THE letter Nasir Garba, 43, received in 2013 was the last one that mattered.
It indicated that his request for a higher grade level — from entry level 6 to level 7 — had been approved by the Kebbi State Universal Basic Education Board (KBSUBEB).
In the month that followed, his salary reflected it. The process was fast. So when he requested another promotion in 2016, this time from level 7 to 8, and his monthly wage remained the same two months after approval, he considered it a minor error that would soon be rectified.
He was wrong. Instead, that began an unimplemented promotion issue that would last almost a decade. He would later request a promotion in 2019 and 2022 for levels 9 and 10. All the requests were approved but not implemented.
Nasir Garba teaches Information communication technology (ICT) at Gwandu Emirate Model Primary School, a government-owned school located in the Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi state capital.
The school is in the middle of the city, with four blocks, a story building, about 2001 students and 42 teachers, who, like Nasir, have received promotions with pay raise for years.
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Most class teachers are recruited at grade level six. After three years, they are qualified for a level upgrade. Once the promotion is approved, the teachers are entitled to a raise.
The Kebbi state Universal Basic Education Board (KBSUBEB) is responsible for processing and approving the promotions.
After approval, the Local government Education Authority (LGEA) in the 21 LGAs in the state is to pay the new teachers an increased monthly wage. However, this process is never completed.
Constitutionally, the role of the Kebbi UBE board is to appoint, promote, transfer, dismiss and discipline all teaching and non-teaching staff on grade level 07 and above in primary schools. And also supervise the affairs of the LGEAs.
Multiple promotions without financial benefits
The notification of payment Nasir received in November 2022 and shared with The ICIR showed that he earns N27,523 monthly, an amount below Nigeria’s minimum wage.
It is the same amount he earned in 2013 after he received the upgraded letter.
After working as a primary school teacher for 14 years, Nasir is entitled to N48,000 monthly wage as a grade level 10 teacher.
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The board had approved his application in January 2022, but his salary did not change.
“Last year, I moved to level 10, but my salary is still the same amount I earned about eight years ago when I was in level 7. I have accumulated promotions that are never reflected in my pay.
“I applied, provided all the required documents, and the documents were authenticated and approved, but I never got to enjoy the financial benefits. It is unfair,” Nasir told The ICIR.
Nasir’s case is not isolated. Teachers who spoke to The ICIR said promotion without a raise is an issue affecting every primary school teacher in the state.
Also, several teachers still earn below the minimum wage despite working for nearly a decade.
The Kebbi Government announced in 2019 that it had domesticated the new minimum wage legislation and was set to commence payment of the wage to civil servants.
But three years after this announcement, many civil servants still earn below N30,000. Although The ICIR could not get a full scale of the state’s teachers’ salaries, its finding showed that primary school workers still earn as low as N17,000 to N18,000 monthly.
Getting promoted is a hassle
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“After working for eight hours, five days a week for years, we are still denied our entitled wage”, Aminu Sani, the headmaster of the school where Nasir teaches, said.
Aminu cannot define his grade level. In the white file on his desk is a letter indicating that he is a grade level 16 teacher, but his monthly salary suggests he’s level 14.
Aminu’s discontent has peaked, but there’s not much he can do.
Aminu told The ICIR that getting approval can also be complicated and prolonged. And sometimes, the promotion is not free.
Despite the absence of financial benefits, some teachers still have to pay to get the promotion.
He said the cost of getting approval varies between N1000 to N3000, depending on what the official in charge demands.
Zainab, another Public primary school teacher in the state, who asked to be identified only by her first name, affirmed that getting the upgrade approved can be tiresome.
Although the promotion is without a pay raise, getting it can take a long time.
She recalled she had applied for her promotion to grade level 8 in early 2021 but did not get approval until November 2022.
Zainab said this was despite several visits, reminders, complaints and “nagging.”
“After going to the state education board many times, I gave up. The promotion won’t reflect in my salary anyway.”
Now, Zainab is a level 8 teacher with the same salary she earned at level 6.
As a result, the 29-year-old said she has been unable to provide for her family adequately.
The situation worsened when her husband, who she identified as Kasim, decided to further his education in 2020 and began to use his income for school fees.
Zainab, her husband and three children all had to rely on the N26,000 she earned to survive.
“It has been challenging; we barely have enough to eat,” she said, her lips slightly tightened.
It hurts Zainab to see that she cannot adequately support her husband; it hurts her to know that she cannot cater for her three children, but most burdensome is the fact she knows she’s to earn more.
Like Zainab, Ibrahim Mohammed delayed promotion has also affected his ability to care for his family.
The 34-year-old is displeased with the situation; as he spoke, his heavy sighs emphasised his weariness.
Ibrahim teaches Mathematics, English, and Basic science while working as an administrative officer at Justice Umar Model school in Kebbi.
The father of four is a grade level 13 with the salary of a level six employee.
Ibrahim has been a teacher for 13 years, and in that period, non of his promotions came with financial benefits.
“I have to show up for work before 7 a.m. I teach four subjects while working as the school administrative officer. Yet, I do not get what I deserve.
“I am not happy with this. The cost of food items and transportation keeps rising. I have a family, one wife and for children. I have to pay school fees, cater and feed my family. What I earn is barely enough for a person. Food is strictly rationed in my home because I don’t make enough when I could be doing better, he said to ICIR.
School teachers are tired but hopeful
Promotion without financial benefits has become customary in the state, according to Rukayat Shehu, an English teacher.
The primary three teachers who pleaded that her workplace remains undisclosed said every basic school teacher in the state has one, two or more promotions that did not reflect in her pay.
“This is our reality, and it has been our reality for a long time,
“Many of us are close to retirement, but we are paid the same amount we received much earlier in our careers.
“Every three to four years, we request for a level upgrade, they give us a letter showing that we have been promoted, and that’s all. Our salaries remain the same,” Rukayat said.
Another teacher, Abubakar Jabbo, an administrative staff at Majingari model school, said teachers still request promotions in the hope of being given the right salary someday.
Jabbo is at grade level 10 but still receives his level 6 salary of N26,000.
The school teacher told The ICIR that many teachers believe their promotion can be implemented anytime and want to be ready when that happens.
Jabbo said, “the only reason we still apply for this promotion is that we are hoping for a miracle. We do this because we carry the hope that this might change.
“I don’t know when and how. No one does, but we want to be ready if the government ever decide to resolve this.”
I am not aware – Kebbi UBE board chairman
When The ICIR contacted the chairman of the Kebbi State Universal Education Board (KBSUBEB), Suliaman Khalid Jega, he claimed to be unaware of the failure to implement the promotion of salaries.
Jega declined to speak, stating the names and email address pays the teachers’ salaries, not the commission.
He said although his commission approves teacher promotions, he cannot tell whether these promotions are implemented.
“Teachers working with the local government authorities are our teachers, but the local government is also a department of the local government councils of the 21 LGA and their salaries are paid by the local government to the local education authority. The board is not responsible for their wages.
“We are not responsible for the payment of these salaries and allowances. The chairman asked to be given some time to gather the required information.
The ICIR asked how long that would take, to which he replied, “just wait”.
The ICIR also made multiple attempts to reach out to the Permanent secretary of the state Ministry for Local Government, Sani Umar but was unable to get a response.
His phone number was unreachable, and he did not respond to text messages.
Also, mail sent to Umar’s official email address – [email protected] found on the ministry’s website did not deliver.
The ICIR also sent an email to the ministry but did not get a response.
Beloved John is an investigative reporter with International Centre for Investigative Reporting.
You can reach her via: [email protected]