On World Teachers’ Day, stakeholders lament poor funding, deplorable infrastructure
As the nation joins others to celebrate this year’s Teachers’ Day, ADELOWO ADEBUMITI takes a look at the teaching profession, challenges and how it can be repositioned for improved performance.
Among passionate professionals in the world, teachers are exemplary because of their desire to want to keep imparting on tomorrow’s leaders – children.
They are seen as crucial partners in the growth and development of a nation, particularly the training of young ones. Without developing human capacity, the growth of any nation may be in jeopardy.
The Director-General, National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna, Prof. Garba Azare, once said that investment in teachers and education is imperative for the attainment of qualitative education.
To enhance the level of the country’s educational system, Azare said 25 per cent of the budget should be allocated to the sector. He noted that a well-motivated teacher would put in his best and encourage others to join the profession. For him, teachers should be accorded top priority for efficient service delivery.
Regrettably, successive governments have not given the needed attention and priority to teachers and the teaching profession. In a report published in 2019 by GoBankingRates, on the average teachers salaries in 30 countries, Luxembourg, ranked first with the overall average salary of $105, 762, followed by Germany with $73, 732 and Netherlands, with $61,705.
Hungary ranked as the lowest with $21,535., Czech Republic, $21,613 and Poland with $22,596.
In its global teacher Status Index report on 35 countries, published in 2018 by Varkey Foundation and the University of Sussex, South Africa ranked first with an average salary of $30,921, followed by Ghana with $7,249, Egypt $6,592 and Uganda $4,205.
In Nigeria, even with the new minimum wage of N30, 000, teachers in the public sector earn N360, 000 per annum, which is less than $1,000. Graduates who are on level eight get an average of N46, 000 and N66, 000 while in the private sector, some teachers with high qualifications get between N80, 000 and N150, 000. But those in low-cost schools are poorly paid, getting as low as N10, 000 monthly salaries.
An education consultant, Julius Opara, identified poor salary as one of the challenges facing the profession in the country. He said the problem cuts across public and private schools.
Most teachers in Nigeria face the challenge of poor working conditions, ranging from lack of conducive classrooms to lack of motivation. The lack of allowances and benefits like housing, health, transport among others, has further made the profession less appealing.
“It is sad to see a lot of teachers languishing after many years of service and retirement because the government/politicians have refused to pay pensions.”
Opara also cited lack of teaching aids as part of the problems teachers are facing. He said they are often saddled with the responsibility of having to source for required teaching aids to help drive home their lessons.
For example, in most government schools, the lack of teaching aids is a major challenge. Some private schools are not left out, as school owners do not see the need to provide teachers with the needed tools. Unfortunately, the government supervisors who should ensure quality education are not discharging their duties.
Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Adedoyin Adesina and Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), Kazeem Labaika, agreed that the challenges facing the profession are enormous and multi-dimensional.
Adesina said poor remuneration, non-payment of salaries as at when due, poor working conditions, as well as lack of infrastructure are some of the problems confronting the teaching profession.
For Labaika, Lagos has a total of about 14,000 secondary school teachers, which is grossly inadequate.
He said: “Currently, we have about 150,000 secondary school teachers in the country, which is short of the prescribed ratio of students to teachers. At least, about 300,000 teachers should take charge of our secondary schools if we want adequate representation and improved teaching.
A university teacher, Mr Karigidi Kayode Olayele, said apart from infrastructure and poor pay, lack of training for teachers and poor attitude to learning by students call for concern.
“I don’t think qualification is one of the problems. I was told there was a time in this country that school certificate holders were employed immediately to teach in secondary schools and they did well. So, qualification is not the problem but efficiency. Secondly, incentives, salaries and infrastructure should be improved upon, Olaleye said.
Director of School, Queensland Academy, Lagos, Mrs Lillian Adenike Okudoh, said the effectiveness and quality of any educational programme is dictated by the quality of the human resources, particularly teachers.
She warned that quality education would remain a mirage if teachers’ education is not in good shape.
“The quality of teachers supplied into our educational system is a product of a handicapped teachers’ education. The quality of teachers’ education today remains a broken window in the system. It is true that statistics shows that more practising teachers now have the teaching qualifications but the question is, “what is the quality of training being received in our colleges of education? It is also important to address the quality of people being admitted into our colleges of education or even the education departments of our universities. Of course, the quality of the input will determine the quality of the output. It is garbage in garbage out.
“When we look into the admission requirements into our colleges of education, it is less stringent than what is required to study other professional courses. In fact, most people that apply to study education courses in the university do that as the last resort, probably because they could not make the requirement for other courses. This already paints a wrong mental impression that teaching is meant for the academically incompetent.
“When we look at what obtains in a country like Finland, which has one of the best systems of education in the world, we would see a clear opposite of things. Finland selects just 10 per cent of those that apply to study in their colleges of education on merit, meaning that they get the best brains as teachers. Most of their teachers usually also study up to Ph.D levels. Therefore, having the best education system in the world is not a fluke.
Okudoh lamented that the Nigerian government, over the years, has not been able to meet up with the UNESCO recommendation of 26 per cent of total budgetary allocation to education, which means that the sector is poorly funded.
According to her, most colleges of education are in a deplorable state. Poor funding affects the standard, merits and quality of the certificates awarded to education graduates.
“Most people in the profession chose it as the last resort, hence, the level of commitment and enthusiasm for the job is very low. This is because the society has developed a wrong mental impression about this very important profession. Are we to talk about the poor remuneration of the teachers as well, especially in some private and low-cost schools? All of these have contributed to the poor quality of teachers supplied into our schools and hence, the deplorable state of our nation’s education sector.”
She, however, stated that private schools are making efforts to restore the glory of the teaching profession. Okudoh said private schools and their associations have set up training colleges for teachers and provided qualitative instructions to make them 21st century compliant.
Director, Standard Bearer School, Lekki, Dupe Oni, identified poor infrastructure as a big challenge in the teaching profession, noting that unconducive atmosphere impairs learning and degrades the quality of teaching.
She said there is a disconnect between political leaders and education managers, reason why they are not conversant with the challenges in the teaching profession.
Oni said there is a need to hold teachers to greater accountability and the need for alumni associations to complement government’s efforts.
To improve the quality of teachers and the teaching profession, Opara said the government must raise entry requirements and deliberately invest in quality preparation programmes for prospective teachers.
“Increased remuneration, improved working conditions and involving well-meaning Nigerians and private corporate organisations to introduce incentives, recognition awards, professional development opportunities and lots more. This would, in a way, increase the perception and increase interest in the profession among youths,” Oni added.
Opara said teachers’ performance management system should be put in place to hold them accountable.
“It is important to say that these and many other approaches will be needed to achieve a measurable success, and for Nigeria to stand a chance of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which is ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all,” he said.
Noting that the need for professional development of teachers in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised, he said teacher-training colleges should be well funded, while teacher education aids/ grants should be made available to encourage more prospective teachers.
“The issue of workload of teachers is another major challenge facing teachers, which is commonly brushed aside due to lack of proper understanding of this term-workload. It does not necessarily mean the number of subjects a teacher has to handle, which on its own is a problem, most especially in private schools, but workload here means the ratio of teacher to student. In most of our public schools, it is practically impossible for a teacher with about 70 students in his/her classroom to be able to go round the class for inspection, mark all class work, see through students’ assignment or even engage in essential teaching and learning processes.
“Remember that not all students learn at the same pace, style or method. Some are visual learners, auditory learners while others are kinesthetic learners and as such the teacher is expected to prepare the lesson note putting in mind the different learning needs of the students. It is clear that this is impossible in an overcrowded classroom, which is the reality of most classrooms and the condition our teachers find themselves,” Opara said.
On his part, Labaika called for improved pay to attract the best brains to the profession.
The NUT chief, on the other hand, canvassed improved budgetary allocations, involvement of parents in the process, increased personnel, and infrastructural development.
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