The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to ensure access to inclusive and equitable quality education in the world by 2030. However, the growing teacher shortage in many countries may likely vitiate this lofty goal. A new report on teachers has revealed that not less than 44 million primary and secondary school teachers will be needed globally by 2030. It has also shown that the Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst hit by teacher shortage with an estimated need of 15 million new teachers by 2030.

In Nigeria, the teacher shortage is alarming. According to figures from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Nigeria’s teacher shortage in public primary schools is 194,876. The teacher shortage in private primary schools will be worse. There is also rising teacher shortage in public secondary schools across the country. Consequently, the privatisation of education in Nigeria has led to the establishment of mushroom primary and secondary schools with scant attention paid to recruitment of qualified teachers and quality of teaching.

Even in primary and secondary schools owned by the government, the story is almost the same. Only a few states in the federation have recruited teachers in recent times. While many teachers are leaving the profession in droves, there are no plans to replace them by recruiting new teachers. In Nigeria, the teaching profession has lost prestige and is therefore loathed by many young graduates, including those who studied education courses in the universities and colleges of education.

Apart from lack of respect for the teaching profession, teachers in Nigeria are poorly remunerated. The teaching profession is no longer attractive and many who opt for teaching do so as the last resort. Even those who retired from teaching are owed arrears of gratuities and pensions by the various state governments.

Latest projections show that in order to meet the SDG target 4, the financing of the additional teachers needed would cost $12.8 billion for universal primary education and $106.8 billion for universal secondary education worldwide. It will also require not less than $120 billion annually to cover new primary and secondary school teaching posts’ salaries by 2030 globally.

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Arising from the foregoing, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have made some far-reaching recommendations to transform the teaching profession. The role of teachers in human development cannot be overemphasised. According to the ILO Assistant Director-General for governance, rights and dialogue, Manuela Tomei, “teachers can instill curiosity and a passion for understanding the world and nurture the employers and workers of the future.”

The recommendations of the panel included some actions to be considered with national contexts to address the urgent crisis in the teaching profession and the teacher shortage facing many countries in the world. We agree with Tomei that for teachers to adequately perform their evolving roles as knowledge producers and promoters of experimental and inquiry-based learning and problem-solving, they need training and support. Her explanation that teachers need support to play a key role in promoting good citizenship, sustainability, peace and democracy is not in doubt.

The EU Commissioner for International Partnership and member of the High-level panel, Jutta Urpilainen, called for the enhancement of the attractiveness of the teaching profession. According to the commissioner, “we need to change the narrative, so that societies recognize and respect teachers, and governments invest in education.”

We call on the federal and state governments to key into the global efforts to transform the teaching profession by addressing the teacher shortage and other challenges. The government should stop paying lip service to matters that concern teachers and the teaching profession. For teachers to be accorded the much-needed respect by the learners and the society, they must be paid enhanced salaries.

Let government prioritise the welfare of teachers and empower them with adequate training to excel in the knowledge industry. The state governments should commence the massive recruitment of teachers to address the teacher the glaring shortage in pubic primary and public secondary schools across the country. All tiers of government should invest in education. The budget for education needs to be significantly increased. Teachers need enhanced welfare, support and motivation to be able to effectively nurture the employers and workers of the future.