“Primary and Secondary Education form the foundation upon which tertiary education is built”.
Without a doubt, any country that aspires to greatness in any sphere of its existence must ensure that education remains of paramount importance. In realization of this, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) in Section 18 enjoins the Government to ensure that there are equal education opportunities at all levels and that the Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy. Even though the provisions of the said section and others like it which fall under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in Chapter II of the Constitution have been held not to be enforceable in a court of Law, its inclusion in the Constitution leaves no room for doubt that the Government is expected to be guided by the ideals contained in the provisions of the section.
Nigeria’s educational system can be described as three tiered made up of the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Each tier or level is designed, as is the case in other countries, to meet certain needs of the student in his educational progress. Of these levels I consider the primary and secondary levels to be of great importance as they essentially form the foundation upon which the tertiary level is built. Indeed the low quality exhibited by University graduates is mainly due to the failure or near total collapse of the primary and secondary levels of education in Nigeria. It was therefore shocking to read that a large number of teachers in kaduna State had failed exams ordinarily meant for primary four pupils. Reporting the incident, a national daily on the 11th of October 2017, stated as follows: “About 21,780 teachers in Kaduna State have failed a test for the primary four class set for them to examine their competence.
As a result, the Kaduna State Government said it is shopping for 25,000 new teachers to replace those who failed the test as part of its plans to restore dignity and quality to education.
Governor Nasir el-Rufai unveiled the planned recruitment when he received a World Bank’s delegation in Kaduna on Monday.
“We tested our 33,000 primary schoolteachers, we gave them primary four examination and required that they must get at least 75 per cent but I am sad to announce that 66 per cent of them failed to get the requirements.
“The hiring of teachers in the past was politicised and we intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary schoolteachers to restore the dignity of education in the state,” the governor said.
Regrettably the same scenario had occurred in 2013. At that time, a report in The Punch Newspaper titled “Teachers who fail Pupils’ exams” published on the 1st of March 2013 stated as follows:
“A revelation by the Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Usman Mohammed, at an education summit two weeks ago, that 1,300 out of 1,599 of the state’s teachers failed woefully in simple arithmetic and basic literacy tests is alarming. The tests are ordinarily meant for primary four pupils but the teachers’ woeful performance is a further proof that the foundation of education in Nigeria, which the primary school system exemplifies, has been dangerously eroded.
“Only one of them scored 75 per cent; 250 scored between 50 and 75 percent and 1,300 scored below 25 per cent,” Mohammed said, citing political patronage in teachers’ appointment as a challenge.”
Teachers are supposed to impart knowledge to their pupils; but when they are not better than those they teach, then, they become nuisance to the society. Kaduna State’s former governor, the late Patrick Yakowa, had noted in November last year that 2,000 teachers with fake credentials were discovered in the state. A total of 15,000 unqualified teachers are among the 36,000 employed by the state.
Prior to the 2013 incident, it had been reported that primary school teachers in Kwara State failed their pupils’ tests and that 80 per cent of teachers in Sokoto were unqualified. As noted at that time, this was a clear indication that “foundational crisis in these states may be far worse than could be imagined; and there are reasons…to think that it has become a national malady. It is a sad tale that should provoke the concern of not just the government and parents, but the country at large (as) Pupils produced by quack teachers spill onto secondary and tertiary levels with minds not well-equipped for further scholastic endeavours (and) Ultimately, they drop out of universities and become social deviants, evident in our youths’ embrace of robbery, kidnapping and prostitution as means of daily survival”.
Given the history of education in this country, it is astounding that things have become so bad in so short a time since independence and despite the great foundation laid by the country’s founding fathers. Yet, critically examined, it is not too difficult to realise just how and when things started going to go wrong beginning with the loss of appreciation for the role and exact nature of the teaching profession.
The Role and Importance of Teachers
Teaching is a vocation. It is a noble profession like Medicine and Law. Therefore, it ought and should be engaged in only by those with a special call who want to impart knowledge to others on the sole ground that they are happy doing so and because they believe that they have a special interest or ability to do so.
Teachers from time immemorial had always enjoyed a lot of respect. From the ancient times including Greeco-Roman civilization, the dark ages, the Middle Ages and the renaissance era, teachers were highly rated in the society. A classic example was the biblical Paul whose reputation as a teacher loomed large in the whole of Judea and Palestine. Teachers had always been the envy of other professionals and the society at large. That was also the position in Nigeria until early 80’s.
I was a teacher and I am proud to say that any day, any time. I started teaching in my Alma Mata as a pupil teacher, Emmanuel Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, a fine Missionary institution after successful completion of my primary school education. I rose from the post of an infant Pupil Teacher to Secondary School teacher and later became the Vice Principal of a Secondary School before I became a lawyer.
As a lawyer, I continued to teach. I taught at the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies the highest law institute in Nigeria, the post graduate school in University of Ibadan and other higher institutions of learning. I still teach in faculty of law in Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. The truth is that I have interest in teaching and I love teaching. I have come to realize that a good teacher also makes a good lawyer. A teacher learns how to teach others and therefore knows how to teach himself.
In those days, our teachers put premium on child development. They put in extra time and efforts to ensure that their students excelled in learning and character. Teachers knew the students by name and relate with parents for necessary co-operation in achieving the laudable goal of making a total man of the student. More importantly, they engaged the students in the evenings and spend part of their holidays to coach students at no extra cost.
The question now is: why have those values diminished or gone into extinction? What must be done is to return teaching to the path of nobility of teaching profession. To be continued.