Our pains, demands, by teachers, stakeholders
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate teachers, issues of inadequate and obsolete facilities, curriculum and welfare again came to the fore with a call on the government to give priority attention to the teaching profession.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), President, Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools in Africa, Mr Anselm Izuagie, National President, Association For Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Emmanuel Orji and former winner of Maltina Teacher of the Year, Olasunkanmi Opeifa, said the teaching profession still has a long way to go.
While there are pockets of success stories of innovative teachers and motivation of administrators, stakeholders noted that there are still gaps.
According to them, there are no adequate teachers, teaching facilities are still obsolete, curriculum is still addressing old issues, discipline is getting worse and teachers’ welfare is still a dream.
World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5 to celebrate teachers around the globe. It commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Educational, Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendation concerning the status of teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding rights and responsibilities of teachers, standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.
It is a day to celebrate how teachers are transforming education but also to reflect on the support they need to fully deploy their talent and vocation, and to rethink the way ahead for the profession globally.
A joint message from Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, International Labour Organisation, Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo, Executive Director, UNICEF, Ms Catherine Russell, and General Secretary, Education International (EI), Mr David Edwards, reads: “Today, on World Teachers’ Day, we celebrate the critical role of teachers in transforming learners’ potential by ensuring they have the tools they need to take responsibility for themselves, others and the planet. We call on countries to ensure that teachers are trusted and recognised as knowledge producers, reflective practitioners, and policy partners.”
The theme for this year’s celebration is “The transformation of education begins with teachers.” NUT National Secretary, Mike Eneh, said welfare and infrastructure are necessary ingredients for effecting teaching, but are currently lacking in the system.
Eneh said there are still many gaps, which must be filled for teaching to experience a change. He cited the issue of budgetary allocation to the sector at all levels.
He blamed increased cases of crime and insecurity in the country on lack of education and qualitative learning.
The NUT chief lamented that most states have not employed teachers in the last 10 years, thus putting pressure on those still in service.
Opeifa noted that the problems of facilities, lack of modern teaching approach and welfare still persists.
Despite President Mohammadu Buhari’s promise of new salary scale to teachers, Opeifa lamented that it is yet to be fulfilled.
He said as much as the promise is appreciated, fulfillment would hasten career fulfillment, which is in direct correspondence to economic satisfaction.
Besides, he said the curriculum still requires total restructuring so that it can meet the need of the 21st century children.
The Transformation of Education Begins with Teachers.To make teaching attractive, stakeholders demanded implementation of the new salary scale, noting that if teachers economic status is improved, more students would desire to study education, existing teachers would remain in the classroom, getting a teaching job would be highly competitive and teachers dignity and nobility would be restored.
Opeifa also demanded that facilities should be upgraded so that teaching can be easy and need-based. He also called for a legislation to protect teachers from harassment from students and parents.
Orji, on his part, said successive governments have not treated teachers fairly, noting that from 1999 till date, there is no government that has come to office and not experienced industrial action.
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike for over seven months, which is to tell you the regard Nigeria has for the teaching profession.
Beyond issues of welfare, Orji identified security and safety as new challenges confronting the profession. The AFED boss said a situation where teachers go to school, especially in the north and do not return home calls for concern.
On technology and whether teachers are technologically positioned to meet 21st century global practices, Orji said Nigerian teachers are still technologically backward.
To bring the desired change, Orji said government must be deliberate by putting issues and challenges of teachers on the front burner.
He tasked teachers to also be ready to learn, re-learn and unlearn, adding, “Technology is one of the things we need to relearn, we have to unlearn some of the things we think we know and relearn. When we have the right opportunities, I’m sure that Nigerian teachers would learn and unlearn.”
Izuagie said it is heart warming to know that the world recognises the role of teachers and have set aside a date to celebrate them.
He said while the occasion presents opportunity for some African countries, like Rwanda, Kenya and Ghana to celebrate their teachers, it calls for sober reflection from Nigeria.
He said apart from extension of service year of teachers to 65 and 40 respectively, after much struggle to ensure that the country does not lose its best brains, education has not got the desired attention from government.
He said: “The brain drain we are talking about now is also affecting secondary education. Because when you lose teachers at early ages of their lives, infact at 60, a teacher is still very active and his experience cannot be whisked away, so we are losing that brain from the teaching fold.
He lamented that budgetary allocation to the sector has remained low, which has affected what is available within the school system.
“That is why schools in Nigeria run without subventions, no infrastructure, or learning materials to teach.” Izuagie said: “Celebrating teachers has to be holistic and a thing of joy all round.
In Nigeria, I would say government has done well to yield to the plea of NUT to extend the service year of teachers, but in terms of creating good working environment, government has not done well.”