Teachers: The Shapers Of Leaders
It is often said that “the mind is a wild horse”, which steers the outcome of one’s life, hence the need to be tamed.
At each step of a child’s development, the mind is trained to receive information for each stage of society they are ushered into.
From learning to conjure words to capture their thoughts to grooming talents, teachers are charged with this responsibility and the classroom is where a child spends their formative years.
As children grow, they quickly learn that the A, B, Cs, when placed together correctly, explains his thought process. While it is true that the home is the first learning ground, it is the classroom that shapes the worldview of the child. Spending over 75% of their formative years in school, society believes that by the time a child graduates from each class, he should have sufficient knowledge that should be of immense value to the individual and society.
It is in this value that teachers find satisfaction.
A Noble Cause
Indeed, in the course of serving Nigeria’s future, teachers have become the liberators of humanity – saving and reforming the lives of the young.
“Those who love to teach, do it for love, they just smile through the stress even when what they put in is not commensurate with what they gain.
They smile because the joy that comes from imparting knowledge is enormous; when they recall that some good teachers put in so much to make them who they became, they carry on,” Ananaba Ogechi, a teacher in Abia state, says.
In one of Nigeria’s downtown areas, Ajegunle, Lagos, is Rose Ihudiya Amuzie, whose school Isrina schools, encourages poor parents to pay their wards primary tuition fees using plastics.
In the Guardian Life’s interview with her in 2019, the first class graduate recounted the plight of parents who could not afford N5000 tuition fees and how her school was helping them solve this problem and providing quality education. She has also been soliciting for relief and educational materials to encourage children.
Yet again, for those who do not have access to stable electricity, award-winning art educator, Olusegun Michael Adeniyi, has embarked on a project that will see children with little or no access to light receive reading lamps.
Another teacher, Adeola Adefemi, launched the CHILD NOT BRIDE campaign, which uses poetry and stage plays to tackle issues such as FGM, child marriage, child labour and violence.
A Teacher’s Reward
Despite the efforts, a teacher, especially in a developing state, is undervalued. The teaching profession is one of the least on the recognition chain and ranks high on the neglect chain.
Olusegun Adeniyi is one of the two Nigerians (the other, Adeola Adefemi) and five Africans that have been shortlisted for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 in partnership with UNESCO, the “Grammys” of teaching. If he wins, he will become the first Nigerian to win the $1m prize money. However, this news received little to no recognition in Nigeria.
“Can you imagine that when it was announced, several media outlets did not carry the news and I was like ‘wow’. We are in a particular Whatsapp group and what we got from other countries is amazing. You know, they were invited by the presidents, commissioners, you know, different events. But here we are, not even the commissioner of education of Lagos state has invited us. Using an entertainment programme and the rate of media rounds, he noted that it is saddening that an event that will contribute to the future of Nigerians is receiving little attention.
Ananaba Ogechi opines that the idea that a “teacher’s reward is in heaven” may have caused more damage to the profession.
“Some, as a result of not being rewarded adequately, have developed lethargy in the line of duty. They reason that even if you kill yourself trying to impart knowledge, you will be told that “A Teacher’s Reward Is In Heaven”.
Bureaucratic bottlenecks will not allow them to enjoy some of the things that the government puts in once in a while. So, they respectfully respect themselves and their health and avoid subjecting themselves to stress.
“There are many intelligent graduates who will do so well as teachers in primary and secondary schools (many schools lack good teachers), but due to the treatment meted out to teachers, they prefer walking around with files or becoming self-employed to be sure they aren’t wasting their time.”
In the face of the harsh economic reality in Nigeria, especially in the rural communities, teachers are sometimes offered meagre salaries, causing them to turn to other means for survival. Mrs Ngozi is one of the teachers in Imo state who earns N10000 in a private primary school.
A mother of three and the breadwinner, this amount is not sufficient to last a month. Yet, she says she is fortunate. Her school has offered one of her wards, free tuition to cushion the effects of her reality.
Ananaba decrying the situation opined that because teachers are often underpaid and forced to abide by to set of rules in private schools, teachers are finding succour and would “give their arms and legs to be in government employment (the demon there is better than what is obtainable in many private schools). And some others, too, leave the profession in search of greener pastures. One can better imagine what will become of a family where the couples are teachers.”
The love-hate relationship
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
In the 2021 budgetary proposal to the National Assembly by the Muhammed Buhari administration, N742.5 billion (5.6%) of the N13.08 trillion budget was allocated to education. The lowest in 10 years, this percentage falls below the 15-20% benchmark recommended by UNESCO.
In addition, there is an incessant battle between governments and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). In 2020, Premium Times revealed that, since 1999, ASUU had been on strike for 50 months.
Similarly, Mr Emmanuel Hwande, Press and Public Relation Officer of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), in an interview with NAN (News Agency of Nigeria), in 2019, said, “The situation is alarming and scary. Unfortunately, the quality of education is suffering a decline. Poor funding and neglect have remained the lot of primary education and better funding will make an impact on the sector.”
Stressing on the need to invest in human resources, Olusegun believes that education is the answer to strong institutions and individuals.
“We are not encouraging teachers enough,” he says. “We need to be intentional about it. Teachers instil certain qualities that shape our children. Education is more than the classroom, education opens up the mind. It is beyond passing WAEC. Education helps them see that there are problems in society that need to be solved and this is where a teacher comes in.”
Citing China as an instance, he argued that exchange programmes not only expose potential/existing teachers to the ideals and cultures of other societies, these teachers return to educate the people using their existing and new experiences, hence the development of society.
Describing his propagation of the teaching profession as “activism”, Olusegun believes that if the best practices of the profession are instilled in children alongside knowledge gained from international cross-cultural programmes, there will be a spike in the number of people interested in teaching, a situation he hopes will change when he is announced the winner.
In line with this, Ogechi added, “It is not enough to shout out to them; it is not enough to eulogise them and say how noble a profession it is. Let’s walk the talk. Let’s make this profession attractive and appealing to enable younger ones to become part of it. Let’s begin to make way for teachers to enjoy their reward here on earth”.
Since 2019, the Federal Ministry of Education has hinted at a “career path policy” to help primary and secondary school teachers understand what their future holds in the profession.
Speaking on the implementation, he noted that besides “compiling a database of qualified teachers,” there will be a planned remuneration package for such teachers, those teaching sciences and peculiar allowances for teachers taking students with special needs, a special teachers’ salary scale is being worked on, and there will be specific programmes for school leadership.
While this is a laudable act, as it appears that the government seems to be stepping up, it waits to be seen if it would be another failed promise.