A recent disclosure that 273, 000 technical teachers are required in the nation’s public school system to meet the aspiration of the Federal Ministry of Education’s one teacher to 20 pupils ratio, is intolerable, especially, against the backdrop of reported mass unemployment facing young graduates including trained teachers in the country.
According to reports, the Registrar and Chief Executive of the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, Professor Josiah Ajiboye, made the disclosure in Abuja, while presenting two reports on the Technical Teacher Training Advisory Committee and the Inter-Ministerial Advisory Committee of the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Sonny Echono.
The objectives of both committees were to provide the necessary framework to empower youths through skills’ acquisition and capacity building for national economic development.
“Findings indicate that there are over 20,000 public secondary schools, which require over 273,000 technical teachers to achieve the aspiration of the ministry of one teacher to 20 pupils ratio,” Ajiboye noted in his remarks.
In his response, the Permanent Secretary noted that the Federal Government would establish six new technical education colleges before the end of the year.
He said that 10 additional technical colleges would be established within the next three years, noting that this would empower the youths with the necessary skills to be self-reliant and be employers of labour.
“The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari places emphasis on technical and vocational education and training, as this is the bedrock of the socio-economic growth of any nation. Apart from the technical colleges, the Federal Government will also establish more polytechnics, register monotechnics, and vocational and other innovation enterprise institutions, which will all equip youths with skills,” the permanent secretary noted.
It is not clear whether the problem is a lack of teachers or other factors that border discrimination, or the low incentives given to teachers, which obviously discourage even trained technical teachers, from taking to the teaching profession.
There should be no prevarication on this. The Federal Ministry of Education should establish why there is a shortage of teaching staff in schools and seek out appropriate solutions. It is needless telling the nation that a problem exists, whereas, it is the job of the government to tackle such a problem and ensure that the school system is running well.
It is obvious, from the foregoing, that the problem borders on the shortage of technical teachers, which, however, is not surprising. The nation, for a long time, neglected technical education, through which technical teachers were produced. How to fill the gap to meet the growing need, is now a big challenge.
A lot has been said about the appalling state of education in the country. Rather than improve, the situation seems to be getting worse. The problem cuts through the entire gamut of education from primary through secondary and tertiary levels. There is absolutely no commitment anywhere in the country to turn around the education of which teachers are a critical component
While some think that there aren’t qualified teachers to fill the gap, others think that the problem is in the non-employment of the available qualified teachers. Obviously, some states have more qualified teachers than others. But the problem is in getting to employ the teachers in the states that require them. Job discrimination on the basis of a state of origin and other primordial considerations creates unnecessary hindrance to the employment of teachers.
As it were, no state wants to spend its money on the so-called “non-indigenes.” The states that don’t hire teachers from other states seem to prefer using youth corps members who may not be professional teachers to fill the gap. This, of course, creates problems of quality teaching. And, it is a national issue that requires a national approach to tackle.
Besides, there are not enough budgets for teachers. Over the years, the country’s budgets for education have remained below the minimum 26 per cent benchmark of the national budget. There was a time when students studying education in tertiary institutions were offered scholarships and bursaries as incentives.
It needs to be re-emphasised that the quality of education anywhere depends on the quality of teachers. If the teachers are recognised and treated well, it reflects on their products, the students, upon whom the future of the country depends.
Unfortunately, this system is not treating teachers well. Teachers are regarded as the dregs of the society; people who must manage life with the crumbs thrown to them as salary, whenever it is paid at all. Every month, across the country, teachers are the last to be paid salaries and allowances.
There are no other categories of workers who are owed backlog of salaries like teachers. The retired teachers are not paid their pension and gratuity. Promotion is a-no-go area, not even on a notional basis. Denying the teachers promotion on the pretext that there are no offices to place them is in bad taste. How to attract qualified hands to a degraded profession is a big problem.
One way to tackle the problem, in the interim, is through crash programmes. Not long ago, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, reportedly sacked some 25, 000 “unqualified” teachers instead of retraining them through a crash programme. Also, the condition of service of teachers needs to be improved. A teacher should be proud of his or her profession like his/her counterparts in other professions.
There will be no end to the woes plaguing education in the country until the teacher is accorded his rightful place in the order of national precedence. It is time to treat teachers as kings. That is why Finland is a model to the world when it comes to enhancing education through the quality of teaching resources.