“Teachers give a lot more than we get compensated for. Standing an hour to teach is more than what most people do a whole day in their offices; that’s why you see most teachers looking malnourished. It’s because of the stress of the job and limited resources to take care of themselves,” said Olasunkanmi Opeifa, a teacher with a government school in Abuja.
Opeifa, who was a finalist for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize in 2020, said teaching was not attractive in all its spheres.
“The poorer students are still the ones being thrown into the faculties of education. People who pick the job are just there for the meantime till they get a ‘better’ job; why? Our environment is not attractive. Our classrooms and staff rooms are too poor for sanity. Schools are not well-equipped to address modern needs,” he said.
Opeifa is not alone on this, as many teachers have expressed dissatisfaction on the job following poor numeration and other challenges.
Meanwhile, Nigerian teachers today join the rest of the world to celebrate the 2023 World Teachers’ Day (WTD) with the theme: “The Teachers We Need For The Education We Want: The Global Imperative To Reverse Teacher Shortage”.
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The WTD has been dedicated to celebrating teachers every October 5, since 1994, when the idea was muted by UNESCO, in collaboration with other United Nations (UN) agencies.
Though many have admitted that the teaching profession, despite being a noble one, teachers have come to be less appreciated, their roles relegated and their welfare ignored.
To celebrate the WTD, the federal government, in partnership with development partners, always celebrates teachers with activities which include symposiums and awards to excellent school administrators and teachers with grand prizes of cash, home appliances and cars.
During the 2020 celebration, the federal government announced the approval of a special salary scale for teachers in the country and also reviewed upward their retirement age to 65.
Others include approval for the building of low-cost houses for teachers in rural areas and the sponsorship of teachers, just as it (FG) assured of prompt payment of salaries and timely promotion to eliminate stagnation. This is in addition to the Teachers’ Conversion Programme (TCP) and ICT training to mitigate the dearth of qualified teachers in the school system.
Speaking on the incentives, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Audu Amba, recently told journalists that so many incentives were rolled out about three years ago, but that only that of elongation of service had kick-started at the centre, and to an extent in some states.
Amba said, “Up till now, none of the other incentives has gotten across to the teeming teachers of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, teachers who spoke to Daily Trust on their challenges, expectations and how to attract more hands to the profession to reduce shortage, said their welfare remained paramount.
Challenges faced by teachers
Abanika Taiye, a recipient of the 2021 “Maltina Teacher of the Year” award, said Nigerian teachers were still faced with the challenges of poor salary, noting that the salaries of teachers in both public and private schools were not commensurate with the current reality to sustain teachers’ needs due to hike in prices of things and transportation, as well children’s school fees and learning materials.
“It has been observed that most states in Nigeria pay public school teachers on percentage, like 20 per cent of their monthly earnings. This has drastically made life unbearable for them as they cannot meet up with daily demands, instead they have turned them to beggars who source funds from their family members,” Taiye said.
He further said that Nigerian teachers did not enjoy training funds set aside by their employers for capacity building unlike their counterparts in most countries.
“Majority of those who are able to train to gain current pedagogies do that from their pockets. Where they are not able to afford to sponsor themselves for training, they remain with the old ways of teaching with less effect on the modern teaching demands,” he said.
Taiye added that there was also the problem of inadequate teaching space and teaching resources, saying, “Most public and private schools still lack spacious classrooms with intended facilities that will be conducive for teaching and learning. Teachers are subjected to manage what is provided for them, including teaching resources or aids.”
Other challenges, according to him, include lack of allowances where they exist; lack of motivation, inadequate attention to teachers’ wellbeing, inadequate supply of teachers leading to over-labour on some teachers, and distance from place of work.
The Educator at Rhethora Educational Consulting/Reach African Child Empowerment Initiative (RACEEI), Mr Jude Badaki, said poor remuneration in both public and private schools remained top gear, and that chaotic adjustments to the curriculum, which afterwards created a proliferation of competing reading materials.
Badaki further said continuous change in the appellation of pre-existing subjects, the inclusion and removal of subjects and contents without due consideration for well-grounded necessities, and distortion of facts (especially in subjects like cultural and creative arts, social studies and history) were work-related ailments among teachers.
Another award-winning teacher, Oluwabunmi Anani, said teachers in most private schools still grappled with finance, hence that other than concentrating on their primary task, they expend energy moonlighting for extra money to foot bills.
She said in the age of technological disruptions, educators could no longer pay lip service to the move as they needed to embrace technology, deploy technology and innovate through technology no matter how simple.
“However, how many teachers can afford smartphones, let alone data? Power to keep the devices running is another snag.”
“Since the hike in fuel price, teachers like many other people are not spared. They still have to grapple with the economic situation with the same salaries. Teachers, despite the growing sophistication of society, still struggle with parents who do not understand that a child’s education is a partnership and not a contracted duty,” she added.
As the government celebrates teachers this year, they (teachers) have suggested what it should do to address the challenges.
Taiye said both federal and state governments should make education a priority and provide enough money for development of schools and a new curriculum that would prepare children to be more relevant today and in the future.
“Let them create an enabling environment for teachers to be comfortable, motivated, and resourceful. There should be employment of more qualified teachers in schools and improvement of infrastructural facilities for an enabling environment for teachers to work,” he noted.
He further called for continuous training for teachers at different levels and scholarship for teachers’ children or free education at all levels for registered teachers in the country, mortgage loans or free accommodation for teachers, as well as including teachers in the school feeding programme.
Badaki on his part said the expectations went way beyond the two tiers of government (federal and state) to the local government and the private sector (which is the largest employer of teachers).
“Energies should be channeled to the structures of the mind. And as quoted elsewhere, I have vehemently reiterated that ‘the foundations of knowledge, in the sense of the universe, continuously strengthen the pillars of thought, inspiration and innovation’. Take this away and society staggers along,” Badaki said.
He added that teachers built the structures of the mind and moulded the hands that forged creativity, where the destinies of nations lay – from the philosopher to the instructor to the rabbi.
To attract more hands into teaching profession
The federal government had said incentives would be provided to the best graduating students and scholarships offered to undergraduates to study education in order to attract them to the teaching profession.
For Opeifa, to appreciate the role played by teachers, the new teachers’ salary scale announced by former President Muhammadu Buhari should be dug up and implemented, “Then, the job will be competitive.”
“The world is changing but our education has remained the same. It’s time; we looked into what education we are giving the next generation,” he added.
Taiye said the government should make the teaching job lucrative by developing awesome packages for teachers and offering free education for people in the education line.
He said fantastic, spacious classrooms and serene school environments were also needed, awards and rewards for hard working teachers producing excellent students, and provision of technology in classes in all Nigerian schools, as well as free health and medical care, were essential.
To attract more hands, Badaki said society, government, schools, parents and students should give the profession back its dignity; “It can be done.”
Anani said to attract more hands into the profession, what was needed was the wherewithal to put talks into action.
She suggested that there should be practical sessions and follow up on the use of tech in and out of the classroom, and that there should be skilled and empathetic manpower who were also accountable and responsive to man the computer rooms.
“Let there be promotional prices on tech devices for schools and teachers. Let there be well planned exchange programmes for teachers locally, nationally and internationally – initiatives initiated, driven and led by our governments at the state and federal levels.
“The aforementioned will attract more brains and creative minds into our noble profession. Moreover, the ones already in the system will find tangible incentives to stay, rather than drift towards offers that lead to brain drain.”
The Minister of Education, Prof Tahir Mamman, said the welfare of teachers would remain one of the top priorities of his administration.
Prof Mamman, who stated this recently at a briefing to highlight activities lined up to mark the 2023 WTD, said the theme of the year brought to the fore one of the main challenges confronting the education system.
“Every society needs quality education for sustainable development, and every education system needs the right quantity and quality of teachers to achieve set goals. It is important, therefore, that the acute shortage of teachers experienced in many schools, especially at the basic education subsector, is given due attention by all tiers of government,” he said.