Still on recruitment of 500,000 new teachers

TEACHERThe plan to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 graduates and NCE holders as primary schools’ teachers nationwide by the Federal Government is a welcome development. Aside from attaining optimal pupil-teacher ratio, the intervention will also help Nigeria to expand a pool of human resources in basic education, thereby improve the quality of basic education in the country. To be clear, improving the quality of education is often predicated on a number of variables; such as, the number of qualified teachers, teacher-learner ratio, learner-classroom ratio, teacher-classroom ratio amongst others.

Although the underlying motivation is not far farfetched: The proposed intervention will help the Buhari Administration to address the high rate of unemployment particularly amongst the youth age cohort in the country.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work, increased to 75.9million from 74million between Q2 – Q3 2015 representing an average increase of 2.6 per cent.

Special intervention should be well anchored and methodical in implementation in order to impact positively on access to, and quality of, basic education in the country. In the last two decades, Nigeria’s education system has deteriorated badly to the extent that we have almost completely outsourced the provisions of basic primary education to the owners of private schools across the country

It is, therefore, gratifying that the Federal Government promises to create no fewer than one million direct jobs in 2016. In any case, the government has often maintained that job creation and social inclusion remain crucial to the Buhari Administration’s development programme as a means to reduce the rates of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the country. However, it should not be those fake claims of job creation that used to render the air in the immediate past.

The new administration must match its promises with results. To achieve this, N500billion is earmarked in the 2016 Budget proposal as social investment. The special interventions envisaged a recurrent investment covering conditional cash transfer, home grown school feeding programme, post NYSC entrepreneurial development programme, and Micro credit loans (SMEs, Market women, etc) amount to N300 and a capital investment of N200bn.

Therefore, the hint concretised through the 2016 – 2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF&FSP) as well as encapsulated Buhari Administration first full length appropriation bill (2016 Budget Proposal) has tremendous positive implications to improve access and quality of basic education in the country.

However, this special intervention should be well anchored and methodical in implementation in order to impact positively on access to, and quality of, basic education in the country. In the last two decades, Nigeria’s education system has deteriorated badly to the extent that we have almost completely outsourced the provisions of basic primary education to the owners of private schools across the country.

This has unfortunately impacted negatively on the ability of children from low socio-economic backgrounds and other disadvantaged households to access educational opportunities in the country. This is the more reason the plan to hire half a million primary school teachers should be viewed as a step in the right direction.

Although, Nigeria is not in crisis in terms of teacher availability at the basic educational level, according to the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) 2013 Annual Report, it is however yet to attain the targeted national teacher-pupil ratio of 1:40. For example, Malaysia is reported to have a reasonable pupil-teacher ratio of 13 pupils to a teacher.

Ethiopia has also expanded its teachers’ workforce by an average of 11 per cent per annual since 1999; as her next door neighbour, Eritrea is said to be recruiting teachers at a rate of 10 per cent yearly (See: African Renewal, April 2014).

However, for Nigeria, there were only 666,288 registered teachers nationwide in primary education system (averaging, as at the end of 2013, a national average of 1:57). Perhaps that was why a UNESCO report, cited by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), in its 2014 Right to Education study, stated that Nigeria needs more than 200, 000 (hundred thousand) primary school teachers between 2011 and 2015 in order to meet the universal primary education requirement. For this to happen, the CSJ study calculates that Nigeria would require about N256bn to pay these new teachers.

It is important that all relevant educational authorities in charge of basic education at all levels be involved in mapping out strategies in order to achieve better intervention outcome. This is necessary in order to further clarify roles and other areas of support. For example, for how long would the Federal Government, through the agency of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), undertake to pay the salaries of the 500,000 teachers that would be recruited for primary schools nationwide since provision of primary school education falls within the purview of the local government councils? Is there going to be disparities in the total remuneration of public primary school teachers within a state based on who’s funding their recruitment?

What the foregoing implicitly presupposes is the existence of a gap in manpower for basic education which is expected to be filled up by the soon to be hired 500,000 graduates and NCE teachers. At any rate, given our fertility rate, more children will need extra primary school teachers. More importantly, to achieve this and other pro poor social interventions, as hinted above, N500bn is earmarked in the MTEF&FSP which has been approved by the National Assembly as social investment. Other pro-poor social interventions line up by the Buhari Administration is well intended.

On the perennial problem of unqualified teachers and professionalism: It is important that the new recruits should undergo a crash course in teacher’s education which the government has promised to remedy through the National Teacher Institute (NTI). In terms of qualifications, as disclosed by the FME 2013 Annual Report, 90 per cent of primary school teachers nationwide have NCE holders, 8.8 per cent have B.Ed, while only 0.32 per cent and 0.006per cent have M.Ed and PhD respectively in the primary education system. This is in tandem with minimum requirement for primary school teacher in the country which is the attainment of National Certificate of Education (NCE) qualification. It is therefore important that the new recruits should undergo crash course in teacher’s education. More often than not, the quality of education is always sabotaged by lack of trained and qualified teachers.

Meanwhile, the issue of Early Childhood Care Development Education (ECCDE) should also be factored in the placement of these new teachers. According to educational psychologists, early childhood education makes a lot of difference to children’s long term development yet there’s virtually no provision for ECCDE centres in public primary schools across the country.

Non-availability of crèche and kindergartens facilities in public schools remains an equity issue as it undermines the ability of children of poor households to access this vital early childhood educational development. It is crucial that the number of ECCDE centre and enrolment across the country is increased by building more schools and expanding the facilities in the existing ones to provide access to the early childhood education.

But to be meaningful and impactful, the Buhari administration will need to partner with the state and local governments (SLGs). What will therefore be the roles of different tiers of governments towards effective implementation of the intervention? Rather than being the usual top down Abuja thing, it is important that all relevant educational authorities in charge of basic education at all levels be involved in mapping out strategies in order to achieve better intervention outcome. This is necessary in order to further clarify roles and other areas of support.

For example, for how long would the Federal Government, through the agency of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), undertake to pay the salaries of the 500,000 teachers that would be recruited for primary schools nationwide since provision of primary school education falls within the purview of the local government councils? Is there going to be disparities in the total remuneration of public primary school teachers within a state based on who’s funding their recruitment?

Despite the requirement that NCE is the least qualification for Primary School teachers and B.Ed for Secondary School teachers, available evidence, however, suggests that unqualified teachers are still in the teaching service of some of the 36 states of the Federation at both levels of education.

Undoubted, with the recruitment of 500,000 more teachers, the pupil-teacher ratio would be more reasonable, but to avoid redundancy more classrooms should also be built by relevant authorities.
Salman, a Budget Advocacy enthusiast, is the Team Leader, Good Governance (Monitoring) Team, Abuja, now: Grassroots Development and Advocacy Centre (08094609566).



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