The authorities should establish an effective inspectorate department to ensure qualified teachers are hired
Recruitment of teachers has been a persistent and age-long problem in the Nigerian education sector. Relying on a recent survey it conducted, the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) has indicted many private school owners for contributing to the poor standard of education in the country by employing quacks as teachers. According to the council’s registrar, Josiah Ajiboye, some of the private schools provide less than optimal circumstances for creditably discharging their basic functions, accusing them of unleashing just anybody on pupils in the name of teachers. But the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) has rejected the accusation, and as being short on specifics.
The TRCN is an agency of the Federal Ministry of Education with a mandate to regulate and control the teaching profession, private and public. The report claims that about 90 per cent of teachers in private schools in the south-western states of Ogun, Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti were not qualified to be registered with the council. “If this is the situation in the Southwest, you can imagine the preponderance of unqualified teachers in private schools in Nigeria as a whole. Whereas a large percentage of teachers in public schools are qualified and have registered with TRCN, the same cannot be said of teachers in private schools.”
There is no doubt that there are many challenges facing private primary and secondary schools across the country. One is their alarming proliferations, found in every nook and cranny across the states. But there are more pertinent questions: What are the minimum standards? Are they endowed with quality staff, infrastructure, and teaching materials? Who is licensing them? Are the teachers well remunerated? Private schools are tiny businesses that vary largely in quality.
The worry stems from the fact that there are many educational entrepreneurs who are interested mainly in the bottom line, on how much they can reap from their investments. Some of the teachers they hire are, to put it mildly, incompetent. They are neither trained nor committed, just hanging in there for want of anything else. Perhaps these are the ones the NAPPS president, Abayomi Otubela, referred to as “illegal schools.” Some of their teachers receive less than N20,000 a month. And there are plenty of them. But there are also many private schools who are meticulous, equipped with quality and well remunerated teachers and operate from the best of environment. They are disciplined and orderly. Indeed, they are not only competing well and holding their own, but they are also contributing to laying a solid foundation for many of our children.
The crisis in education is a systemic one that cannot be dumped at the doorstep of private schools. While many public schools in Nigeria pay their teachers far more than private ones, their students are often worse off. Many government teachers are often absent from schools at any given time, for one reason or the other as teachers spend their time engaged in things not related to their job during official hours. Many poor parents would prefer to send their children to private schools if they could afford it. Indeed, the fact that poor parents are sending their children to private schools instead of free public schools speaks volumes. Even though private schools train a small fraction of the population they have consistently recorded better results in external examinations.
The TRCN has taken the commendable step by its campaign of ensuring that teachers are certified professionals, besides calling on states to vet the list of teachers before registering new schools. It must now establish an effective inspectorate department, while ensuring that school proprietors do not take undue liberties with the curriculum, or toy with the future of our children.