing the education sector, they should not be the ones suffering such pitiable experience. Government should be more concerned with boosting their morale.
He noted that the teachers' predicament began about five years ago when the present administration jettisoned the 75 per cent pay it inherited from the Alhaji Ibrahim Idris and Idris Wada administrations and instead, implemented a 25-30 per cent pay for teachers.
Mallam Mamuda Abubakar who teaches at a college in Lokoja also lamented the pathetic situation both primary and secondary schools teachers currently find themselves in the state.
He said the situation has degenerated to the extent that the two categories of teachers are not sure if at the end of the month, they would be paid their salaries or not.
"The situation in the state is such that some can be paid for three or four months, the payment is then suspended for some months and it is resumed again, even with payment of different amounts."
"You cannot predict your salary at the end of the month," Abubakar added.
As for him, the state is leading in the bad precedent for others to emulate, adding that hungry teachers lack the ability to impact knowledge.
Any amount welcome
Another primary school teacher, simply identified as Mr. Peter, said the percentage paid is determined by the payer and, "we cannot query it. We only pray that God changes the situation for the better."
Madam Jane has, however, decided to withdraw her children from private schools due to the development, and her inability to pay their school fees, and dealing with the cost of feeding.
She also resorted to asking friends and relations for financial assistance.
She said, "Considering the impecunious situation, any amount is welcomed."
"There is nothing like motivation by the government for teachers who are saddled with the onerous task of molding the future leaders".
Reacting, the state Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr Ayodele Thomas, lamented the inability of the union to help with the situation because primary school teachers, just as local government staff, are the property of local government.
He said it would be difficult for the union to fight for their interest when it is the function of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).
Meanwhile, the state Commissioner for Education, Mr Wemi Jones, could not be reached for comment as he did not pick calls or replied text messages sent to his number.