It was supposed to be a very simple question. Mr Dare Akau, then Chairman, Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board, wanted stakeholders at an education summit to state the professions they’d love for their children.
Some said engineering; others said law, ICT, aeronautic piloting, journalism, army, among others.
Of the more than 200 stakeholders, only one, a woman, said that she would like her child to be a teacher.
The stakeholders, apparently, did not expect the next question.
“The professions you want for your children are good, but who will teach them to become what you want’’?
The obvious answer was “teacher’’, but they all appeared too ashamed to say it.
The old teacher had boxed them to a corner – the teacher their children can never be, will still be responsible for taking their valued kids to the dream fields!
The stakeholders’ rejection of teaching for their children typifies the attitude of many Nigerians to the noble calling that has suffered disdain and contempt over the years.
Analysts say that the disdain for the noble profession stems from the poor attention teachers had suffered over the years.
Indeed, for teachers, it has been a litany of woes. It is either they are owed several months of their very poor salaries or left stagnant without promotion or training for decades.
Payment of their salaries has often been juggled among the local, state and federal governments. At the lower rungs, teaching is most often left to women who see it as a light engagement that will offer them enough time to take care of the home front.
The basic foundation for the profession appeared even uprooted when the teachers colleges were scrapped, making the engagement an all-comers affair with those in it seen as the dregs of the society.
And, as if to totally condemn teachers to perpetual penury, it is always said that the teachers reward is in Heaven!
But the Nigerian society appears to offer some hope to the noble profession with the Federal Government announcing a very attractive package for teachers with effect from January 2022.
When implemented, teachers will earn fat salaries that will be about the most competitive in the country, while students studying education courses will be paid various stipends.
The Federal Government has also extended the retirement age for teachers from 60 years to 65 years, while service period has moved from 35 years to 40 years.
Teaching has also ceased to be an all-comers affair with the establishment of the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).
Already, the TRCN has given a deadline to unqualified teachers to upgrade their qualifications and skills and even commenced flushing out of quack teachers.
Some states have appointed school principals as Tutors-General. That rank is equivalent to Permanent Secretaries in status and emoluments.
In Kano State, Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje has carved out an area named “Teachers Reserved Area’’ so as to enable teachers to own plots of land and build houses of their own.
The private sector has not been left out as the Nigerian Breweries, the beverages giant, has started giving out mouth-watering awards to teachers adjudged to be the best in secondary schools across the federation, using its Maltina brand.
As stakeholders strive to make the profession attractive to woo in and retain the best brains, analysts have called for more stringent measures to avoid another negative tendency – people not interested in teaching, but strolling into it for the new juicy conditions there.
They say that the measures are necessary because all a graduate of other disciplines needs to become a professional teacher is a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education, which, from most accounts, is not difficult to get.
One such stakeholder is Deborah Charles, a specialist in education administration and planning.
“With the improved conditions, many will stray into teaching not because they are gifted or interested, but simply to get the benefits even when they cannot deliver the required service,’’ she said.
Charles also wants more attention to education faculties in universities to minimise the situation where they have become dumping grounds for students dropped by other faculties or fresh applicants rejected by other faculties.
“When I was doing my undergraduate programme, I observed that the Education faculty was treated as a dumpsite for students dropped from other faculties. That makes it a dumping ground when it is supposed to train teachers to teach all disciplines,’’ she said.
Sylvestre Usman, a Professor of Special Education, believes that improving teachers’ welfare is certainly a good step toward enhancing education, but adds that improving the quality of the schools is equally crucial.
“Most schools have poor structures. The roofs leak and classes are held under trees. Some learners hang on window sills while others sit on stones or bare floors, even in the universities.
“In Nigeria, many children of school age don’t attend schools. Some drop out of school to marry.
“Generally, Nigeria must invest a lot in education if we are to make the desired impact. We must recruit more teachers. In most primary schools in Kaduna State, there are no teachers after the mass sack over the past five years.
“Some primary schools have only one teacher. Most of the classes are overpopulated, some with more than 100 pupils!
“The widespread insecurity has made matters worse. With kidnappers, bandits, rapists and cultists terrorising the schools, many parents are scared to release their children, especially to boarding houses,’’ the don said.
Usman also decried the lack of constant supervision and declared that it was a major impediment to effective service delivery, regretting that public schools had quality teachers but don’t do much because no one checks them.
He pointed out that private schools with less-qualified teachers worked a lot because of tight monitoring and constant supervision, and argued that the missing link had devastating consequences.
Like Usman, many analysts have called for a more holistic approach toward tackling issues that impede quality education, and particularly reminded stakeholders that a nation is only as good as its education. (NANFeatures)