2016 Teachers Day: Plight of Nigerian teachers
Across the world, October 5 is set aside to appreciate professionalism, hard work and special contribution of teachers to the development of nations.
In Nigeria however, it is a day inevitably used by unions to press home their demands for better working conditions, welfare, improved school infrastructures and retraining of teachers.
Government had, over the years, failed to properly address the issue of pre-service and in-service training for teachers, as well as teacher recruitment, retention and career progression, leading to depletion of standards in the education sector.
Currently, in many states of the federation, the highest grade level attained by teachers is level 14 as against grade level 16 attained by their counterparts with similar qualifications in the public service.
Although many believe that quality education delivery disappeared with the closure of teacher training colleges across the country in the 1990s, there are glaring indications that the bane of quality education in the country is lack of political will to properly incentivise teachers to ensure commitment and hard work.
Failure to reverse this neglect has also given the profession a negative outlook as many Nigerians view teaching as the vocation of the poor and ill-opportune, while others simply avoid committing their future to the profession.
Apart from these problems, the challenges of attracting the best brains into the profession remains very daunting as most teachers only see teaching as a transit point while awaiting better jobs.
A worrisome reality of inadequate qualified teachers across Nigeria’s institutions of basic learning, therefore exists, because federal and state authorities constantly relegate the profession with unattractive pay packages and sorry working conditions.
Another area of concern is their obvious exclusion from the process of policy formulation on matters that directly affect them, as exemplified in the planned recruitment of 500,000 teachers.
Nigeria's umbrella body of teachers, the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, had demanded to be part of the process as only professional teachers: graduate and NCE holders will be recognized by the union.
On this note, the government must realize that any attempt to disregard professional standards in the recruitment process could further endanger an already beleaguered system.
In addition, the pre-service training of teachers in Nigerian Colleges of Education and universities requires an urgent update as there are indications of gaps in modern pedagogical skills, knowledge, competencies and methodologies among teachers in the country.
Regulatory agencies of the tertiary institutions involved in teacher training such as NCCE and NUC must ensure effective collaboration to ensure implementation of minimum academic standards for improved educational outcomes among graduate teachers.
To state the obvious, efforts towards revamping the basic education subsector would be futile without prioritizing the welfare of teachers. Both public and private sector investors must conscientiously work towards improving teacher allowances and other in-service benefits such as retraining and periodic promotions among others.
Observers also believe that a special scholarship scheme for education students seeking admission in public tertiary institutions, could attract the best brains in the country and trigger a response that would restore the quality of teaching and learning in basic schools.