Monday, the 5th of October 2015 was tagged "World Teachers Day" to celebrate the immense contributions of teachers toward shaping the world. In this part of the world, teachers have absolutely made lots of impacts in changing our lives and no doubt, albeit we have all had great teachers in the past who have in one way or the other shaped our lives, we can’t pretend to deny the fact that our educational system is presently in chapter-eleven, with teachers as the focal point. This article will examine from a critical point of view the contributions of Nigerian teachers in making a vibrant educational system, with the intend to answer this fundamental question: does Nigerian teachers deserves to be celebrated?
If the Federal Government itself can agree that over 50% of primary and secondary school teachers in the country have no requisite skills and capacity to impact knowledge, then a deteriorating educational sector cannot be avoided. Thus a factor responsible for mass examination failures in recent times.
The overwhelming majority of Nigerian students who sat for secondary and primary schools final examinations have failed to pass the required marks. Who, or what, is to blame? We may be right to some extent to say that the Nigerian government is giving little or no priority to education at all, but we cannot be fair to ourselves if we put all the blames on the government alone. While the government takes its own percentage from the blames, the teachers must also have their own share.
In any given society, teachers are indeed the first point of call when talking about development being them the most important people in nation-building and therefore, when teachers are bad then the entirety of a nation is also bad. You cannot separate the two.
In the past, we used to have teachers with passion and zeal for teaching. Most of whom were not even trained as teachers but the passion in them to pass knowledge on to others made them go extra mile to make sure the students are well taught and equip with all the basics as far as education is concerned, which was what made them outstanding to a point that today we are now celebrating them.
In as much as we continue to criticize the government for not doing enough to revamp our ailing educational system, we must also blame the teachers for making the studying atmosphere unconducive for learning. Apart from the menace of teacher absenteeism which costs Nigeria billions yearly, there’s also an institutionalized problem with student-teacher relationships in most of our schools especially the public institutions. Teachers are revered authorities whose job is to discipline and punish. The classroom atmosphere is authoritarian and students are encouraged to be afraid of teachers. This culture of fear in the classroom puts teachers on a pedestal as horrors instead of seeing them as mentors! This missing bond of affection between teachers and their students most often led to students loosing interest in a particular subject or the teacher himself.
The more extreme forms of this classroom authoritarianism are corporal punishment and sexual abuse. Even more common than sexual abuse is corporal punishment. We have had instances where students were beaten to coma and some disabled as a result of injuries caused by punishment in school. There was this case also where a school teacher caned a student, resulting in an uproar where relatives of the student took revenge and beat up the teacher. We cannot be fair to generalize but Nigerian teachers all have one believe in common, "spare the cane, spoil the child." One wonders how excited a Nigerian child will be about Teacher’s Day when he go to school everyday fearing that morning cane. What does Teacher’s Day mean to students who’ve silently suffered sexual abuses that may traumatized them for the rest of their lives?
The caliber of teachers we are having today aren't comparable to those we had in the past. Before, we had passionate teachers with the impetus and momentum to deliver, they were teachers whom were proud to be address with their name – teachers, they were teachers who regarded teaching as a profession not a part-time job to hold on to before getting a white-collar job. But today, things are no longer what they used to be, those saddled with the responsibilities of impacting knowledge lacks the knowledge themselves. All we now have are crooks charging money from parents to allow their children and wards to cheats during exams, and, of course provide them with answers where necessary. We saw instances where more than half of primary school teachers in Kaduna state failed an examination prepared for primary six pupils, and in Edo state where a secondary schools teacher failed to read what was written on her own certificate. Are these the kind of teachers we are celebrating today?
Unlike in the past where students excelled with untrained teachers, 90% of what we have today are trained teachers having either the National Certificate of Education (NCE), or a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) but yet, there is still an unimaginable decrease in the quality and standard of teaching, which perhaps can be seen from the mass failure of senior secondary schools students. Yes, we may have trained and qualified teachers, but the passion and enthusiasm for teaching is no-more there in them. The fact that a teacher has an NCE or B.Ed certificate does not really portray into his ability to impact knowledge irrespective of their courses of study, the passion for teaching matters the most.
Nigerian teachers today aren't only unqualified but non-teachable commodities, most of whom are products of the same dilapidated educational system akin to what we are saying today. A vast majority of teachers nowadays bribed their lecturers either in cash or in mind to pass exams, thus graduating half baked. Some bought out the certificates they were employed to teach with while others didn't possessed the minimum teaching requirements for employment, but found their way into the teaching profession through connection and bribe. I personally knew a guy who sat for WAEC in 1999, he got only one E8 out of nine subjects and failed all the remaining eight but today, believe me that guy is a primary school teacher today and to matters worst, he's not only an ordinary teacher but head of a department. It is worrisome, are these the kind of teachers we are celebrating today?
In a nutshell, an average Nigerian teacher is nothing to celebrate until we take a step in the right direction with a complete overhaul of the teaching profession, and to achieve this: authorities at all level of governments should convene as a matter of necessity a summit to strategize on how the educational system could be resuscitated and integrated. Akin to the practice of other developed nations elsewhere in the world, where constants and periodic review of schools’ curricula is done at regular intervals with the sole aim of updating the educational sector to meet up with the current challenges. Unlike in this part of the world where almost all sections of the schools' curriculum used in the 80s and 90s is still being in use today.
The fact that most Nigerian teachers are untrained should not be neglected, the government should take advantage of the information and communications technology (ICT) and upgrade the system through training and retraining of teachers in order to meet up with challenges and realities of modern teaching and learning. How could anyone expect Nigerian students to be educationally exceptional when we continue to teach them almost the same things their grandparents were taught?
ALAS, only then we might have some reasons to engage in celebrating the ritual of October 5th.
This mail is officially sent by Usama Dandare.