ONCE upon a time, teaching was regarded as a noble profession in Nigeria and elsewhere. In that golden era, teachers were accorded much respect and were treated as repository and fountains of knowledge. They lived in better houses and married the most beautiful girls in the village. Everybody knew the road to the teacher’s house and was ever willing to take you to the teacher’s house.
Teachers were given sundry goods and services for their commendable services to the society. They were given food items and other goodies that made life worth living. Teachers of that period acted as moral and intellectual guides to their pupils and were the village letter writers. They wrote all kinds of agreements and settled petty quarrels and disputes.
People looked up to teachers for moral examples and good conducts. Teachers were regarded as oracles and god sent. At that time, too, pupils respected their teachers and dread the teachers’ canes. Pupils disobeyed teachers only at their own perils.
But not any more: teachers are now treated with great disdain and societal odium. The teaching profession is now seen as one for those who could not get other better jobs. Teaching, especially at the primary school level, is now for the lowly educated. It is now for school certificate holders. The teachers’ Grade I and Grade II certificates of yore are now obsolete.
Even the quality of the National Certificate of Education (NCE) is being lowered. Many NCE graduates are likely to desire other jobs than teaching. Even those with bachelors’ degrees in education dread teaching. This is part of the crisis in the education sector. Teaching in Nigeria is like a punishment. Teachers in the rural areas are the worst hit.
They suffer from lack of job satisfaction and low self-esteem. They have low status in the society. No woman wants to be addressed as the mother of a teacher. They preferred to be identified as the mother of a doctor, lawyer, engineer, governor, president and some others but not teacher. It is truly in Nigeria that teachers’ rewards are in heaven. And a teacher will not get his reward until he dies and goes to heaven. Their poor salaries are not promptly paid.
If government lacks money, it is teachers that will bear the brunt. The government has removed the nobility in the teaching profession by its poor funding of the education sector, especially the primary school level. Teachers are no longer noble. They are now second class citizens. Their shabby physical appearance symbolizes the poverty of the profession.
Teachers are neglected. The worst treatment to the teaching profession and teachers is the questioning of their competency by our politicians who became whatever they are by virtue and the hard work of teachers that taught them.
What is unfolding in Kaduna State over the planned mass sack of teachers based on failure of competency test is a mockery of the revered teaching profession. The Kaduna State scenario represents the worst treatment to teachers in our governance culture. Why organize competence test only for teachers? Why are teachers singled out for this ridicule and humiliation?
Agreed that some teachers may have some shortcomings, is sacking them through state organized competency test the solution? I do not think so. And I strongly believe that many Nigerians, including those in Kaduna State, will not think so. Are there no other decent ways to address the shortcomings of some of these teachers order than sack?
Agreed that there is rot in the nation’s education sector, teachers alone cannot be blamed for the falling or failed standard of education in the country. I believe that the politicians, who regularly underfund education at all levels, more especially at the primary level, should be willing to take the lion share of the blame.
They are the ones that erect decrepit schools and send their children to better schools abroad. They are also the ones that build and commission dilapidated and ill-equipped hospitals and troop abroad in search of best medical attention. They are the ones that tacitly encourage medical tourism. Many Nigerians die prematurely because of inadequate medical care, which the politicians caused by refusing to do the right thing.
They are the ones that build bad roads. They are the ones that deny their citizens potable water. What our politicians enjoy when they travel to Britain and America, they deny their citizens.
There are also other questions begging for urgent answers and here are some of them. Do we sack a governor simply because he failed to fulfill his electoral promises? Do we sack doctors because patients die in state hospitals? Do we sack engineers because the roads they constructed caved in some months after delivery? Do we sack legislators for failed constituency projects? Do we sack lawyers for losing cases in court? I can go on and on and the list is endless.
Let Governor Nasir el-Rufai rescind the decision to sack incompetent teachers in the interest of equity, due process and industrial harmony in the state. Teachers in the country, especially those in Kaduna State, should be treated with honour, respect and dignity. Recruitment into the teaching profession should be more stringent so that only suitably qualified teachers can be engaged.
Apart from stringent recruitment procedures, government should embark on massive training and retraining of teachers, as a matter of top priority. Above all, teachers should be well equipped with the required tools and skills that will enhance the teaching/learning process. Kaduna State government must take the lead in this direction.
It is not enough to say some percentage of Kaduna State teachers failed competence test. The governor should ask why these teachers failed the competence test and proffer the right remedies which mass sack is not one of them. Modern teaching requires application of ICT materials and other gadgets. For teachers to be prepared for these technological challenges, they need to be trained and retrained. Teachers need to upgrade their skills regularly for them to deliver and deliver accurately. Modern teaching has gone beyond the era of chalk and blackboard.
Are Kaduna State teachers well prepared for these challenges? This is the question before Governor el-Rufai and he must honestly answer it. Resolving the monumental crisis in the education sector in Kaduna State requires pragmatic and remedial approaches and not mass sack of teachers.