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Teaching as the last option

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Teaching as the last option

Teachers no longer models to younger generation

 

In five years, between 2013 and 2017, 8,158,280 candidates sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to seek admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions. Of this figure, 7,817,996 applied to study other courses in universities rather than education programmes, while a paltry 540,666 candidates opted to study education courses at both the universities and the colleges of education. In this report, MOJEED ALABI finds out reasons Nigerians no longer want to pursue career in teaching, and the steep decline in teachers’ quality nationwide

 

In 2011, when AbdulSemiu Bukola left Ilorin Comprehensive High School, a private secondary school located in Asa Dam area of Ilorin, Kwara State, the result of her Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), was woeful.

 

Bukola, then aged 22, had recorded F9 in such subjects as Mathematics and even Yoruba – her mother tongue. Thus, she took up apprenticeship at a tailoring workshop, where she was also selling sachet water in traffic for her trainer.

 

But in 2012, Bukola relocated to Lagos to assist her aunt, Mrs. Atinuke Adebayo, who had just been delivered of a baby. Thus, her new guardian wanted to know the career path her niece would like to follow.

 

Realising her potential, Bukola said pursuing higher education was not on her wish list.

 

“I want to continue to learn tailoring,” she insisted.
However, this response did not go down well with Bukola’s aunt’s 71-year-old mother-in-law, Alhaja Rabiat Alabi, who snapped at the young girl, and said in Yoruba language: “Even if you would become a teacher, go to school.” The grandmother’s position became the family’s choice.

 

To cross the huddle of a poor SSCE result, Bukola registered for the certificate examination conducted by the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB). Luckily, she secured a fair result that could only be accepted by colleges of education, polytechnics or monotechnics, since no Nigerian university accepts NABTEB result.

 

Bukola also sat for the 2014 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and scored 175 out of 400, the result that could not merit university admission. Subsequently, in 2015, she was admitted to the Federal College of Education (Technical), FCET, Akoka, Lagos, to study Business Education.

 

Today, Bukola is a proud holder of the National College of Education certificate, which qualifies her to teach in any basic school across the country.

 

Meanwhile, Bashirat Usman, a brilliant but indigent graduate of Universal Scholars College, Ota, Ogun State, had cleared her SSCE result in 2014 at a single sitting. But owing to financial problem, Bashirat became an apprentice at a hairdresser’s shop at Oju-Ore area of Ota.

 

Following a report on Bashirat’s predicament by New Telegraph in 2015, some Good Samaritans rose in her support and pledged to guide her through her academic career.

 

However, when asked what path she would follow, Bashirat opted to study Mathematics Education in the university, saying since Mathematics is her ‘first love,’ she would like to teach the subject to young ones as a way of giving back to the society that rescued her from stings of poverty.

 

Bashirat’s decision shocked many of her admirers, who had insisted that the future was bleak for the path she had chosen to take.

 

 

“What can she do with that apart from becoming a teacher?” they queried.

 

But for the intervention of a school owner and Deputy National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Otunba Yomi Otubela, the girl would have also been lured away from teaching.

 

Following her excellent performance in a qualifying test, the Yomi Otubela Foundation graciously offered to sponsor Bashirat’s university education.

 

As a school owner, Otubela said retaining Bashirat in the teaching profession would be one of the greatest achievements of the foundation, adding; “Nigeria’s school system is filled with reluctant teachers; the unwilling educators.

 

“Teaching is a calling, and it shouldn’t be a job for every Tom, Dick and Harry. But unfortunately, we have always battled the challenge of high turnover of staff in the sector. Many teachers are passers-by because they are forced to pick up the job when other doors are closed.

 

“So when we saw someone willing to pursue a career in the field, we must do everything to encourage her, as part of efforts towards building a sound future for the growing generation of younger ones.”

 

Today, Bashirat is in her first semester as an undergraduate in the Department of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, courtesy the foundation.

 

The story of Bukola represents the true state of the teaching profession in Nigeria, where the rejects from other fields reluctantly pick up career in the sector.

 

The ugly situation is further reinforced by the recent scenarios that played out in Kaduna State, North Central Nigeria, where government subjected the primary school teachers to sit an examination meant for Primary IV pupils.

 

The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, while announcing the result late last year, expressed disappointment that 66 per cent of the teachers did not meet the 75 per cent benchmark set by government.

 

He said: “We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers, we gave them primary four examinations and required 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.”

 

According to el-Rufai, 11,591 teachers (33.9 per cent) scored 75 per cent and above; while 5,766 of them (16.9 per cent) scored 70 and 74 per cent.

 

The result also showed that 8,759 (26.1 per cent) scored 60-69 per cent marks, while 8,047 (23.58 per cent) scored 0-59 per cent.

 

At the end of the whole exercise, and after much cries, 21,780 teachers were axed by the state, forcing government to initiate a fresh employment process.

 

Earlier, similar situation had also played out in Edo State where former Governor Adams Oshiomhole was confronted by a teacher of more than 20 years teaching experience who could not read the content of her own affidavit.

 

Mrs. Augusta Odemwingie was taking part in a verification exercise at Asologun Primary School in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area, Benin City, when Oshiomhole entered and decided to engage some of the teachers one-on-one.

 

The former governor had said; “If you can’t read, what do you teach the pupils, what do you write on the board?”

 

According to Oshiomhole, teachers’ audit carried out by the state Information and Communications Technology Department revealed that 789 teachers out of 1,379 obtained their Primary School Leaving Certificates before the age of eight or nine.

 

He said: “Some of the records show there were a few who were particularly gifted and they finished primary school before they were born. 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 per cent have various forms of discrepancies in their records. About 1,379 teachers, representing 11.5 per cent, 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. The question is whether they went to Teachers’ Training College or obtained National Certificate of Education (NCE) before they went to primary school. These are facts that have been well documented. It would not be helpful to the cause of education and our resolve to deliver quality education to our pupils if we do not deal with this issue decisively.”

 

Also, on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, the Plateau State government announced the sack of 747 teachers for their failure to present their certificates.

 

This is the situation everywhere across the nation, with the teaching profession being publicly derided by the activities of charlatans.

 

 

But how did teaching profession degenerate to this level?

 

Stakeholders are worried that Nigeria’s teaching sector has been so much destroyed that teachers are no longer models to the younger generation.

 

In an interview with New Telegraph, an Emeritus Professor of Education and former Chairman of the Governing Council of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), Prof. Pai Obanya, expressed regret that the profession that was the hope of many Nigerians has been allowed to degenerate so steeply.

 

He said: “Do they think education is about blocks of classrooms or about laboratory and fine structures? No! It is the quality of those who will educate the pupils. If teachers are happy, the children will be happy. Their quality has great impact on the larger society because they are the moulders of the future.”

 

 

Obanya explained that in the past, teachers with their baggy pairs of trousers, well-ironed shirts and ‘Afro’ hairstyles, were the models for the children and the larger society. “They were diligent at work, dedicated and committed and pupils respected them more than their parents.”

 

“But gradually, our priorities shifted and teachers turned to objects of ridicule. Even today’s teachers don’t want their children to become teachers. It is very sad,” he added.

 

On his part, the former Nigeria’s Representative to UNESCO and Emeritus Professor of History of Education, Michael Omolewa, attributed the crisis to the change in our societal values and get-rich-quick syndrome, which he noted has permeated through the nation’s fabric.

 

According to Omolewa, the need for review of Nigeria’s reward system would go a long way to bring back the lost glory.

 

He said: “Who would be willing to pursue a career in a field where salaries are not paid and without tools to work? Beyond the reward system is also the need for regulations and quality control. Where are the regulatory agencies? Which body should be in charge of teachers’ trainings?

 

“Go and check the enrolment rate in our colleges of education and education departments in universities, you would be surprised that if Nigeria is not careful, we may not have anyone to teach in future.”

 

Teachers’ unions react

 

Both the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) are leading teachers’ union which are unhappy with the fate of teachers.

 

 

The President of NUT, Comrade Michael Alogba-Olukoya expressed regret that his members across many states are not only underpaid, they are unpaid by almost all the state governments, and particularly the primary school teachers who are under the local government authorities.

 

“Nigerian teachers are unhappy, battered and bitter. Salaries are not paid, teaching environments are terrible with leaking roofs, dilapidated structures, lack of infrastructure. It is a terrible situation,” Alogba-Olukoya said.

According to him, until the Federal Government brings back the days when teachers’ salaries are paid from federal purse, education will continue to suffer neglect.

 

Similarly, the Chairman of ASUSS in Lagos State, Comrade Kassim Labaika, blamed successive governments and particularly military incursion for the teachers’ predicament.

 

Labaika said the teaching profession would remain unenviable until real reform was carried out in the sector and quacks were weeded out of the profession.

 

 

He said: “Whose son or daughter would be willing to join a profession where you can hardly feed and your pupils sit on bare floors. Even those who read education courses end up in banks.”

 

 

What do admission statistics say?

 

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is the body responsible for conducting entrance examinations into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions – universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education. And to ascertain the veracity of the claim of dwindling enrolment by candidates in education-related programmes in the country, New Telegraph sought the statistics of all enrolment into the nation’s higher institutions between 2013 and 2017.

 

According to JAMB, the following statistics as presented in the table below represents the enrolment figure into the country’s higher institutions between 2013 and 2017.

 

Based on the statistics, it is clear that candidates seeking admission to the country’s higher institutions no longer consider education colleges as option, while very few opt to study education courses at the university level. This, when compared to the enrolment rate for university and, even polytechnics, calls for concern among stakeholders.

 

Why candidates no longer choose education colleges, by Provost

 

The Provost of the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Dr. Sijibomi Olusanya, has revealed the dwindling fortunes of the country’s colleges of education; the statutory institutions empowered to train teachers. He blamed the development on so many factors including length of study, reward system, emphasis on degree certificates, among others.

 

Olusanya told our correspondent that spending three years for NCE certificates when compared with four years spent for degree certificates in education courses at university level, makes many applicants opt for university.

 

According to the Provost, there is also the challenge of complex between university graduates and NCE certificate holders, which, according to him, arises from the government policy which accords more respect to one than the other.

 

He said: “If you attend an NCE, you would need to spend minimum of seven years to acquire degree certificates, whereas it will only take you four years when you go in straight to universities. There is also disrespect for NCE graduates in terms of reward and recognition. If care is not taken, NCE may soon go into extinction in Nigeria, and finding professional teachers to teach our children may be very difficult in near future.”

 

Stakeholders intervene

 

Worried by the waning fortune of teaching profession in the country, many stakeholders within the education sector including individuals and agencies of government have intervened, proffering solutions to what they described as embarrassing situation.

 

At a recent forum called by JAMB in preparation for the 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, the Senate Chief Whip, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, noted that until the reward system is reordered in Nigeria and the craze for certificates is addressed, there would continue to be problems in the education sector.

 

Adeyeye also suggested the abolition of the polytechnic and colleges of education programmes, describing them as legacies of colonialism, which, according to him, are no longer in use, “even in the home countries of the colonial masters.”

 

He said: “There is no serious future for a society that makes the weakest its teachers. During admission processes, the ‘best students’ go to the universities, second best students go to the polytechnics while ‘others’ go to colleges of education and such students are expected to be teachers and teach best students.

 

“I have my private fears. I don’t believe God will solve Nigeria’s problem, we are to make it work. If you want to see the future of any society, visit their schools.”

 

On his part, a former Commissioner for Education in Imo State and Professor of Education Planning at the University of Lagos, Alloy Ejiogu, suggested that Nigeria should emulate Finland, where teaching profession is reserved for the best.

 

He said: “To be employed as a teacher in Finland, then you must be the best in your field. Teaching, Medicine and Law are accorded priority in Finland, and that is why the country is regarded as one with the best education policy.”

 

 

Also speaking, Obanya blamed the regulatory agencies for jettisoning their responsibilities of looking after the quality, welfare and training of teachers. He added that duplication of responsibilities is also another challenge facing the system.

 

Obanya said: “In Nigeria, count many ministries and count the number of agencies. You have about 23 parastatals in the education ministry alone and I call them ‘parasiters.’ Let me give you example, Nigeria Teachers Institute (NTI) is doing something about teachers; the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) is doing something about teachers; the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is doing the same thing, and we still have the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) just about teachers’ registration.

 

“When I was in school, my teachers were registered; we saw their names and registration numbers. I would have expected that there would be just a desk in the ministry to just do the registration of teachers but now we have TRCN with its own chief executive officer. When NECO was to start too, the states opposed it but the people’s interest was the money they would make, and that is Nigeria for you.”

 

UBEC responds

 

Backed by Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education and other Related Matters Acts 2004, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has, among many other mandates, to support national capacity building for teachers and managers of basic education in Nigeria. The basic education sub-sector, according to UBEC act, runs from early childhood education to the junior secondary school.

 

Towards actualising this aspect of its mandates, UBEC claims between 2009 and 2015, it spent the sum of N35,905,597,507.99 to train 1,172,700 teachers across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

 

The expenditure, categorised as its spending on Teacher Professional Development, was according to the Commission’s Executive Secretary, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, utilised to organise on-the-job training for teachers across the country.

 

However, Bobboyi who spoke at a forum in Lagos in November, 2017, recognised high percentage of unqualified teachers, inadequate teacher supply and lopsided teacher deployment, training institutions not meeting the real needs of states, and poor compensation and motivation for teachers, as major challenges facing teaching profession in Nigeria.

 

He was represented by his deputy, Dr. Sharon Oviemuno.

 

He, therefore, suggested that to achieve the targeted goal in the basic education subsector, Nigeria must bring down qualified teacher-pupil ratios for all levels; eliminate unqualified teachers from the system; increase number of qualified graduate teachers.

 

“The 300 graduate teacher recruitment per year (2016-2018) recommended by a recent committee set up by government should be implemented zealously, and government must improve teacher compensation, invigorate teacher professional development, and use colleges of education effectively to engage qualified teacher supply,” Bobboyi told New Telegraph.

FG pledges reform

 

The Federal Government has promised to reform the teaching profession in the country, saying the process had already started in Kaduna State, especially with teachers’ salary review and other packages.

 

Speaking in an interview with New Telegraph, the Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs. Chinenye Ihuoma, explained that the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) has been empowered by the government to professionalise teaching in the country, and that the agency has since swung into action.

 

She said: “You can confirm that things are changing positively but the pace might be slow. This government understands that there cannot be meaningful change without reform in education sector, and education cannot be reformed without reforming the teachers. Teachers are central to education development, and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, understands that fact.”

 

TRCN rolls out plan for reform

 

Reacting to the development, the Registrar and Chief Executive Officer of TRCN, Prof. Segun Ajiboye, said the government has realised the danger it portends when it is only the people who have nothing else to do that take up teaching as a profession.

 

He said: “The reality in today’s Nigeria is that in a class of 100 pupils, if you ask who wants to be a teacher, hardly can you see more than one hand up indicating interest. It is a big challenge. That means the pupils are not motivated by the lifestyles of their teachers. And as a result, the future of the profession is in danger, and as we know it, we may not see who will teach our children in future again.

 

 

“But what we are doing now to address the problem is that we are putting in place an internship programme which allows NCE and degree holders in education programmes to undergo practical training; there is also the introduction of bursary for education students.

 

“It was also proposed at the last education retreat with President Mohammadu Buhari that graduates of education who are employed should be placed on level 9 instead of level 8 where they start. So, professional teachers will be granted one step above others. I think if all these are implemented, it will serve as impetus to improve the teachers’ quality.”

 

Ajiboye also explained the TRCN’s mandate to register all professional teachers across the country, and ongoing efforts towards ensuring strict compliance to the rule by both the public and private schools.

 

“The responses from the teachers have been encouraging and I think by the time we are done, teaching profession will regain its glory,” he added.

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