His Excellency, the Governor’s school outing
By Juliet Bumah and Abimbola Adelakun
For as long as one may remember, the standard of education in Nigeria has been said to be on the decline. Successive governments in the country have sought ways of revamping the system, but all to no avail.
While many have blamed teachers, who some accuse of not showing commitment to their job of ensuring that Nigerian children, the country’s future leaders, are adequately instructed, many, including the teachers, are blaming it on governments’ insensitive attitude to the welfare of the teachers.
Perhaps, one of the reasons why many do not want to toe the teaching line is that teaching is seen as a charity work, hence the mantra, “Teachers reward is in heaven.” Teachers now want to be rewarded on earth for the services they provide for the society on earth.
This is also why the country has witnessed many agitations by the teachers, all geared toward getting better packages at the end of the month. The recent strike action embarked upon by the Nigeria Union of Teachers to protest teachers’ poor pay package is a case in point.
While teachers war with the authorities, governments at all levels are also trying to see how the standard of education in the country will leave the all-low zone for good.
Having noted that the standard of education in the state has fallen greatly and would need urgent steps by the government to redress it, a governor in the North/East region of the country wondered how the 4,000 teachers in his state could take care of over 150,000 students schooling there.
And to ensure that students in the state get quality time from teachers, Bauchi State Governor, Malam Isa Yuguda, introduced a part-time teaching scheme and encouraged civil servants in the state to be part of it.
“We need to do something urgently to address the falling standard of education in the state and the best way is to engage part-time teachers with the aim of improving the standard of education in our schools. Therefore, we need the support of people like you to at least, spare two hours to teach in one of the schools.”
And as part of his personal contributions towards reviving the standard of education in the state, the former Aviation Minister offered to spare some minutes to help the students. “I will also take part in the teaching exercise, as I intend to teach Economics, considering that my first degree is in Economics,” he was reported to have told the civil servants. A case of “Teachers are dispensable” some would say.
Perhaps His Excellency, the Governor did have a good idea but knowing politicians have a knack for making political gains out of every noble idea makes one suspicious of the governor’s intentions.
He has made good his promise, having taught some Senior Secondary School 3 students in an all-girls school - Federal Government Girls College. He took a class of Economics, teaching Production, a topic in Economics.
The issue here is that the governor identified the problem in the education sector in the state – inadequate number of teachers in the state, but has failed in providing the only solution – improving pay package to attract trained teachers.
Having enjoined the volunteer part-time teachers to be committed to the job, the governor said they should not bother about monetary rewards for their efforts, but rather, they should see it as part of their contributions towards improving the standard of education, though he said that the state government will consider providing some incentives that will boost their morale. Herein lies the problem in Nigeria.
Why would a governor choose to employ untrained volunteer teachers to fill sensitive positions that would readily be taken up by professionals in the field, if only governments at different levels in the country would do that which is begging for attention – enhance teachers’ pay package and recruit qualified teachers to do the job!
What has the governor achieved in the 45-minute-lecture he delivered in that all-girls school? Nothing, other that providing gossip materials for the starry-eyed girls that would have sat through the period basking in the euphoria of being taught by the His Excellency, the Governor.
Moreover, nowhere has it been mentioned that the governor got trained to be a teacher. It is the mindset of Nigerian politicians that any square peg will fit perfectly into any round hole that will make the governor to don the toga of a teacher. If teaching is so easy, many parents will not be paying home tutors to help out with their children’s take home work.
Since it has been established that the state lacks adequate teachers, one would have expected the governor to look into the reason why fewer people are embracing the teaching profession. But then, it is an open secret: teachers’ remuneration is so poor that few people would want to touch it with a very long pole.
The solution is to enhance teachers’ packages and make the job more attractive for fresh graduates; this will also encourage students to aspire to become teachers. Getting untrained civil servants to administer half baked education will only achieve one thing – lower the standard of education the more.
The problem is not peculiar to Bauchi State though.
In other states where there are higher school enrolment figures, there persists the problem of inadequate number of teachers to teach the teeming number of students being enrolled in schools.
With the high number of students to one teacher, there simply cannot be qualitative teaching. The teacher, at best, will only teach to the best of his ability. With poor rewards here on earth and lofty promises, the average Nigerian teacher has become a parody of what a teacher should be or look like. Hence, he finds no reason to put his all into his job and until governments at different levels do the right thing, standard of education will only nose dive the more.