World Teachers’ Day, an occasion for the celebration of the dignity and importance of the teaching profession, was marked on October 5. We join the rest of the world in the celebration of teachers who have contributed immensely to the growth and economic development of our country. The work of teachers is critical to the well-being and future of all nations.
That is why all wise nations prioritise teachers and matters pertaining to their welfare so that they can continue to reap dividends from their very important exertions. Nigeria must continue to put great accent on teachers and the work that they do so that it will be well with our youths and the country.
We are glad to note that the incumbent Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, in his remarks on the occasion, acknowledged the poor working conditions that our successive governments have afforded teachers, and promised to significantly change the narrative. Such commitment should not be trifled with. Government must find the will to do it.
In all of the countries where giant strides have been made in development and rapid industrialisation, the prioritisation of the teaching profession has been a cardinal policy. Check the United States, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and China, the strategy has been largely the same: putting great accent on the training and remuneration of teachers and providing everything that is required for the proper education of children.
Can any serious nation that desires growth and rapid progress trifle with this critical human resource? That is what unserious nations do when they toy with their teachers’ welfare and training. In Nigeria, the story was not always this dismal. In pre-independence times, right up to the First Republic, the teacher was a very significant and respected member of the community. This enviable profile reflected in the quality of those recruited into the profession and more importantly, impacted positively on the amount of sacrifices they made for the betterment of their wards and charges.
Gradually and ironically, with improved earnings from oil, the teacher began to lose his place in the scheme of things in the country. Matters concerning him and his work environment were consigned to the backquarters and right before our very eyes, the teacher diminished in importance. As a result, no one who had ambition and thought highly of himself wanted anything to do with the profession as it became a last resort and dumping ground of sorts. This is one of the reasons we are where we are on all indices of development.
To buttress this important point, just recently, the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, raised the alarm on the abysmal poor quality of primary school teachers in the state who sat for a test ordinarily administered to primary four pupils. Of the 33,000 teachers who wrote the examination, 21,780, representing 66 per cent of the total number, failed. If this same test were to be administered to teachers in some other parts of the country, the result may not be much different. The level to which our teachers, especially at the primary level of education, have sunk is disheartening. Urgent measures ought to be taken by all the relevant stakeholders, with the government leading the way, to correct it.
The best way out of poverty is through investment in education, especially those who deliver it. Why is Nigeria’s case so different? We must begin to quickly retrace our steps, starting with the commitment of the present administration as indicated by the Education Minister. The size of the budget for education must significantly improve next year as a first sure sign of our resolve to change and do things differently.
Then, even if the salaries of the teachers cannot be significantly increased at this time, priority must be given to their prompt payment, while emphasis is placed on their training and professional development