By Dayo Adesulu, Elizabeth Uwandu & Kelechukwu Iruoma
STakeholders in education sector, especially Nigerian teachers, yesterday, while celebrating the 2016 World Teachers’ Day, critically identified the abrogation of Grade II teacher, unworkable curriculum and poor remuneration, among others, as the bane of our education standard. Just as it has been disclosed that Nigeria’s education system has lost its glory by occupying the 145th position in primary education advancement in the world’s record.
While some believe that the standard of education in Nigeria has fallen, others do not agree, arguing that the standard has not fallen, but the quality has fallen.
Tracing the missing link between the standard and the quality, it was discovered by some experts that the day the Nigerian government under President Ibrahim Babangida abrogated Grade II education which was primarily responsible for producing trained teachers, it killed the means to quality education.
According to them, not everyone who teaches in school possesses the methodology of imparting knowledge to students. Grade II teachers were trained to passionately teach students effortlessly.
Nigerian teachers who spoke with Vanguard decried their poor teaching conditions, noting that teachers are not so treated with disdain globally. According to them, whereas the Nigerian teachers are still using blackboards and chalks in the 21st Century, their counterparts in other countries are using whiteboards and markers, adding that many countries have even gone beyond the use of whiteboard to interactive classroom system, coupled with teaching aid.
While teachers in many countries are well remunerated, they maintained that teachers in Nigeria are not only poorly and badly paid, many are being owed salaries for several months.
Appalling working conditions: Comparing teachers in Nigeria with their counterparts globally, they described the Nigeria’s working conditions as appalling, adding that the average Nigerian teacher, apart from few private schools, works in poor conditions.
According to Vanguard investigations, many teachers, especially in public schools, work in crowded classrooms with 80 to 100 pupils without electricity and furniture. They argue that the manner in which the federal and state governments handle teachers makes the society also hold teachers and the teaching profession in low esteem.
“How many teachers in Nigeria are computer-literate and what is the government and what are the teachers doing to upgrade tthemselves in computer literacy?’’ they quarried.
Highly regarded teachers: Alluding to what a typical teacher and the teaching profession was years ago, stakeholders noted that teachers were highly regarded in the society as they had great influence and authority over the people. ‘’That informed the reason many teachers in those days were given free accommodation and scholarship for further studies,” they said.
They pointed out that in those days, a student would prefer his mother beats him when he offends at home, than report 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 get it wrong and how did our teachers suddenly lose their prestige?
Death of education
In a previously published interview, Provost of Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, MOCPED, Prof. Olu Akeusola said the day we abrogated Grade II teachers college in Nigeria was the day we killed teacher education specifically and education as a whole.
Akeusola who maintained that the standard of education is 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. According to him, if teacher education is developed, it will create a methodology of passing the information to the younger generation; “unfortunately, we destroyed that solid foundation of teacher education.”
He said: “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 masters brought education, we have been 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.”
He, however, noted that the moment we had our independence, teachers were relegated to the background. “In those days, teachers received good salary, the community valued teachers, teachers were given scholarships and bursaries for further studies. There was national attention on education. But now, teachers have been relegated to the background. The day we discovered oil was the day we killed teacher education.
‘Oil killed teacher education’
‘’What we had in the past was a very good and solid teacher education. We had Grade III, Grade II, and Grade I. Then, these teachers that had the methodology were able to impart knowledge to the pupils. The students that were well trained at the primary and secondary levels went on 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 levels. 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 the 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 the economy. The Federal Government should see to the development of education in Nigeria.”
Need to restructure curricula: On her part, Pastor Debola Atoyebi said for Nigeria to gain a place in the comity of nations; her educational curriculum needs to be changed and restructured especially as regards Early Childhood Education. “We need a working curriculum in the education sector. What we have now is not workable, it is still way behind and incomplete. The curriculum is not thorough enough and this has made us not to move with the speed that we need.
“We need to restructure the curriculum to be able to adequately train the early childhood teachers. These three things are very important in restoring the glory of the teaching profession – teacher training, curriculum and the learning environment. Government has to be more involved in early childhood education seeing that it is the foundation of every level of education,” said Atoyebi.
The founder, Concerned Parents & Educators Network, Mrs Yinka Ogunde lamented that Nigeria’s education system has lost its glory by virtue of being in the 145th position of primary education advancement in the world’s record. She said that lack of funds, conducive environment and incentives for the teachers are major factors that threaten the education sector.
Also, Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, an educator said that Nigeria’s education sector got it wrong by not putting infrastructure in place, pointing out that non-availability of teaching materials are issues endangering the teaching profession.
On the way forward, Adefisayo said that collaboration of all the stakeholders in the sector is a key component in bringing back the glory of education. Her words: “We do not need to antagonise one another. All we need is collaboration and cooperation among the stakeholders. If the quality of teaching is good, the children and system will do well.”
Pay attention to teachers, Okebukola urges governments
On his part, former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola said 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 took quality teachers out of our development equation, Nigeria will be in the backwaters of nations in the world. “Here we are today, boasting 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 say “all hail,” he said.
Sadly, he said that our teachers are hardly valued, stressing that in more than half of the states of the federation, teachers are owed salaries running to several months. “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.
Almost everyday, I receive text messages from my colleagues begging for a few naira notes to enable them buy food and pay part of their house rent. The economic recession is aggravating things,” he said.
He, however, urged government at all levels to pay more attention to the plight of teachers in terms of improving their welfare. At the federal level, 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.
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 retool 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 better working environment.”
Mr. Goke Gbadebo, a teacher at New Christfield College, Ikorodu said he is proud being a teacher. He, however frowned at the attitude of government and society towards teachers. “Teachers should be well paid because if they are not happy, they will be unable to give their best,” he said.
Mr. Paul Oguchi, a teacher at Dampress Schools, Lagos, said teachers’ salaries should be reviewed so as to meet up with current challenges in the country. He said though he is not really happy being a teacher, but glad that he is 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. She said: “Governor Ambode pays us on 22nd of every month. If it is possible, Ambode should continue till the next 12 years because of the prompt payment of salaries.”
Besides, Mr Julius Akinniyi, a teacher at New Christfield College said teachers should be recognised as nation-builders. “I am very happy as a teacher because I am doing what I like. Apart from teaching the youth academics, it gives me the opportunity to teach them morals and prepare them to become future leaders.”
Asked if he will accept a job offer from an oil company if given, Akinniyi said no, adding that people seek jobs in oil companies because they are well paid. According to him, if teachers are well paid, there will be no reason to dump the teaching profession. ‘’Teachers must not go a-begging in order to take care of their families financially,’’ he added.