Ademola is a teacher at a public school in Lagos, Nigeria. He has been teaching for over 10 years, and he loves his job. But in recent years, he has found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
Nigeria’s inflation rate has been rising steadily in recent years, and it is now over 20 per cent. Headline inflation in September was an over 18-year-high of 26.72 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This means that the prices of goods and services are rising faster than people’s incomes.
In addition, the naira has been floated, which means that its value is determined by the market. This has led to a weakening of the naira against other currencies. On the black market where forex is sold unofficially, the exchange rate appreciated by a marginal 0.39 per cent, quoted at N1295/$1, while peer-to-peer traders quoted around N1148.01/$1, according to Nairametrics, an online financial and business newspaper.
These factors have made it very difficult for Ademola to afford the necessities of life. His salary has remained the same, but the prices of food, rent, and transportation have all increased significantly.
For example, a 50kg bag of rice that used to cost 8,500 naira in 2015 now costs 45, 000 naira, representing a 429.412 per cent increase. A litre of petrol that used to cost an average of 100 naira in 2015 now costs an average of 600 naira, a 500 per cent increase, due to the removal of petrol subsidy. And the rent for his apartment has increased by 50 per cent in the past year.
As a result of these rising costs, Ademola has had to cut back on his expenses. He no longer eats out as often, and he has had to cancel his subscription to the gym. He has also had to put off buying new clothes and shoes.
Ademola’s story is not unique. Many Nigerians are struggling to make ends meet due to the rising inflation rate and the floating of the naira. This is especially true for teachers, whose salaries have not kept up with the rising cost of living.
The government needs to take steps to address the rising inflation rate and the weakening of the naira. If it does not, many Nigerians will continue to struggle to make ends meet, and their wallets will continue to shrink.
On 26 October, 2023 in a Facebook community, Concerned Parents & Educators Network, an anonymous member asked, ‘How can Nigerian teachers survive this economy’ and a flurry of solutions were offered including financial literacy tips and business ideas. Commenting on this post a teacher narrated that her salary cannot ‘take her home’ anymore. She resorted to taking loans to feed and offset her debts, these were not enough either and the interest on the loans has been compounding.
As expected, the views diverged. Some held that some teachers are unduly attached to their salaries and are risk averse, afraid of being sacked. Others suggested that school owners could help by allowing teachers to close on time so they can attend to side hustles and school owners owing salaries should settle the arrears. Some added that there are school owners who have banned home lessons as a side hustle for teachers. A sterner criticism of private schools was that teachers were entitled to only their salary without health insurance, pension or tax remission.
However, a business idea came from a teacher, who moved from Bayelsa to settle in Lagos. In her view, teachers are not peculiar because the economic headwinds affect every Nigerian. To deal with her meagre wallet, she started selling Nembe crayfish from Bayelsa as a side hustle. She contacted a fisherman she knew for supplies and sold them in the evening after school and she made more than her salary in two weeks and in six months she started distributing to nearby market women. She has stopped teaching in schools and does mathematics lessons only.
There were other business ideas from many teachers in the Facebook community. Some came from a teacher who has 19 years of teaching experience. He has run side hustles from owning a barber’s shop to a video club, home lessons, farming, and tailoring among others.
We believe that teachers have to in addition to building multiple streams of income, learn how to contain their expenses, as well, by cutting out wastes. This will be a subject for an entire article.
One way that teachers can cope with the rising cost of living is to start an online business. This can be a great way to supplement their income and earn extra money.
One teacher who has been successful in starting an online business is Oladipo. Oladipo is a teacher at a public school in Abuja, Nigeria. She started an online business selling educational resources for teachers and students.
Oladipo was able to start her online business with the help of a mentor. Her mentor helped her to develop a business plan, create a website, and market her products.
Oladipo’s online business has been successful. She now earns more money from her online business than she does from her teaching job. This has allowed her to improve her quality of life and provide a better future for her children.
We understand that entrepreneurship through side hustles can be tough to start for teachers for lack of time or capital and that many private school owners frown at it because of the divided attention it may cause. We hold that enlightened self-interest dictates that teachers secure their financial futures by taking advantage of extra-money-earning opportunities around them.
Remember, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities, but of their advantages,” Adam Smith, stated 247 years in his ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’, Vol 1.
This means in the context of teachers’ shrinking wallets, it is not from the benevolence of school owners that teachers should expect to secure their financial future because school owners are looking out for their self-interest. Teachers ought to look out for themselves as well. This is not cast in the mould of perennial struggle between owners of the means of production such as school owners and suppliers of labour, in this case, the teachers. No, Marxism has its merits but we are interested in both parties’ best interests.