They say that taking Nigeria to be among the top requires a lot of investments in all sectors, most especially education.
Professor Musa Balarabe of the Education Department, Ahmadu Bello, University, Zaria, said the education sector must be prioritised because it has an overall relevance in attaining greatness in the other sectors.
It is perhaps based on that stance that the Federal College of Education, Zaria, recently organised a workshop to deliberate on the role of the teacher toward realising Vision 20:2020.
The workshop, held in Zaria, was organised in collaboration with the National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna.
At the workshop, Balarabe observed that the teacher is the “central man’’ in the social and economic development of any nation.
“The teacher impacts us with the knowledge needed to create new institutions, use new technologies, cope with our environment, and alter our patterns of behavior,’’ he said.
He noted that education and schooling improve the capabilities of individuals and the capacity of institutions.
According to him, the teacher is the leader in that crucial area that is a catalyst for the growth of the closely interrelated economic-cultural and demographic transformations that will eventually determine the success of the vision.
Like Balarabe, many analysts believe that the education sector must be “fully revived’’ to serve its critical role.
On such analyst is Mr Ishaya Akau, an educationist and the Provost, College of Education, Gidan Waya.
Akau recently told a team of visiting foreign scholars that “no nation can grow beyond the level of its teacher.
“I have always said that government at all levels must stop paying lips service to education and channel adequate resources toward revitalising it”.
According to him, the teacher is charged with moulding the societal behaviour because he handles the young people who are the future leaders.
“The face of the Nigerian of today represents the education he received as a young person.
“In the colonial days, people were taught to be morally upright and place service above every selfish desire.
“The teacher taught them to stand by the truth and that was why Nigeria started on a good footing after independence.
“We lost everything when we relegated the teacher and reduced him to nothing,’’ Akau said.
A recent report on education — put together by the Africa Development Bank (ADB) — collaborates Akau’s claims.
According to the report, a good teacher is required to impact greater skills that will lead to progressively greater benefits from the introduction of new technology.
“That,’’ the report further says, “will in turn lead to further development of nations and their inhabitants’’.
Balarabe said: “Nigeria ought to be at about the same level of development with countries like Brazil and Malaysia, if we had given education a steady and sustained attention.
“UNESCO recommends 26 per cent budgetary allocation to education but World Bank statistics for 2006 and 2007 showed that Nigeria did not heed that.
“Conversely, Malaysia and Kenya, for instance, spent 28 and 29 per cent of their budgets on education, while Brazil spent 10.8 per cent of its total expenditure on education in the past ten years.
“The states and local governments are even worse because they treat education with impunity.’’
The university don said he was particularly sad that ”the teacher is still the poorest paid worker in Nigeria, while training is simply appalling.
He said that recent investigations by his department had showed that there were not enough teachers to teach the millions of children in both primary and secondary schools nationwide.
Besides, he said, “the few ones available are of very poor quality’’.
Chief Sunday Kolawale, an official of the NTI, also spoke at the Zaria workshop.
Kolawole said that education was “inextricably tied to the concerted effort of the teacher’’.
In a paper entitled: “Teacher Education: ingredient for sustainable national development,” he described the teacher as “an indispensable catalyst who translates the schemes, aims and objectives of education into concrete action through teaching the pupils/students in a classroom’’.
Kolawale spoke further: “A teacher ensures that he/she employs varied and suitable methods in imparting new knowledge, skills, discipline and attitudes designed for the consumption of his audience’’.
He said it was to improve the teacher’s quality that government introduced many teachers’ training institutions, ranging from Day Care Programme for pre-school children, to the Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) and Higher Education Courses in Universities and Colleges of Education.
“Single and Dual Model Institutions were also established to provide teacher education through the Distance Learning technique.
“All these have a single aim of upgrading and updating teachers with new skills and knowledge.’’
He said that such efforts were being sustained to enable Nigeria meet the Millennium Development Goals, in that sector, “and also ensures it keeps up with global trends at all levels”.
He challenged education administrators and policy makers to be critical of the goings-on in the society with a view to identifying the major and current yearnings and aspirations of the people.
But just how could a developing country like Nigeria ensure sustainable development through the use of teachers?
Kolawale said: “There is the need to be selective in considering the person to be trained to become a teacher. He must be someone who loves people; who loves children and is prepared to mould them positively.
“He must also be normal physically and mentally, and must have a sound academic background,’’ he said.
Arguing at the workshop on why he thought education was a “fundamental ingredient’’ in realising vision 20:2020, the Director-General, NTI, Dr Ladan Sharehu, said “the sector holds a prime position in national development.
“It is a vehicle which brings positive changes to society. Therefore, it is a pathway to the successful actualisation of vision 20:2020.’’
Sharehu described teaching as the “most important’’ aspect of education.
According to him, teachers are models and the best thing any country can produce.
“An educated society is a developed and enlightened society. However, education is only important if it meets the needs of the individuals and the society as a whole,” said Sharehu.
Analysts, while agreeing with Sharehu, say that Nigeria must strive to revitalise its education sector to, at least, catch up with its development peers like Brazil and Malaysia and avoid being overtaken by “junior’’ African countries like Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
They say that the populous West African nation must adopt reforms in the entire system that will support the entry of mos intelligent and capable individuals into the teaching profession.
They say further that it is such calibre of professionals that will lead the nation into a modern era of technological development to meet the dreams of a great Nigeria as envisaged by the nation’s founding fathers. (NANFeatures)