Is Teachers’ Reward Still In Heaven? | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Is Teachers’ Reward Still In Heaven?

Posted: Jun 24, 2016 at 2:49 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)


By Chuks Osuji

A couple of years ago, specifically in 1987, I read a novel titled “the ugly citizen.” Three people were characterised separately in one episode. One was a school teacher, another was a bus driver while the last was a security guard at the government office. They were locked up in a brief argument. The subject of their argument was their position in Heaven. They were asked to re-state their position regarding getting the reward of their services here on earth or in heaven.

The school teacher without even thinking over the question quickly replied that he would like to have his reward in Heaven. The bus driver preferred to have the part of the payment here on earth on getting to heaven, the balance should be given to him.

On his part, the security guard preferred to get his own full payment here on earth, on reaching Heaven, his record should read, “fully paid.” And that was what he would prefer without any question because he was not sure whether there would be any question, because given what is happening to retired persons here in Nigeria, particularly those pensioners in Imo State who trooped out in large number to demonstrate the non-payment of their several years of arrears by the State Government.

There was no doubt that throughout Nigeria today, many States particularly those in the South are finding it difficult to pay salaries to their staff members not to talk of pensioners.

However, what seems to have made the Imo case more spectacular was demonstration of hundreds of pensioners who trooped out on the 16th of June in Owerri, the State capital.

The demonstration by the pensioners in Imo State was a culmination of anger and frustration due to unstoppable inconvenience of being asked by the Government to appear for verification.

The protest match by the pensioners was indeed a gory tale of dejected, sick, failed and physically weakened individuals, which many could neither match nor even keep up with other colleagues, who were busy trying to help the “falling heroes of their fatherland” for having served their country for years, given out their youthful energy, brain and efforts.

By the time the demonstration was over, three pensioners had collapsed. Fortunately, there was some medical personnel around to render immediate service to ensures that they did not die, lest, they would have become martyrs of pensioners struggles for their pensions arrears and gratuities.

It is sad that the welfare of pensioners in this State has become a matter of debate and public discourse. This is indeed a new dimension to the economic culture of administration in this country.

Before now, people looked up to the day when they would retire. On retirement, they went home with a lot of gifts and other things from the government including their first payment of gratuities. Although what was being paid to them was not much, it was enough to help resettle them to a new kind of life.

Then and only then, going on leave as a government worker was exciting and a thing of joy. And retirement was something to be celebrated and rejoice over. Today, things have fallen apart and in pieces too. Government workers are no longer working with rest of mind, as government could throw up policies anytime; if not for sudden retirement, it will be for reposting to another department. More so, it could be that a new set of personnel has suddenly been sent as concessioners etc. Working for the government nowadays has become a nightmare.

But nobody can deny the fact that the economy of this country including that of the States has nose-down for the worse. And nobody will deny the fact that Owelle’s Administration started on a good note by paying three months arrears to pensioners. For this, the pensioners cheered him even went as far as declaring him “a saint and God sent.” Some out of curiosity alluded that he had cleared all their pension arrears.

Although the Governor had acknowledged the pensioners’ rights to protest to ask for their legitimate rights, he has also commended them for being peaceful in their protest. But the question is this: how could the government have allowed some of the pensioners to be owned as much as thirty six months in arrears, particularly the IBC retired staff?

Much as we sympathized with the government for running into a harsh and had economic circumstances, nothing can excuse it for what appears to be outright neglect of this crucial aspect of its responsibilities and must urgently do something about it, giving serious attention to IBC retired workers and many primary school teachers who are being owed several months.

One thing is certain, no teacher in Imo State today, whether in service or retired can say that he or she want his reward in Heaven. They would prefer to get rewarded here on earth, and on reaching Heaven, their record could be adjusted with the inscription, “paid.” Initially, this is not what they have hoped for.