As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Teachersâ€™ Day recently, experts who have been monitoring issues in the teaching profession opined that it should be given pride of place and teachers rewarded adequately to boost their morale for effective discharge of their duties. Funmi Ogundare reports
Teachers in Nigeria last week joined their counterparts across the world to commemorate the 2017 World Teachersâ€™ Day, an annual event held on October 5 since 1994.
This yearâ€™s World Teachersâ€™ Day with the theme â€˜Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachersâ€™, marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO recommendation concerning the status of higher-education teaching personnel, which most times at institutions of higher education are often overlooked in discussions concerning the status of teachers.
In Nigeria, the day usually brings together governments, multi- and bilateral organisations, NGOs, private sectors, teachers and experts in the field of teaching.
Teaching at any level be it nursery, primary, secondary and higher education is a profession that requires expert knowledge, specialised skills, and pedagogical competence. However the profession just like some others comes with its own share of challenges which include; lack of instructional facilities, poor teaching methods, policy somersault, environmental problems, lack of proper training, delay in the payment of salaries, among others.
At a programme held at the Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex, Lagos, the state Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Chief Adesegun Raheem, expressed concern that not only are teachers encumbered by the excesses of the parents, but are shackled by the environment, adding that the students and the society in general are a menace.
â€œParents come to school to harass and embarrass teachers for their childrenâ€™s misdeeds and misdemeanours. The school curriculum is fixed and teachers who are supposed to implement the curriculum are hardly consulted. There is policy somersault, the government packages a policy today and the succeeding governance upturns it on assumption of office. The empowering instructional facilities are scarcely unavailable.
â€œWe are still at the rudimentary stage of teaching methods when the world has shifted to the use of machine and where machines are available, there is no electricity to power them. What a teacher encounters on the internet, he cannot disperse it so as not to be accused of teaching what he is not paid to teach. We are yet to acknowledge the fact that the teacher is the gatekeeper of knowledge and that he is the pivot of the education system.â€
Raheem added that the idea that teachersâ€™ reward is in heaven belongs in the past, saying, â€œwhat is the conviction that all teachers will make heaven? Are bankers, lawyers, engineers not going to be rewarded in heaven too? Wonâ€™t they be taking a double ration if this becomes true? Even if our reward is in heaven, it is good we get a deposit here!â€
He also regretted that teachers in the country are yet to be elevated to the status of their counterparts in Finland, Denmark and many other advanced countries and stressed the need for the government to reinstate the abrogated allowances of teachers, which he said would go a long way in boosting their morale.
The allowances he said included duty-posts, science, riverine, rural, boarding house, among others, adding that teachers that are posted to rural or riverine areas for instance often encounter challenges getting to such locations thereby allowing children to miss key subject teachers.
â€œEmployers have a way of boosting the morale of their staff to appreciate their input in the progress of the corporate organisation. A sudden cut in these morale boosters will dampen the spirit of concerned staff.â€
He emphasised need for more teacher recruitment and retention in the education sector to be able to cope with the constant increase in enrolment at different levels, just as he expressed regret that many teachers are retiring on a daily basis without replacements for their positions.
â€œThere is no over-emphasising the fact that teachers are very vital in any educational system as they are the professionals who interpret the aims, goals and plans of education and ensure that children are educated in the direction of those aims and goals. It therefore means that this very important workforce should be available in sufficient numbers.â€
The state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode used the occasion to announce the approval of the recruitment of additional 500 teachers into the school system.
Ambode, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Oluranti Adebule, said the teachersâ€™ recruitment would be needs-specific, adding that it will be limited to Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) holders in core science subjects, Mathematics, English, Yoruba, French Languages, Computer Science, Creative Arts and Home Economics.
He also announced the approval of the promotion of primary school teachers to grade level 17 so that they can be at par with their counterparts in the civil service. He said the decision was unprecedented in the annals of the countryâ€™s education reforms.
â€œTeachers are the catalyst to realise any meaningful, functional, quality and effective education delivery and as such my administration has continued to consolidate on the many reforms initiated to adequately empower them and appropriately reward them.â€
He revealed that the annual merit awards being organised by the ministry of education and the districts are meant to boost the morale of teachers and achieve healthy competition while promoting and rewarding excellence, diligence, dedication, hard work and commitment to work.
Ambode urged teachers to continue to maintain the ethics of the profession and discourage unethical and unhealthy practices such as examination malpractices, admission racketeering, illegal collection of fees, late coming to schools, absenteeism, among others.
The National President of NUT, Michael Alogba expressed dismay that many teachers have been sent to their early graves as a result of neglect from their employers, saying that they are made to work under poor conditions and remunerations with little or no professional freedom.
He said the theme of the event was apt as it seeks to draw attention of government to issues bothering on the condition of teachers in the sector, adding that it is imperative to celebrate teachers in all spheres of endeavour for impacting the society.
Olukoya, who was represented by a member of the union, Mrs. Olubukola Kareem, said teachers must be appreciated in their chosen career even in their culpable neglect. â€œThe Nigerian teachers will continue to contribute to nation building as none can grow above its education system,â€ he said.
He presented an award to Ambode and commended him for providing an enabling environment for teaching and learning to take place in schools while also prioritising teachersâ€™ welfare and rewarding hard work.
Awards were presented to people for their service to the teaching profession. They included Alogba; Permanent Secretary TEPO, Lagos, Mrs. Sewanu Amosu; former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mrs. Ariyo Olabisi; and Director General, Quality Assurance on Education, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo.
Others were: best 2016 principal, head teacher and teacher in the secondary and primary school categories. The best teacher in the primary school category, Mr. Mufutau Olusegun of LASA United Nursery and Primary School, Ibeshe Town, Lagos told THISDAY that since he has been teaching in the past 17 years he is satisfied being a teacher, adding that in giving, one receives.
â€œI feel excited about the award. I have contributed my quota to the profession. For me, the award is a great honour. Teachers should keep up the ethos of the profession.â€
In Abuja, as teachers were being celebrated globally, a senator representing Enugu North Senatorial District, Chukwuka Utazi stressed that teachers in Nigeria should be paid before lawmakers and other public servants.
He spoke through order 43 of senate rules while expressing concern over the pathetic condition of Nigerian teachers. â€œNobody wants to take to teaching profession anymore.â€
He expressed disgust at how Nigeria elites chase teachers around the world by spending so much money in sending their wards abroad, leaving teachers in Nigeria with difficulties.
â€œMr. President, distinguished colleagues, I am saying this with all sense of responsibility that Nigerians should be encouraged in teaching profession. In todayâ€™s society, people believe that the teaching profession is not a lucrative one and I know that we are getting it wrong at that. That is why most of us here spend so much money in sending our children from this part of the globe to another in search of teachers.â€
He argued that basic salaries of teachers are not often paid, which might discourage people from going into the profession. â€œIf nothing is done, there will be dearth of teachers in Nigeria in the nearest future.â€