Teacher quality dictates the success of any educational pursuit…and no nation rises above the quality of its teachers —the late Patrick Yakowa who was governor of Kaduna State (2010–2012).
The status of teachers is now so low that no person will enter the profession unless they are incapable of anything else — Mrs Jane Olatunji-Hughes, a consummate educationist

By Ebele Orakpo

QUIT notice to unqualified teachers The Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, has a special message, albeit warning, to those engaged as teachers in various schools in Nigeria: If by the year 2019 they were found not to be qualified, licensed and registered, they would be flushed out of the classrooms. Adamu has his reason.

“The person at the centre of it all is the teacher, not the pupils and if the teachers are not qualified and properly equipped, then how can they give our children the best? So  as a government, we are insisting that we must raise the standards; we must become like other countries of the world. We have set a deadline for ourselves and we are going to enforce it.


“If by 2019 you are not a qualified, certified and registered teacher, you will be removed from our classrooms and we will give the job   to those who are qualified. It is an embarrassment to us that we have so many qualified people without job and we are giving the job to people who are not qualified. It is insane.  In the past, we did not have the right numbers, so we appreciate that those not qualified helped us to meet that shortfall, that is why we have given this time of grace,” he said.

Adamu who spoke  through Mr Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, while monitoring the 2018 Batch A Teacher Professional Qualifying Examination, PQE, in Abuja in June, also urged the teachers to continue to improve themselves and for their employers to do their part by continuing to train and retrain them.

He equally called on all concerned to join hands in the task of upgrading the standards in our schools.

State of emergency in education sector

Indeed, calls to declare state of emergency
in Nigeria’s education sector became louder in recent times due to unbelievable lows recorded in the sector, especially with regards to teachers who could not read and those who are barely literate or outrightly illiterate. For instance, in October 2017, a major storm was raised in the education sector following reports that some teachers in Kaduna State public schools were unable to pass primary four tests given to them.

Prior to that, there was also the encounter between the then Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, with a teacher in the state. Apart from replying the governor’s question in Pidgin English, it emerged that the teacher could barely read. It went viral.

Deep rot: But what many did not know or failed to acknowledge is that the Edo and Kaduna scenarios are tips of the iceberg as far as the abysmally low standard of teaching is concerned. Indeed, stories abound about how this situation has permeated the entire education sector and why most public schools are producing half-baked or barely literate graduates.

Check these out: These may have been presented as jokes but are not far from the true situation unfortunately.

  • A pupil was asked what a baby shark (pup) is called and he said: Shakiti bobo while a baby lizard (hatchling) is called Lizzy baby! Unfortunately, Shakiti bobo is the title of a song by a popular Nigerian musician (Olamide) and the child had heard it over and over. It is so sad that an average student may not know a quarter of what is taught in class but ask him or her about fashion, pop culture, songs, especially songs that do not add value to their lives, and they will score almost 100 per cent.
  • Another pupil when asked to name some ailments in humans included in his list a slanted line (/). When asked what that meant, he proudly asked the person questioning him if he doesn’t recognise the health condition called stroke? Thanks to internet and the new fad. This brings home the saying that if the head is rotten, the whole body would be rotten! Children are so impressionable that whatever they are taught, right or wrong, sticks. A mother, Mrs. Godwin, heard her six-year-old daughter mispronouncing the word ‘children’ as ‘shildren’ and she tried to correct her, only to meet a brick wall as the little girl insisted her teacher was right!

Timeline of pervasive problem: From one state to the other

Kaduna State: In November 2012, after investigations revealed that over 2,000 teachers in the state got their appointments with fake certificates, the late Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State said: “Teacher quality dictates the success of any educational pursuit…and no nation rises above the quality of its teachers.”

In February 2013, Alhaji Usman Mohammed, the then Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, revealed that out of 1,599 teachers selected from across the state and given primary four tests in Mathematics and Basic Literacy; only one scored 75% , 251 scored between 50 and 74% (15.7%), while 1,300 scored below 25% (81.3%). Also, 1,800 primary school pupils were given the same examination and most of them failed. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State revealed that 50% of teachers in the state who were being considered for re-appointment as teachers, failed Primary 4 test set for them as pre-condition for re-absorption into the civil service.

Edo State: A female teacher, who had been on the job for 20 years, was unable to read a sworn affidavit she presented as part of her credentials when she was asked to do so by then governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. The governor had to help her pronounce some words and in some cases, asked her to repeat some words she mispronounced. At some point, she replied the governor in Pidgin English thus: “Make I start am afresh? (Should I start all over?)” A visibly shocked Oshiomhole said: “If you can’t read, what do you teach the pupils? What do you write on the board?”

Various forms of discrepancies

This incident and others like it prompted the Oshiomhole administration to take a deep look into the Edo State Education sector. At a town hall meeting in 2013, Oshiomhole had said: “We found that of all our primary school teachers, only 1,287, representing nine per cent out of 14,484 teachers have proper records in our system; 91% have various forms of discrepancies in their records. About 1,379 teachers, representing 11.5% claim that they obtained their Primary School certificates after they had been employed as teachers. In fact, some obtained their Primary School certificates not more than two years ago, from the school in which they were employed as teachers.”

Respected journalist, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, in his ThisDay Newspaper backpage column of November 16, 2017, entitled: The Method in el-Rufai’s Madness, had noted as follows:  Sokoto: “More than 50% of the entire teachers in Sokoto State cannot read because they are unqualified. So how can they read the UBE books we sent to them? How would they be able to teach the children how to read?” lamented former Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, Mr. Mohammed Modibbo in May 2012 when members of the Senate Education Committee visited his office.

Kwara: Primary Four test was set for 19,125 teachers in 2008. Not only did majority of them fail but 259 actually scored zero!

Ogun State: “On November 15, 2012, the then Education and Technology Commissioner, Mr. Segun Odubela said that following a verification exercise conducted by a team of consultants, about 6,000, representing 31% of 19,146 teachers in the state, were found to be unqualified while another 800 entered the service with forged certificates; including the case of a teacher “who would have commenced primary school four years before his birth.”

Oyo State: In 2009, an oral assessment exercise was conducted for teachers in public schools. It was discovered that Accounts teachers couldn’t define payee and Social Studies teachers didn’t know the meaning of UNESCO.”

Current state of education: In his contribution, Mr. Sola Okuneye, Head of Academics/Human Resources, Topmost College of Education, Ipaja, Lagos, began by analysing the state of eduation in Nigeria. He said: “Education as described by Dewey is the development of all capabilities in an individual, which will enable him to fit into his environment and fulfill his responsibilities – which is self realisation and this promotes societal development. This implies that if education is given priority, it makes for a better society, if misapplied, it may destroy the society. This, therfore implies that education is the foundation upon which every meaningful development in all spheres of the society is based.”

Lack of quality basic education: “Yet, even children who make it into school cannot count on receiving a good basic education. According to UNESCO, in 2008, 28% of young men aged 15-29 who had left school after six years of schooling were illiterate, and a further 39% were semi-literate. Among young women these figures were only 32% and 52%, respectively.”

Higher Education: Speaking on the issue, Dr. Margee Ensign,President of Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, USA and former president of American University of Nigeria (AUN) Yola, and Dr William Bertrand of Tulane University, USA, in a joint paper entitled: The Future of Education in Nigeria – Using Digital Technology Effectively and Wisely, stated that with the rapid growth in Nigeria’s population, the nation will be saddled with “a population least able to care for itself.

“Nigeria faces an equally stark challenge in higher education. The same demographic bomb that is driving disaster in primary and secondary education is marching forward here as well. Already today, the capacity of Nigeria’s higher education system is insufficient: each year from 2002 to 2007, only between 5.2% and 14.7% of university applicants could be admitted for want of seats. This shortage will become an even bigger problem in the future: A rapid growth of the relevant age group combined with rising enrollment and graduation rates at the secondary level imply that the demand for tertiary education will grow even faster than the population as a whole.

“As Nigeria’s tertiary gross enrollment rate is comparatively low – an estimated 14.5% in 2006, compared to a world average of 25% – this growth is highly desirable in order to prepare Nigeria’s youth for the challenges of the global knowledge economy, yet currently, the country lacks the resources to finance this expansion. Given current enrollment rates, unit costs, and demographic trends, we estimate that the government will need to spend an additional N10.5 billion to N137 billion on tertiary education in 2020; by 2030, these costs will double to between N21 billion and N276 billion per year. These costs will be impossible  for Nigeria to tackle, especially if enrollment rates increase. Hence, the only viable way are radical reforms in the provision of higher education that lower unit costs dramatically,” according to Ensign and Bertrand.

In the beginning: The Nigerian education sector has not always been poor. In the past, foreign students trooped into Nigeria to obtain quality education in her public schools and many foreigners were working as teachers and lecturers. Delving into the history of Nigeria’s education sector, Okuneye said: “Education and teaching go hand-in-hand. The quality of education largely depends on the quality of its teaching force. Our educational system should be able to provide teachers with the intellectual and professional background suitable for their job as teachers.

“The origin of colleges of education in Nigeria dates back to the recommendation of the Ashby Commission in 1859, the Nigeria Certificate in Education, NCE, emerged in 1962 to strengthen the teaching force both at the primary and secondary levels.

National expectations

The commission had, among other things observed that a lot of teachers were not properly trained and as such, had no teacher’s certificate. In Nigeria, the new National Policy on Education gives the impression that education is an instrument of change and national development. Education, all over the world is regarded as the framework for social, economic and technological development. Teacher education has not been able to successfully realise its objectives. The quality and quantity of teachers produced in Nigeria over the years fall short of national expectations and needs.”

Said former Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola: “In 1960, the Standard six product had good skills for the workplace whereas in 2017, the typical university graduate can hardly be touched with a 10-metre pole by serious-minded employers. Adult literacy rate in 2017 is still a shameful 67% , 57 years after independence. Between 1965 and 1970, Nigeria contributed the highest in Africa to the international literature in science, engineering, medicine, social sciences and arts.”

Call long overdue: For Jacob Udo-Udo Jacob, professor of Multimedia/Digital Journalism in the Communications & Multimedia Design Programme at the AUN, the call on the Federal Government to declare a national emergency in the education system is long overdue but noted that the governmemt has always been reactionary instead of proactive.


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