The teacher issue in Nigeria’s education crisis – Part 2
As the head of the Policy Division in the Federal Ministry of Education in years 1999 to 2002, I came to a very deep understanding of the myriad of issues that internally frustrate the teaching profession and undermine its potential as a source of human capital development.
All over the world, education is recognized as the key to development.
It is a solid educational dynamics that anchors the human capital which the state harnesses for its material and national development.
The 1990 Jomtein World Declaration on Education for All; Article II of the Declaration states categorically: “To serve the basic learning needs of all requires more than a recommitment to basic education as it now exists.
What is needed is an “expanded vision” that surpasses present resource levels, institutional structures, curricula, and conventional delivery systems while building on the best in current practices.”
The Universal Basic Education (UBE) commenced in Nigeria in 1999.
This scheme was calculated to meet the Article I of the Jomtein Declaration which declares that “Every person – child, youth and adult – shall be able to benefit from educational opportunities designed to meet their basic learning needs.”
Thus, apart from the Early Children Care and Development education which takes care of children from age 3 to 5, there is also a framework that takes care of children from age 6 to 15.
However, my experience at the Federal Ministry of Education, as well as with the Education Sector Analysis that was carried out at that period, revealed a lot that is still wrong with the UBE that makes the scheme more of rhetoric than strategic action on behalf of education and national development in Nigeria.
The major culprit is funding and poor planning and implementation.
This has a serious impact not only on the curriculum system and student learning process, but eventually on the teaching framework and the emergence of a great teacher and a significant learning experience in the school and for the students.
In the final analysis, it is the teacher that determines the learning process.
The outcome of the learning experience for the students, and the eventual preparation of the human capital for the development effort in any nation, depends on the competences, skills, responsibilities and perception of the teachers.
Finland, and the Finnish educational system, is a great example. And this example is not farfetched. Finland has the record as one of the best educational system in the world. And the cornerstone of this success story is not only the attention paid to the curriculum system, but the training and trust invested in the teachers.
After close to ten years of formal training, the average teacher enters into a professional career of dignity and continuous updating that has the students as the focal point.
In Nigeria, certification serves as the final end in the process of molding a teacher for the teaching experience, and this in an educational system that is highly subjected to the vagaries of politics, and where the structures are near arbitrary and even dilapidated.
The certification process, unfortunately, is centered on the higher education system, and especially the university. This has two implications.
The first is that little or no attention has been paid to the origin of the teacher’s educational process which commenced from primary and secondary school.
An excellent teacher emerges from a good foundational education which starts from the basic elementary education. If this is neglected, the foundation is already compromised.
The second implication is that attention has been taken away from teacher training institutions, especially the colleges of education while the focus has been on the university system.
With the sorry state of the colleges of education and even the universities in Nigeria, it is impossible to escape the empirical fact that the future of millions of future generations of Nigerian children is entrusted into the hands of half-baked graduates of education.
The teacher, and the teaching process, in Nigeria therefore stands locked within the complicated grip of governance lopsidedness, and a power politics that pays lip service to the significance and urgency of human capital development and the education system, but fails to see the role of the competent and dignified teacher in the emergence of a competent and knowledgeable human capital.
And so, teacher education has been embroiled in the crippling dysfunction that afflicts the education sector and system in Nigeria. And the first pointer to the predicament is that in the first place, there is a gross inadequacy of teachers in Nigeria.
The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) announced in 2017 that 300,000 out of the 700,000 teachers in Nigeria are unqualified.
Thus, it should not be a surprise that the teacher-students ratio is 1:80 (compared to the recommended 1:35 ratio). And forty percent of primary school teachers are unqualified to be in the classrooms.
This implies that 58.3% of the students cannot learn effectively in classes.
We can then imagine what it means for someone like my late aunt, Mrs Aime Olaopa, to have struggled to distinguish herself in a profession that speaks of the teacher with utmost indignity.
We immediately understand why someone like my wife refused blatantly to subject herself to such denigration by a state that refuses to acknowledge the significance of teachers, the same way countries like Finland did.
Of course, my aunt and my wife would have both been celebrated in a state like Finland. But we are in Nigeria where celebration of teachers could only commence after a deep-seated reform of teacher education.
• Prof. Olaopa is Executive Vice-Chairman, Ibadan School of Government &Public Policy – (ISGPP), Ibadan.