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World Teachers’ Day and a profession in extinction

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National President of NUT, Mr Michael Olukoya

As the World Teachers’ Day is marked today, Nigerian teachers look forlornly to a bright future as they suffer neglect, disdain and poor financial compensation from the trinity of governments, parents and employees. In this report, Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL, examines how teachers’ pathetic situations contribute to dwindling education standards in the country.

The howling wind blew the dilapidated wooden windows with rage, slamming them against the cracked wall. The windows, almost torn out of their hinges, creaked in pain. The pupils struggled to keep their books on the rickety narrow desks.

The class teacher struggled to keep down his tie as it blew in his face. He tried to control the excited children as some of them ran after their books flying out of the classroom. By the time the wind calmed down, a scorching sun was already peeping through the gaping roofing sheets.

His stomach rumbled to the amusement of the pupils. He barked an order for them to keep quiet. Beads of sweat trickled down from the teacher’s forehead. It was unbearably hot. He fanned himself uncontrollably with the lesson book in his hand.
They too had begun to use their books to fan themselves. They were 94 crammed in a small room meant for 30 learners. As the day wore on, the teacher screamed out instructions as he scribbled on a charcoaled wall that served as the blackboard, backing the disillusioned children.

The school bell rang. It was closing time. The teacher heaved a sigh of relief – it was another frustrating day. It was 5pm and he had not had his breakfast. He checked his mobile phone, there was no bank alert. The government owed him and his colleagues eight months’ salaries. As usual, he grudgingly went to a nearby shop to grab a grub and added to his pile of rising debts.

“How many of you will like to be a teacher?” Mrs. Sekinat Adeyinka, teacher in a private school in Lagos, had asked her pupils during the school’s Career Day.

She got no response. Though a bit ashamed, she gave an understanding smile.
Today, it’s World Teachers’ Day but many teachers in Nigeria are not smiling. They have become the butt of jokes in their neighbourhood, at schools and anywhere else.

Nigerian teachers – especially those in primary and secondary schools – are poorly remunerated and work under some of the worst conditions imaginable. They are often held in disdain by parents, pupils and the government.
It is part of the collective derision of perhaps the country’s most prized human resources that it is said, “A teacher’s reward is in heaven.”

Little wonder, government-owned and many private schools are losing their best teachers to other sectors. The teachers feel ill motivated and least appreciated.

According Theodorah Ezugoh, teachers’ motivation is a way of empowering them on the job and “involves the perceptions, variables, methods, strategies and activities used by the management for the purpose of providing a climate that is conducive to the satisfaction of the various needs of the employees, so that they may become satisfied, dedicated and effective in performing their task.”

Ezugoh added, “In education, teachers should be motivated in order to boost their productivity, effectiveness, efficiency and dedication in performing their task, which will enhance quality assurance, quality education and quality instructional delivery in the educational system. This will also enhance the achievement of educational objectives.”

As noted in a research paper, ‘Teachers’ Motivation and its Influence on Quality Assurance in the Nigerian Educational System’, teachers are important instrument in education. They can influence the teaching–learning outcomes either positively or negatively “because they determine the quality of instructional delivery and also influence quality education when it comes to implementation of the curriculum and educational policies”. Teachers are the producers of tomorrow’s leaders.

While noting that quality assurance is a powerful means that can improve the effectiveness of education, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said teachers’ motivation should be a priority of government’s policies with a view to enhancing quality education.

However, often times the relationship between the government and teachers has been that of protagonist-antagonist. Recent industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities illustrated that. Nobody knows when the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) will take to the streets to protest the unrelenting ill- treatment meted out to its members over the years.

This year’s World Teachers’ Day is expected to nudge the federal and state governments to pay more attention to the crumbling societal norms partially occasioned by ill-trained youths who nurtured by a bastardised educational system.
Poorly paid teachers, according to various studies, are more likely to absent from the classroom than well-remunerated ones. Ill-motivated teachers breed half-hearted students.

According to a 2013 survey (Global Teacher Status Index) examining attitudes to teachers around the world, teachers in China had the greatest respect from people in their country. It was the only country where people compared teachers most closely to doctors, with the majority of places opting for social workers, and in the case of the United States, Brazil, France and Turkey, librarians.

The United Kingdom and the US ranked in the middle of the GTSI, and were beaten by South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Greece, which all valued their teachers more than any European or Anglo Saxon country. Israel was at the bottom of the index, which was based on a survey of 21 countries.

The latest findings of UNESCO are unsettling. New data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics showed that 617 million children and adolescents worldwide are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

“This is the equivalent of three times the population of Brazil being unable to read or handle basic mathematics with proficiency. The waste of human potential signalled by the new data confirms that getting children into the classroom is only half the battle. Now we must ensure that every child in that classroom is learning the basic skills they need in reading and mathematics, as a minimum,” Silvia Montoya, Director of the UIS, said.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the single largest number – 202 million – of children and adolescents who are not learning. Across the region, nearly nine out of 10 kids between the ages of about 6 and 14 are not gaining minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

The data fingered the issue of education quality and what is happening within the classroom itself as some of the factors responsible for the problem.

Two-thirds of the children who are not learning are in school. Of the 387 million primary school-age children unable to read proficiently, 262 million are in school. There are also about 137 million adolescents of lower secondary school age who are in classrooms but unable to meet minimum proficiency levels in reading.   

“The figures are staggering but they show the way forward. We know where these children live and go to school. They are not hidden or isolated from their governments and communities – they are sitting in classrooms with their own aspirations and potential. We can reach these kids but not by simply hoping that they stay in school and grasp the basics,” Montoya added.  

Unfortunately, evidence also indicates that all students regardless of their background are “harmed academically” by poor teaching for three years running. Effective teachers who are committed and willing to teach to a diverse student population are essential to the success of a school and can make a difference in the lives of each student.

Qualified teachers are thus vital to quality education. However, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, in 31 of the 96 countries with data, less than 80 per cent of primary school teachers were reportedly trained according to national standards in 2014.

Following that, besides conducive environment and financial motivation, Nigerian teachers should be exposed to continuous capacity building.

Education experts also argued that teachers in rural areas – where quality of education is said to be lowest – should be the best compensated in those areas. More teachers are needed too.

Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries face the largest teacher gap: it will need a total of 17 million primary and secondary school teachers by 2030. It is also the region with the fastest-growing school-age population. It is already struggling to keep up with demand: more than 70 per cent of the region’s countries face acute shortages of primary school teachers, rising to 90 per cent for secondary education.
In the next 14 years, countries must recruit almost 69 million teachers to provide every child with primary and secondary education: 24.4 million primary school teachers and 44.4 million secondary school teachers.

Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) demands inclusive and equitable quality education for all by 2030. The needs are urgent, with an estimated 263 million children and youth still out of primary and secondary school globally.
SDG 4 includes a specific call for more qualified teachers and more support from the international community for teacher training in developing countries.

According to the American National Education Association, depending on the state, high school teachers in the US get as much as $48,631. While the best-paid 10 per cent in the field made approximately $86,720, the bottom 10 per cent made $37,230. According to the group, compensation for American teachers is typically based on years of experience and educational level. Newly qualified teachers in England and Wales, for example, start on the main salary scale, which rises incrementally from £22,023 to £32,187, though salaries may be higher depending on location. Salaries on the main scale in Northern Ireland are said to range from £21,804 to £31,868. High school teachers in South Africa earn an average of R166, 068 per year.

National President of NUT, Michael Olukoya, in his assessment of the profession posited that looking at it from all angles, teaching is no longer safe.
He listed some of the challenges confronting the sector to include funding, infrastructural decay, outdated curriculum, insecurity and lack of capacity development.

The NUT boss said the theme of this year’s celebration, “Teachers in freedom, empowering teachers,” is to address some of these problems.
He said, “ It is for this reason that we are dedicating this year to plead with governments at all levels to address these challenges. We want the retirement age increased to 65 years, better funding for education and a review of the curriculum to be in tandem with technological and entrepreneurial education. We are also appealing to them to beef up security in all our schools to keep kidnappers away from our children. “

“Teachers should be celebrated by way of national awards, and should be exposed to local, national and international training to enhance their status and motivate them. As a gift to teachers this year, the sector must be sanitized, unprofessional teachers must be sent out, that is the only way to build system and add value to it, Olukoya added.

While the attrition rate of teachers may be a global phenomenon, the Nigerian government must introduce incentives that will attract the best people into the system.

We cannot hope to build a better country with a broken education system and poor quality of teachers.


In this article:
Michael OlukoyaNUTUNESCO

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