Reward our teachers on earth!
The other day, an alarm was raised about the scarcity of teachers in 28 states of the federation.
Besides, reports revealed that the same trend has befallen secondary schools in Cross River, Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Benue, Osun and Ekiti states where public secondary schools are short of subject teachers in English Language, Physics, History, Economics, Information and Communication Technology, Mathematics, Commerce, Chemistry, Further Mathematics and Biology. This is worse than a natural disaster in a territory.
So scary and unbelievable has this scarcity been that in Ogun State, no fewer than 7,000 teachers have retired without replacements. Officials attribute this to lack of funds. This too is catastrophic.
It is often said that the overall mental and intellectual development of a given people or society is judged by the way such a society treats its teachers.
Either willfully or by default, in Nigeria, there seems to be a concerted effort to cripple formal education by humiliating and dehumanising teachers of public schools. Teachers in public schools, especially primary schools, are the least paid and often the last to collect their salaries in virtually all the states of the federation.
The sad part of this development is that proprietors of private schools have also taken a cue from the government. With increasing unemployment and the near collapse of quality primary education by the government, private sector initiative has become an all-comers affair. Many proprietors go for cheap labour, maltreat teachers and carry on with impunity, often without recourse to standard, since those to ensure quality control are ill-equipped and have no official motivation for standardisation.
In years gone by, the primary school is the agency for streamlining and re-orientating pupils towards the path of decorum, nationalism and moral cum ethical consciousness. Where home formation lacked, the primary school augmented satisfactorily, by putting their wayward children in the care of teachers. What happened to that society?
There is therefore the need to overhaul the educational sector of our national life to reflect a semblance of urgency and vision.
For a long time Nigerians have been reminded that the poor quality primary education being provided is a ticking timebomb. This is not far from the truth. The imminent explosion is gradually being felt in the quality of leaders in our local administration. Ill-informed, discourteous and intolerant behaviour of people in the public space; the low premium placed on human life and the morbid craze for immediate gratification are all indications of the absence of proper formation, which quality primary education would ordinarily have addressed.
A realistic part of overhauling the educational sector would demand that stakeholders that include parents, faith-based organisations, non-governmental organisations and state actors, must fashion out a national goal of education based on present experiences and realities.
The idea that education is basically a meal provider or employment grantor should be disregarded as a motivation for the provision of educational services. Our national ethos, discipline and respect for persons and the lofty ideas of qualitative living are all tied to proper education. Should Nigerians be surprised that kidnappers, suicide cases, assassinations and other unconscionable acts are on the increase?
Armed with a realistic national goal, modalities for creating objectives towards that goal should be put in place. And these must inform the standards by which to judge the quality of our educational system. Thereafter, there should be investment in teacher training. In terms of action plan, this should be a priority.
Any country desirous of quality citizenry and effective and efficient manpower for national development must give priority to robust teacher training. It is not for nothing that the Scandinavian model of education, exemplified by the superb accomplishment of Finnish educational system is adjudged the best in the world.
As many observers of global educational standards are aware, the Scandinavian countries comprising Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are highly reputed in the provision of quality education delivery.
How did they do this when it has not always been the case? In the case of Finland, their finest exemplar, which is ranked internationally as overall number one, with only two per cent high school drop-out, the success lies in the management of teacher education and the administration of its school system, wholly state-funded.
As previous analyses have shown, Finnish teachers are selected from the top 10 per cent of the best and brightest students. Like doctors and engineers, they are the best paid, even though they teach four hours a day. Their primary educational system is geared towards a pupil’s multilateral development rather than passing examinations.
Conversely, the education faculties and departments of our universities are dumping grounds for desperate teachers and frustrated applicants of the university matriculation examinations.
Since students are not prepared for, and hardly ever motivated by the imposed course of study, they become a liability on the society as teachers. These and their proprietors are the ones that make schooling a nightmare for pupils. Pupils stay in school for eight hours doing assignments and projects; and are often inundated with ‘take home’ and home-works that are rarely taught them by the overstressed teachers.
All this calls for a purposeful declaration of an emergency in the educational sector. The benefit of quality basic education, beyond employment and subsistent living must be stressed. It is high time stakeholders found a link between education and patriotism and moral-ethical citizenry. Anything short of this is mere politicking that takes one to nowhere.
Certainly, the foundation of progress in this construct is placing premium on teachers as the most significant workforce. It is time to reward our teachers here on earth if we want education standard to be meaningful enough to take us to heavenly places.
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