By Dayo Adesulu
AS Nigerian teachers join their counterparts all over the world to celebrate the World Teachers’ Day, stakeholders in the teaching profession have lamented the precarious state of Nigerian teachers in the comity of teachers globally. The 2016 World Teachers’ Day with the theme -‘Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status’ was described by teachers as most apt for the Nigerian where our teachers deserved to be celebrated for being the pivot of socio-economic development.
Nigerian teachers who spoke to Vanguard decried their poor teaching conditions, stressing that teachers are not so treated with disdain globally. According to them, whereas the Nigerian teachers are still using blackboards and chalks for teaching in the 21st century, their counterparts in other countries are using whiteboards and markers, noting that many countries of the world have even gone beyond the use of whiteboard to interactive classroom system, coupled with teaching aids. While teachers in many countries of the world are well remunerated, they maintained that teachers in Nigeria were not only poorly paid, but many were being owed several months of unpaid salaries.
Overloaded classrooms Comparing teachers in Nigeria to their counterparts globally, they described in Nigeria working conditions as appalling, adding that the average Nigerian teachers, apart from few private schools, were working under poor conditions of service. According to Vanguard investigations, many teachers, especially in public schools are compelled to work in overloaded classrooms of 80 to 100 pupils without electricity, and comfortable office chairs and tables. They argued that the manner in which the federal and state governments handled teachers makes the society to hold teachers and the teaching profession in low esteem. “How many teachers in Nigeria are computer literate and what is the government doing to upgrade teachers’ knowledge in computer literacy,” they quarried. Making allusion to what a typical teacher and the teaching profession were like in those days, stakeholders noted that in the good old days, teachers were highly regarded in the society as they exerted great influence and authority on the people and were subsequently ranked second in command after the traditional chiefs. “That informed the reason many teachers in those days were given free accommodation and scholarships for further studies,” they said. They pointed out that in those days, a student would rather prefer his mother beats him when he commits an offence at home, than she reported him to his class teacher, the punishment and the shame at the assembly ground could be better imagined. The question begging for an answer is: Where did we begin to get it wrong and how did our teachers suddenly lose their prestige? In his reaction, the Provost of Michael Otedola Primary College of Education (MOCPED), Professor Olu Akeusola, said that the day we abrogated Grade II teachers colleges in Nigeria was the time we killed teachers education and subsequently education. Akeusola who maintained that the standard of education was not falling, but the quality, explained that what was instrumental to a very good foundation in the past, was our being able to develop teacher education. He noted that if teacher education was developed, it would create a methodology of passing the information to the younger generation adding, “unfortunately, we have destroyed that solid pillar foundation of teacher education. Teachers can only be what the society or government wants them to be. In those days, teachers were highly respected and compensated. Since the colonial teachers brought education, we were able to discover the purpose of education. But now, we cannot maintain the purpose. In those days, teachers were second in command to the colonial masters because they taught teachers to become interpreters in palaces. “What we had in the past was a very good and solid teacher education. That was the time we were having Grade III, Grade II, Grade I and the like. By then, these teachers that were more co-ordinated with methodology were able to use their knowledge to teach the pupils. The students that were well trained at the primary and secondary levels now went to the university. Any student who does not have a good primary and secondary foundation cannot be lectured at all in the university. Let us bring back Grade II as senior secondary school education so that anybody that finishes will either go to college of education or university. We must train our teachers right away from secondary school level. If not, we will keep on going backward.” On the way forward, he said: “Government should spend 25% of our budget on education. Education is that sector that will develop every other sector. If education is messed up, the entire sectors of the economy will be messed up. If education is developed, it will develop economy, technology and every other thing. The federal government should see to the development of education in Nigeria.’’ On his part, former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Peter Okebukola, said that if we assert that teachers make up the fulcrum of the education lever, the conclusion is that the story of Nigeria’s development over the last 56 years is largely the story of its teachers. According to him, if we take quality teachers out of our development equation, Nigeria will be in the backwaters of nations in the world. “Here we are today, boasting of being the second largest economy in Africa and among the leading countries in the region on many development indicators. To all Nigerian teachers past and present, we should say “all hail”, the teachers, he said. Sadly, he observed that our teachers were hardly valued, stressing that in more than half of the states of the federation, teachers were being owed salaries running to several months. He said: “So, they will mark the 2016 World Teachers’ Day on empty stomachs unable to pay school fees of their children as schools resume; and unable to wear decent clothes and live in homes with minimal comfort. He, however, urged government in Nigeria at all levels to pay more attention to the plight of teachers in terms of improving their welfare. At the federal level, he pointed out that the Buhari administration is doing its best in the circumstance, adding that State governments are most guilty in terms of not giving teachers their due. Status of teachers His words: “Improving the status of teachers is beyond money. It includes building their capacities to ensure they deliver better quality education. Today, almost half of the teachers in Nigeria have severe quality deficiencies. Government at all levels must take steps to improve the quality of teachers through better pre-service and in-service training. Agencies concerned with registration of teachers and regulating their training should evolve more vibrant methodologies for delivering on their mandate. Here we are looking at Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), National Universities Commission (NUC), National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE). Many of our teachers are sub-standard and we need to tighten quality assurance. We need to tool teachers better in a fast-evolving ICT world to enable them take full advantage of ICT to deliver the curriculum. We need to better resource our schools so that Nigerian teachers will have more clement environment with which to work. Mr. Goke Gbadebo, a teacher at New Christfield College, Ikorodu said that he is proud being a teacher adding that whenever he imparts knowledge to students, he feels fulfilled. He, however, frowned at the attitude of the government and the society, lamenting that teachers were not treated with the respect they deserve. ‘’Government and the society must place value on the teachers, commend and celebrate them. Teachers should be well remunerated and made happy because if they are not happy, they will not be able to give their best.’’ Challenge of recession For Mr. Paul Oguchi, a teacher at Dampress Schools, Lagos, salaries of teachers should be reviewed so as to meet up with the challenge of recession in the country. He said though he was not happy being a teacher, he was, however, glad that he was imparting knowledge. On her part, Mrs. Yetunde Oresanya, a teacher at Okota Junior High School, Lagos applauded Governor Ambode for prompt payment of teachers’ salaries in the State. She said: “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is trying for us. On 22nd of every month our salaries are paid, making us to be happy. For me, if it is possible, Ambode should continue till the next 12 years because of the prompt payment of our salaries.” Oresanya, however urged the government to replace retired teachers with new ones for better productivity. Asked, how many students in her class, she said, 40.