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World Teacher’s Day: Nigerian teachers as nation builders  

By Lateef Ositelu
05 October 2020   |   3:54 am
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, former President of Turkey says, a good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others.


Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, former President of Turkey says, a good teacher is like a candle, it consumes itself to light the way for others. There is no contention about the positive contributions of teachers to human capital development globally. Teachers turnout engineers, filmmakers, writers, astronauts, architects, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs and among others. It means without teachers, the world would not have great leaders and heroes who make our planet a better place for all.

It is quite pathetic today that teachers are not respected for their sacrificial role of burning like a candle while impacting knowledge on others to attain success. If we consider what they go through on daily basis in the local communities and hinterlands of most developing countries, particularly in sub-Sahara Africa, one will but be touched to decry the contempt teaching profession is subjected to.

Recent discovery has shown that over 60 per cent of teachers do not have job satisfaction and are psychologically discouraged due to low take home pay, deprived welfare packages and disregards for their salient contributions to nation building.  The postulation that – ‘Teachers Rewards Are in Heaven,’ a common submission in some Nigerian Societies that gives credence to the fact that teachers are regarded as personal non granter.  Teachers at all levels should enjoy the labour of their hands while alive and not in their post-mortal state. According to John Dewey, an American Philosopher, education is not preparation for life, education is life itself.

In the past, teachers in Nigeria had made great waves as at 50s, 60s, 70s, and even early 80s when they were held in high esteem.  Even then each ethnic tribe in Nigeria used to psych up teachers with different appellations, as they perceive their developmental roles in the society. For example, Yorubas call a teacher  ‘Olukoni’ meaning the builder of intellects; the Ndigbos call a teacher – ‘Oyenkuzi’, meaning a person that educates while the Hausas refer to a teacher as – ‘Malami’, someone that reveals knowledge. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, describes a teacher as a person who impacts on someone or instructs someone on how to go about something. It means from time immemorial, teachers had been primo inter Peres across several tribes in developing countries before the collapse of societal cherished values for teachers.

Findings revealed that 75 per cent of teachers have been demoralised by this perceived societal neglect and poor government concern for their wellbeing. This has simulated an impaired academic success with collateral consequences on the society, as teachers were indirectly forced to divert their core objective on their survival track in a bid to meet up with their financial shortfalls.

Findings further revealed that, nation building in Africa will remain intricate as the teachers, the stabilizer of the society are suffering from psycho- economic challenges. For example, the three societal stages, namely; the home front, school environment and the society are left mainly for teachers to crop. Apart from the school environment the teachers are employed to work, they still serve as nursing mothers and social counsellors for students. As a matter of fact, the home front for training up a child has collapsed, 75 per cent of parents no longer have time to nurture their children due to twenty first Century industrial- rush off syndrome.

A report from UNICEF in 2020 showed that children around the world appreciated their teachers for sacrificing their times and lives to teach them during and after COVID- 19 pandemic This indicates that 80 per cent of parental responsibilities are heaped on the drained and poorly motivated teachers alone,  and these challenges sometimes turn their efforts to ‘flash in the pan’. Sociologists opined that the work stress may have negative impart on the teachers behavioural pattern  as exemplified in a Yoruba adage which says ‘omoolomo ole pa iya  oniya,’ meaning someone else child cannot kill someone else mother.

Invariably over 60 per cent of children are seriously affected by this ‘‘social playlet’’ leaving the society with slimly baked children to manage. The consequences are evident in the high spate of cyber crimes, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping among other criminalities being perpetrated by ill trained children who are now torn in the flesh of peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. Experts say the growing insecurity will continue unabated until governments at all levels respect the teachers and the teaching profession in accordance with global standard. No wonder the great Greek Philosopher, Plato (428-347 BC) said, no society develops beyond the capacity of its teachers.

Although every October 5th is World Teacher’s Day, set aside to celebrate the teachers’ contributions to global development annually by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) where the world appraises their collective challenges and discuss the way forward. It is commendable that some state governments in Nigeria used to celebrate teachers yearly on this occasion, even though the gestures may be far cry from the expectations but it should be acknowledged.

Like the Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun ‘Omo teacher,’ who celebrated teachers in 2019 World Teachers Day and fulfilled some of his electoral promises which included; approved promotion for 10,000 teachers and non teaching staff that were stagnated in 2016 and 2017 promotion exercise, restored the payment of running cost for teachers in schools which was cut for eight years, improved working/learning environment for teachers as well as students and reinstated two teachers Messrs. Olusanjo Majekodunmi and OludareI Lekoya who were forcibly retired among others welfare for teachers in the state.

In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders, while Finland regarded teachers as key success behind the country’s development. Nigerian government should also take a cue from these countries and encourage the teachers, motivate them adequately and respect the profession as noble. Because a poorly trained students will definitely ruin the national heritage. Education experts in Finland submitted that teachers are agent of nation building with capacity to guide and inspire the children to achieve set goals and to be morally upright.

As we celebrate Nigeria independence at 60, government at all levels should drop politicking and crop up policies that will set the country as academic trailblazer in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.  Federal Government should use the occasion to celebrate Nigerian teachers by organising a national symposium on television and radio stations where stakeholders across the six geo-political zones will discuss challenges facing the profession and teachers’ wellbeing in the nation building.

Ositelu wrote from Ogun State Ministry of Information, Abeokuta.