Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu said last week that the number of teachers currently serving in the education sector in Nigeria is grossly inadequate. He spoke at a Teaching and Learning Conference organized by the African Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authorities and the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) in Abuja recently.
Malam Adamu said, “Demographic data have shown that African countries will be among the most populous countries in the world in two decades. Nigeria, Congo and Ethiopia will be among the top 10 most populous countries by 2050.” He said there must be plans to review and sustain the education system to cope with the anticipated population increase. The minister said government must, besides manpower development, look at the curriculum and the provision of necessary infrastructure. He said, “Besides the quality of teachers, the quality and relevance of our curriculum is another instrument. If the curriculum is archaic and faulty, the products will also be so. We must develop a unified strategy for developing a living and dynamic curriculum.”
Although the minister did not give the statistics of the current population of teachers in the country and the number required, we believe he was referring to the number of teachers that have the requisite training and professional skills expected of any licensed teacher. Given the result of a recent competence test conducted by the Kaduna State Government for its teachers, it is evident that competent teachers are in short supply. Until recently, the abysmal failure of students over the years in the SSCEs conducted by WAEC, NECO and NABTEB has largely been attributed by educationists to poor quality of teachers. While it is one thing to acquire minimum teaching qualification, it is another to possess the professional competence to effectively carry out the job of teaching at any given level of the system.
The minister would be right to declare that the existing number of teachers at the basic and secondary levels of the system in the country is inadequate if his assertion was about teachers who have not only been licensed by TRCN but also possess the professional competence required to function efficiently. Considering the crowded nature of classrooms especially in many public primary schools across the country, the claim of inadequate number of teachers would equally be apt in the light of existing teacher-pupil ratio. However, it would require further clarifications if the dearth of teachers mentioned by the minister was just about teachers that possess minimum teaching qualification.
It is public knowledge that holders of the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) are in ample supply; many of them unemployed. Dozens of teacher training institutions across the country annually turn out tens of thousands of NCE graduates. They include the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Federal College of Education (FCE) in each of the 36 states of the federation, state-owned Colleges of Education (COEs) in every state and FCT; with many states having more than one COE. This does not include specialized COEs and privately-owned COEs. Furthermore, Institutes of Education as well as Faculties of Education in most federal, state and private universities in the country also train and graduate teachers annually. The fact that a huge number of NCE graduates have not been employed to teach in public or private schools cannot be interpreted to mean shortage of teachers.
The dearth of licensed and competent teachers in schools is attributable to several factors. For example, teachers who possess the requisite professional training and skills use teaching as a stepping stone to other well-paying jobs. For years, government failed to make teaching attractive. The condition under which teachers work in Nigeria is counter-productive. They are regularly owed several months of unpaid salaries and allowances.
Unless deliberate measures are taken to motivate teachers appropriately, the most well-trained and qualified teachers will continue to ditch teaching for ‘greener pastures’ leaving the profession to suffer from inadequate number of competent personnel.