BY LAJU ARENYEKA & JOSEPHINE MBAEBIE
It is often said that a teacher’s reward is in heaven alone. The reason for such a belief is not far-fetched – teachers in this part of the world are some of the most poorly paid professionals, with some graduates being paid as low as N20,000 per month. In spite of this, a recent survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) rates the teaching profession as the highest employer of labour in Nigeria, garnering a total of 70, 183 people from the employment market.
According to the survey which covers the third quarter of 2012, for 29,308 of this figure, with primary school teachers following closely with 16, 970 and lecturers in higher education standing at 9, 757. This development does make stakeholders wonder: “Has education become a dumping ground for people who cannot get jobs elsewhere? What could this mean for the quality of education children are receiving? And how many more teachers need to be pumped into the sector to solve the education crisis? In this report, stakeholders in the education sector give answers to these and more.
Mr. Emmanuel Jonathan, the principal of Pricom College in Lagos, speaking on this development said; “It is easy to get employed in the educational sector one because a lot of school administrators don’t really pay well. This backfires on the sector in the sense that because the sector pays peanuts, it tends to attract low quality teachers who are simply trying to pass the time until they find something better to do.”
For Mrs. Maureen Emedike, the Proprietress, Crystal Foundation School, this is not the only reason why the classroom attracts the largest number of hands. The upsurge of private schools as a result of government’s inability to fund the public schools has given rise to the need for more and more teachers.
“It is no surprise that more people are needed to attend to students than in other professions,” she said. “Children need more people to attend to them and educate them; for example in primary schools, you will need up to 10-12 teachers while in secondary schools, you will need close to 15 or more because of the subjects being offered. This is why there is more vacancy in educational sector than in other fields.”
Mrs. Chinyere Nwabueze is also an employer of labour in the education sector. She opined that many in the teaching profession see it as a second option because they could not get employment in other fields: “I agree with these statistics, because some of our teachers here studied medicine, engineering, political science and they were not employed in their fields. You will also notice that those coming out of school are all going into teaching because there are no more job opportunities for them to really practice what they have studied.”
Benjamin Udu is one of such teachers: “I studied accounting at the University. Teaching is not my desire at all, I was hoping to get a job in a bank or audit firm, but I couldn’t find a job in those sectors. I am also thinking of becoming an entrepreneur but there isn’t really enough capital. Teaching is a last resort for me, I am submitting my Curriculum Vitae in different places and awaiting their call.”
Director General of the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Kaduna, Dr. Aminu Ladan Sharehu, recently disclosed that “over 80 per cent of teachers in the north are unqualified to teach, unlike in the South.” Northern Nigeria is not the only zone with under-qualified teachers, just recently, the media was awash with the shaming news of a teacher in Edo state who could barely read her own credentials.
According to a report by the National Commission for Colleges of Education last year, it would take the country 20 years to produce the 1.3 million teachers required to bridge existing shortfall at basic education level. A more recent report by the United Nations puts the number of out of school children in Nigeria at 10.5 million.