By Maria Famakinwa
The recent approval of retirement age for teachers in Ondo State by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, has continued to excite teachers in the State as most of them who lauded the idea disclosed that it would go a long way to boost teachers morale and enable the students to benefit from their wealth of experience.
Teachers play essential role in education, most especially in the lives of their students. Teachers don’t only teach, they act as alternative parents. They counsel, mentor and correct students when the need arises. Their roles are so important that every profession must pass through them. They change lives, inspire dreams, and push the limits of human potential. Little wonder the saying that no nation can develop above the quality of its teachers. Some stakeholders in the education sector spoke with The Hope on this development.
In the reaction of the State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Comrade Victor Amoko, said that the service elongation would keep experienced teachers in the profession to continue to impart knowledge to the students.
While adding that it gives opportunity for young teachers to learn from the old ones, Amoko noted that many experienced and energetic teachers had left the profession due to the short time they had in service. He further stated that the new service and retirement age will allow teachers reach the peak of their career.
His words: “With this extension, I think some of the teachers can still gather another two good promotions which will enables them reach the peak of their career and some of these teachers who are retiring are still in action. When you look at some teachers that retired a year ago, you can still see them agile and some of them can become farmers, they are still in action to do the job.
“Since they have the experience, let them remain for the next five years so that the experience will speak for them. Besides, developed countries do not approve 60 years retirement age for teachers.
We have 67 in the United Kingdom, 70 in China and 65 years in the United States of America. With this new retirement age, the state will benefit, teachers will benefit, the children will benefit and the whole population will benefit,” he said.
Sharing a similar view, a school Headmistress, Mrs Agnes Asere, while appreciating Governor Akeredolu, said that the new retirement age would allow experienced teachers impart more knowledge to the pupils.
She added that many retired teachers are still strong and mentally fit to be in classroom stating that the 60 years retirement age threw them out of service and noted that the service extension is a form of motivation for them.
Another public school teacher, Mr Ayodele Awofemi, who also commended the idea of the Governor said that it would go a long way to enable the students benefit from their wealth of experience.
He said: “The new retirement age for teachers is a pointer to the fact that the state government recognized the contributions of teachers. You cannot buy experience, so you need old hands who will train the new ones. The only thing I want to appeal to the state government is the regular payment of teachers salaries. Paying teachers regular salaries with the new retirement age will help to motivate them better.”
In the submission of another teacher, Mr Adetunji Ademola, increasing teachers retirement age to 65 years will help to better the standard of education in the State. “It is long overdue because if this had been approved earlier, some good teachers would have still be in the service to improve learning. My view is that experience is important; if the person is still medically fit, if the person is still productive and relevant, there is no problem with teaching till 65. There are possible medical conditions with getting old; high blood pressure for example but if the person is still healthy and adheres to medical advice, there would be no problem.”
Ademola, who said that it is a way of retaining the experienced hands, further cautioned that due to the prevalence of dementia in old people, it should be looked out for in teachers.
“Talking about dementia, only three to 10 per cent, that is between one in 10 and one in 30 old people have dementia. Also, when people are older than 65 there is a higher risk of dementia. This means that increasing the retirement age by five years will not increase the prevalence that much. However, such individuals would have shown features like being forgetful, missing their way, missing classes, teaching the wrong things and other behavioural changes that would indicate that something is wrong.
“However, those who have medical conditions before the age of 60, medical files of such individuals can be checked for excuse from duty for medical reasons; they can be assessed by a doctor to see if they are healthy enough to continue. But those that have remained healthy can just go through routine health checks to make sure their blood pressure, sugar level and eyesight are fine.
Reacting differently, a teacher, Mrs Victoria Bayode, said that she was not in support of the new retirement age stating that it would prevent the injection of new blood into the system.
Her words: “To me, younger hands should be employed and those who have attained retirement age should be allowed to go and care for themselves. No matter how sound a teacher can be, once he/she attains the age 60 law of diminishing return will surely set in. What is the essence of retiring at age 65 and be useless to oneself? If younger ones are employed, those approaching retirement age will be able to train them. This is how to impart knowledge. “Though, some teachers might be happy about the 65 years retirement age but not all of us. It is not about increasing the retirement age for teachers but about giving learners quality education.”