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What our profession needs to flourish, by teachers

By Eno-Abasi Sunday and Ujunwa Atueyi   |   06 October 2016   |   1:43 am


Their all-important role in the education value chain notwithstanding, teachers have continued to endure torrid times, while governments at various levels pay lip-service to their welfare. The society, which they help rid of ignorance appreciates them no better. As humanity marked yet another World Teachers Day, yesterday, ENO-ABASI SUNDAY and UJUNWA ATUEYI, sounded out some of them who poured out their hearts on their expectations from government.
In some climes, and on days like this, the drums are rolled out in their honour. They are also feted by the powers that be, while recognitions are bestowed on the deserving ones among them.

But in Nigeria, teachers are more often than not treated with ignominy, tarred with the same brush as the quacks among them. Most times, the indiscretions of the charlatans among them hug the headlines, more than the painstaking efforts of the professional, selfless and dutiful ones that take their profession as their passion.

As Nigerian teachers join their counterparts the world over to celebrate the 2016 World Teachers’ Day, the conditions of teachers in the country have largely remain unchanged, yet the society enjoys pointing fingers at them as some of the biggest problems plaguing education in the country.

It is in the light of this that the theme of this year’s celebration, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status,” is seen as most apt for the Nigerian situation.

The United Nations’ (UN) World Teachers’ Day celebration, which holds every October 5, celebrates the role played by teachers in providing quality education at all levels. The day is also the perfect opportunity for students around the world, to pay tribute to their teachers for their (teachers) roles in enabling children and adults of all ages to learn to take part in and contribute to their local community and global society.

This year’s edition, marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 International Labour Organisation (ILO)/UNESCO recommendation concerning the status of teachers. It is also the first world Teachers’ Day (WTD) to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

This year’s theme, according to UNESCO, embodies the fundamental principles of the 50-year-old recommendation while shining a light on the need to support teachers as reflected in the agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific education goal, SDG4, pledges to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

According to UNESCO, ‘’Teachers are not only pivotal to the right to education they are key to achieving the targets set out in SDG4. The roadmap for the new agenda, the Education 2030 Framework for Action, highlights the fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education and, as such, must be “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.”

However, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary not only to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, but to motivate them by valuing their work. By 2030, 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

UNESCO with the WTD convening agencies including ILO, UNICEF, UNDP among others, as well as the International Task Force on Teachers, dedicate this day to celebrating a unique intergovernmental commitment – the only international standard-setting instrument on teachers – and reaffirms its commitment to the value of the profession.

Even though the average teacher lives a very austere life on account of very poor remuneration in the industry, poor conditions of service and lack of recognition, every government, inclusive of the present one, is always unrelenting in its resolve to get the best out of them.

Only last week, Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu who is also the chairman of Nigeria’s highest policy making body in education, the National Council on Education (NCE), said at the 61st meeting of the NCE that his administration will work on the quality of teachers, even as he pledged to improve motivation for them. “For teacher quality to be guaranteed, the following strategies must be essentially considered: improving the quality of those seeking to enter the teaching profession, raising the quality of the education and training received through initial education courses, continuing to develop the professional skills of teachers, and promoting, recognising and training effective teachers while seeking to remove ineffective ones.

“Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors of motivation such as love for the teaching profession, status of teachers professional conditions of teaching and personal conditions of teachers, especially those who work in rural areas, will be addressed,” he assured.

In the same vein, Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Gozie Anwukah, suggested that a dateline be set for teachers to register with the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria or be eased out of classrooms.

“I urge that we take final action during this 61st session of the NCE on the professionalisation of teaching, and take needed steps to enforce the provisions and mandate of the TRCN. We need to set a dateline within which period all qualified teachers must be registered, failing which they cannot be allowed into our classrooms as per the provisions of the Teachers Registration Act,” he said.

Despite the prevailing conditions, Head Teacher of TLS, Ikoyi, Lagos, Ms. Busola Aina, says, “The celebration of World Teachers Day to me, means as a teacher, I play an important role in nation building and that makes me relevant in the society and in the world. Setting a day apart to celebrate teachers makes me know I have a say in the scheme of things in charting the course of lives of the children I teach.

On how the lot of teachers can be bettered, she said, “Government and school owners can improve the lot of teachers in the country by ensuring that teachers undergo continuous professional development; are exposed to current developments in education to ensure best practices in both public and private schools. The issue of remuneration is paramount to teachers’ welfare and dignity, and should not be taken lightly. The use of technology and provision of instructional materials to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in our schools should be a matter of priority to school owners and governments.”

However, “To restore the dignity of the profession, teachers must first see themselves as qualified professionals and must behave as such.  When these are in place, teachers will exude confidence and see themselves as being at par with their counterparts in other professions. The challenges confronting the average teacher in the country is how to improve or develop themselves beyond their present level.  Many teachers are unsettled and disgruntled with their remuneration and are forever looking for greener pastures in effect undermining the teaching profession and the dignity associated with teaching. Many teachers are yet to have access to technology to support teaching and learning. All of these issues need to be addressed to restore the dignity and pride that is associated with teaching.”

Head of Department, English Language, Meadow Hall College, Femi Dirisu, is of the opinion that the WTD “celebration should be a reflection and an opportunity to look at teaching and teachers from a holistic perspective, knowing full well that appreciating their efforts will spur them to do more.

“Government can improve the lot of teachers by first ensuring that the profession is not an all comers’ affair by having and enforcing appropriate legislations to protect the profession, and also making education a priority sector. This is because no country can truly develop without a proper and functional educational framework and philosophy.”

He added that “The United Nations standards for educational financing should also be respected, as the solution to our problems can only be proffered when there is adequate funding. Teachers’ salaries should also be paid as and when due. Finally, investing in teacher training to meet national needs should also be a priority. School owners should provide an enabling environment and ensure that CPD is taken seriously.

“The government, school owners and teachers should realise that teaching is building people to build a nation. With this awareness, all hands should be on deck to see that the profession is taken as a call to service, and not a stop- gap job. With this, the quality will be higher and the dignity of the profession restored to a large extent. Efforts should be made to address challenges facing the profession, which includes poor remuneration, lack of motivation, the problem of getting quality teachers as a lot of people who should be teaching are doing other things, for one reason or the other.”

For mathematics teacher at Tomaro Senior Secondary School, Onisiwu Island, Amuwo-Odofin, “Yearly, Nigeria joins other countries to mark the World Teachers Day, yet issues affecting Nigerian teachers are still heavily neglected, when compared to other professions. It is often said that a river that forgets its source will surely dry up. Teaching is the mother of all professions, and gave birth to all other professions, yet issues affecting teachers are not given priority. Government doesn’t seem to have good plan for us. Sometimes ago, a government representative stated that teachers are not productive… that we are not contributing to the economic growth of the country. Can you imagine such statement? If you ask me, no right thinking person will make such a comment.

“If you go to developed countries, you will see how teachers are being treated starting from the kindergarten teachers to those at the highest level of education. But in Nigeria, the story is different, and nobody even reckons with the teachers. So, our government should emulate developed countries and see how they administer affairs in the sector, she appealed.

“We are being punished, we are not well paid, we don’t go on leave as well, even during our so-called holidays, government and school proprietors still be use teachers for one school activity or the other, and for fear of being sacked we all have to comply. These are some of the reasons why teachers are not happy.

She stressed the need for government to review its position on the affairs of teachers and see them as major stakeholders in human development saying, “We are trainers and destiny moulders. Intelligent people are running away from the profession in search of greener pastures. It is mostly those who cannot find their feet in the society that are coming into the profession now.

Mrs. Edith Anyanwu, an English language teacher, at Ebonyi State University Staff School, Abakaliki, is also full of regrets that the profession has been relegated to the background, despite the fact that every other profession was nurtured by the teaching profession. “We train doctors, engineers and the likes, but sadly among all these professions, teachers are the least paid, they are the poorest, despite their commitment, dedication and drive to impart meaningfully on the Nigerian child.

“Staunch teachers go the extra mile to teach and prepare their students for the future yet, there is no additional remuneration to appreciate their efforts. The story is slightly different in well-funded private schools. But government schools and some struggling private schools are worst hit as even to purchase chalk for use is a huge challenge. This is the reason the education system is not witnessing success as it ought to.

“Poor remuneration of teachers is a big challenge in the sector, and this is the reason most teachers engage in one form of trade or the other during school hours as they cannot depend solely on their salaries. In most cases, the highest teachers in government employ earn is between N50, 000 and N60, 000. So, how do you expect a teacher with a family of five or more to cope with that meagre sum and do their jobs conscientiously? It is not possible.

“Government should stop paying lip service to education, but should critically look into the plight of teachers, increase their salaries, promote them as at when due, and give special considerations to those handling the early childhood education. If you compare what the lowest person in political office earns with what the teachers with their academic prowess earn, then you will feel sorry for us.

“Teachers on their part need to regularly upgrade their knowledge and be abreast of new trends in the sector globally, by upgrading their skills. The world is evolving, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has changed the way we do things and teachers must follow the trend, else the Nigerian child will suffer the effects. Government and school owners must also ensure that their teachers are in sync with global trend in the education sector. Regrettably, most teachers are not ICT-compliant.”

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