The Sun News

TEACHERS’ DAY

Pupils, parents, seek special status for Nigerian teachers 

No quality education without  quality teachers

By Gabriel Dike and Glory Eze

Although the teaching profession which took firm roots in 1931 in Nigeria, has in the past 40 years faced major challenges of poor work conditions, today, there have been additions to the challenges.

The new and weighty additions are the decline in enrolment into colleges of education, decline in young persons willing to embrace the job, governments attitude to teachers/poor welfare conditions, irregular payment of salaries and gratuity retired teachers.

So, the pertinent truth the future of teaching faces is the dearth of enough and competent hands to groom the future generation in formal education.

World Teachers’ Day

But the world and even Nigeria never really did underrate the very vital place of the teacher. That awareness of how important teachers are necessitated the creation of a special day in the year to celebrate those professionals that groom every other professional.

The World Teachers Day (WTD) meant to celebration teachers has held annually on October 5, since 1994 when UNESCO commemorates teachers worldwide. It is aimed at mobilizing support for teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.

It has become an occasion to mark achievements and reflect on ways to counter the remaining challenges for the promotion of the teaching profession, like the acute shortage of teachers. Indeed, according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the world needs 69 million teachers if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030. The UN agency noted that annual teacher gap in Nigeria could be closed by recruiting the equivalent of 1.2% of the population aged 20 years.

The theme “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers,” meant to ensure those teacher empowerments were reaffirmed as a top priority in all education and development strategies by governments. 

The Education Report survey carried out among pupils/students and parents in Lagos, Ogun, Imo and Benue states, revealed that the teaching profession ranks least among preferred jobs people would apply for or parents encourage their wards to take up.

Two major scenarios attest to the declining interest in the teaching profession by students and even adults.

On September 22, a head teacher at a private primary school located at Bariga, Lagos during the morning assembly, asked the over 1,200 pupils who among them wants to be a teacher. For about 25 seconds, the assembly was quiet and she repeated the question three times and got no response.

The second incidence at another private secondary school at Orile Coker, Lagos, did not impress the English Language teacher as the students rather indicated interest in professions such as law, medical practice, engineering, accounting, pharmacy, piloting and military services.

Mrs. Iyabo (surname withheld) was shocked and when she asked their reasons for not selecting the teaching profession, the students gave same reasons such as neglect by government, society’s attitude towards teachers, poor salary and stress of the job.

An SS 11 student in the class, Mark Ator, from Benue State, told The Education Report that it would be unthinkable for him to venture into the same teaching profession like his dad and rather asked our Correspondent if he could allow any of his children go into the profession.

He said: “It seem you and teacher don’t like us. Benue State owes my dad and his colleagues several months of salaries and gratuity for those retired.”

Mark disclosed that he left public school in Benue to private school in Lagos, because the state government owed their teachers months of salaries leading to strikes. He added that last year, teachers in the public schools went on strike for over four months and ‘’even private schools are not paying well. My elder sister brought me to Lagos to receive quality education and pass my public examinations.”

The proprietor of Royal Academy, Ibadan, Chief Laide Oluwaseun, revealed to The Education Report that as part of the celebration, he asked SSII students their choice profession and ‘’of  23 students in the class, non mentioned the teaching profession.” The educationist said the  or incident in the that class became a lesson him that the teaching profession will not attract young ones to replace the aging teachers in the future.”

Recognizing teachers

The Education Report sampled the views of some pupils of Rising Sun High School, Agodo, Lagos  Royal Academy, Ibadan, Topmost Academy, Ogba, Lagos, and all acknowledged that teachers in the country have been neglected and accorded lower priority by governments. They demanded  that federal and state governments should accord the teaching profession the honour it deserves.

In their contributions, Ogidiolu Elizabeth (Basic 5), Ogumba Chimdinma (SS 1), Oluwemimo Oluwapelumi (SS 1), Adebayo Cherish (SS 1), Obembe Toluwani (SS 1), Oladunni Dolapo (Basic 6), Abiola Oriola (SS 1) and Onyido Munachimso (SS 1), Executive Director, Covenant Educational Consulting (CEC), Mrs. Foluso Atilola and Prof Abiola Awosike of School of Innovative Studies, made passionate appeals to the government to place issues of the teaching profession at the front burner and bestow national honours on teachers.

Prof Awosika and Mrs. Atilola, decried the non recognition of Nigerian teachers by federal and state governments and demanded that the attitude must change if the trend of decline in  standard must be tackled while the pupils insist on better welfare package for teachers as well as regular payment of salary.

In her list of demands, Elizabeth, Basic 5 pupil, plea the federal and state government increase the salary of teachers as means to attract young people into the profession stating ‘’it will also make the teachers to work more than the way they use to do.’’ She urged the government always ensure that teachers go for regular training/seminar.

For Chimdinma, as SS 11 student, said teachers not are motivated and encouraged thus it affects productivity, stressing ‘’teachers ought to be given certain allowances such as those for the wardrobe and feeding in order to motivate them to put in their best in teaching the students. They also need to be given incentives for success achieved, the zeal to do more will be there but when teachers are denied incentives, they will fail in their duty and this will affect the students.”

Cherish, SS1 student, has a long list of what government must do to retain and attract new entrants into teaching such as provision of car loan, teaching aid, regular promotion, weeding off quacks from the profession and accommodation.

Dolapo, a Basic 6 pupil who praised teachers and hope to be one, produced a long list of demands, and among them, she wants teachers to have seats at the national and state assemblies, treat them with respect and dignity, provide conducive environment for teachers, special salary scale, housing and car loans and that teachers should be rewarded on earth and not hope for heavenly reward alone.

The Director General, Institute of National Transformation (INT), Prof Vincent Anigbogu, told The Education Report that Nigerian teachers are ill remunerated, and that can’t attract good hands revealing that in Singapore, those with first class and second class upper, go into the teaching profession and are well paid.

“Before now, the teaching profession had dignity and respect but the situation has changed for worse. Government not paying teachers well and Nigerians not sending the best into the profession is affecting the output. Government must accord the profession the respect it deserved,’’ he stated.

Why students shun teaching

This is incredible; many students in primary, secondary and even universities do not want to venture into the teaching for the simple fact that the current practitioners have been neglected by governments.

There are simple reasons, teachers, unlike before, are no longer accorded respect in the society because of neglect by government such as non-payment of salary, poor welfare conditions and poor working environment.

Nkechi Fredrick, an SS 11 student of Mac High School Obadore, Lagos, said that she does not want to become a teacher because they are poorly paid and ‘’most B.Sc graduates that work in the private schools are not paid well like my sister who is a graduate of education with a B.Sc degree teaching at Rehoboth Nursery and Primary School but quit from her job after so many years because of poor salary.

‘’Eighty per cent of students who are in the education department in various institutions offer the course because they have no other choice but to study it. Like my sister, Mercy who wanted to study Business Administration but was offered education course and at the end it never paid her. I am not ready to end up like my sister,” she noted.

A trader, Mrs. Foluke Adekunle, told The Education Report, that she cannot encourage her children to become teachers because it has lost the prestige while Mr. Benjamin Okafor, preferred his kids to be in more lucrative courses such as law, accounting, medicine, engineering.

NUT and state governments on salary  

Painting a worrisome situation the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) recently disclosed that 13 state governments still owed primary and secondary school teachers months of salary arrears.

NUT acting Secretary-General, Dr. Mike Ike-Ene, said that previously, 19 states owed, but some states have paid except 13 and the states are Ogun, Imo, Oyo, Abia, Kogi, Benue, Zamfara, Taraba, Plateau, Osun, Benue and Bayelsa states. He added that Benue owes heavily, as it is the worst. Ike-Ene, explained that the union expected the affected states to use the window of the long vacation to pay teachers, but, only few states like Anambra and Akwa-Ibom, among others, complied.

“It may interest you to know that few weeks back, at Ibadan, Oyo State, we re-appraised the way our teachers are owed; about 19 states owed teachers various forms of money, ranging from salaries to gratuity for many months; some two months to one year and about 28 states are paying salaries in percentages. We requested government to use the window of the long vacation to pay these teachers. But states like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano collected N10 billion Paris Club Debt refund each, including others. Yet, some of the states could not use this money to offset teachers’ outstanding salaries.

Ike-Ene commended the teachers for their perseverance and urged them to continue to do their best. “I just want to use this medium to thank all our teachers in primary and secondary schools, throughout the period, and further encourage them to do continue to do their best,” he called.

He also appealed to the state governments to pay the outstanding salary arrears, and added that if every effort to settle peacefully fails, the union would have no option than embark on industrial action.

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