FG’s recruitment of 500, 000 teachers: Matters arising
As the federal and state governments collaborate to recruit, train and deploy 500, 000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders to address the chronic shortage of teachers in public primary schools, Godfrey AKON x-rays related issues contiguous to the teaching profession in Nigeria.
Federal Government’s plan to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 teachers to public primary schools, represents what could resolve an enduring setback in Nigeria’s basic education subsector.
In 2014, a report by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, indicated that the country needed 212,000 primary school teachers by 2015, representing about 13 per cent of teachers needed globally to shore up its enrolment capacity.
With over 10.5 million out of school children in dire need of integration into its formal school system, Nigeria’s huge teaching gap put at one teacher per over 78 pupils as against one teacher per 40 pupils recommended globally, needs to be urgently addressed.
Consequently, the decision to recruit 500,000 teachers into public primary schools would exceed UNESCO’s expectations and strengthen their capacity for improved enrolment across the country.
Over the years, large class sizes, ill-equipped teachers, poor infrastructures, lack of funding, weak institutional management, overloaded curriculum and shortage of instructional materials contributed significantly to the dwindling quality of basic education.
It is however imperative to note that recruitment is just one of the key aspects of professionalization of teachers. Others such as training, remuneration and retention are equally powerful stabilising factors for in-service teachers.
Teaching in Nigeria is deep-rooted in a culture of attrition and job mobility, witnessing arbitrary resignations without replacements, poor welfare packages or conditions of service and un-conducive teaching environment.
Many Nigerians still view teaching as the vocation of the poor and ill-opportune, while others simply avoid committing their future to the profession, thus presenting the challenge of being able to attract the best brains. Even the teachers see it as a transit point while awaiting better jobs.
A recruitment process devoid of attractive financial incentives and good housing, especially in rural areas, could experience a high level of attrition in the ensuing years as the economy gets ’better’ and jobs are created in other sectors, thus defeating the long term objectives of the scheme.
On this regard, observers believe that the involvement of state and local governments in the recruitment process is acceptable to the extent the two tiers are not dragged into custody of the 500,000 teachers’ remuneration and other welfare arrangements.
Over the years, the two tiers have struggled to properly incentivise teachers for the development of basic education in their domains, prompting calls by the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, to reverse the rule and completely take over primary schools from local governments.
“As the federal government intends to collaborate with the states and local governments in this exercise, it must be recalled that the Supreme Court has interpreted section 2 of the fourth schedule of the constitution of Nigeria that it is state that has the responsibility for primary education while the role of local governments is only participatory,” the union said in as statement.
Federal government’s recruitment should therefore assume the similitude but not exactitude of federal teachers’ scheme, FTS, established in 2006 to assist states in addressing the challenge of teacher shortage at the basic education sub-sector.
The Scheme, which was aimed at enlisting unemployed holders of Nigeria Certificate of Education, NCE, for a period of teaching service in public primary schools, was owned and financed by the federal government through the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC.
A maxim in recent use among stakeholders in the education sector says “no country can rise above its quality of education and no educational system can rise above the quality of its teachers.”
Since the primary task of any school system is to imbue citizens with skills, competencies and knowledge needed for national growth, every educational policy must make teaching quality and learning a high priority to ensure that all children enrolled in school actually obtain the skills and knowledge they are meant to acquire.
Against this backdrop, the quality of teachers recruited to man the nation’s primary and secondary schools must be properly assessed in line with Nigeria’s national educational goals and rules of engagement, as the system already grapples with a high number of unqualified teachers.
Already, the Nigeria Union of Teachers has warned that the planned recruitment of 500,000 teachers should only be for professional and graduate teachers as well as NCE holders and not quacks and people who have not been duly trained as teachers irrespective of their qualifications.
As part of efforts towards ensuring quality in the subsector, teacher training institutions such as colleges of education should also be given priority attention to improve the quality of NCE graduates churned out from the institutions.
Implementation of the NEEDs assessment of public Colleges of Education which was carried out during the last administration should commence immediately to ensure that critical infrastructures are provided to train and inject quality teachers into the system.
It is also noteworthy that the micro-teaching laboratories which were started some years back in the colleges to raise the quality of teacher training have not been completed. This implies that teachers churned out by such teacher training institutions still lack modern techniques in the delivery of quality education.
Without disputing facts, any genuine efforts to enthrone standards and quality in education as the key component of national development must place teachers’ training and capacity building as a leading policy.
Also, Government has admitted that despite recognition of the importance of teachers in Nigeria, there is still the problem of attracting and retaining quality teachers mainly because of lack of attention to their welfare which has led to low societal estimation.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian public service itself encourages discriminatory practices, which have also dealt a big blow on the placement of teachers, thereby contributing significantly to poor retention.
It is heartrending to note that while the terminal level of university graduates in public establishment ends at grade level 17 that of primary school teachers terminates at grade level 14, whereas their secondary school counterparts terminate at grade level 15 or 16, in many states.