‘500,000 graduate teachers, NCE holders elixir for basic learning’

Okebukola

Okebukola

The plan by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to employ 500, 000 unemployed graduate teachers and National Certificate in Education (NCE) holders to boost basic education, like the earlier one- the introduction of a-meal-a-day in public primary school across the country, has generated several reactions from a broad spectrum of the society. ENO-ABASI SUNDAY in this report, felt the pulse of stakeholders, who lauded the gesture. While they say it would narrow the pool of job-seekers and bring temporary relief to the perennial dearth of teachers at that level of learning, they were quick to caution against abuse of the scheme when it becomes operational.

“As an emergency measure, to address the chronic shortage of teachers in public schools across the country, we also will partner state and local governments to recruit, train and deploy 500, 000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders. These graduate teachers will be deployed to primary schools, thereby, enhancing the provision of basic education especially in our rural areas,” so read paragraph 23 of President Muhammadu Buhari’s speech at the 2016 budget proposal presentation to the joint session of the National Assembly.

This submission by Mr. Buhari, to an extent, captured what has remained a sore point in the country’s education milieu, as well as the reason quality learning is elusive at the basic education level in the country- the sheer lack of highly qualified teachers.

The production of qualified teachers has, in the last three decades or thereabouts constituted a very difficult task for the country to accomplish, despite succeeding administrations claiming to do so much in that regards. Consequent upon this negligence and its attendant dire consequences, the country’s educational system has consistently suffered inadequate teacher supply, in both quantitative and qualitative terms.
Section 70 of the 2004 National Policy on Education states that “no education system may rise above the quality of its teachers hence teacher education shall continue to be given major emphasis in all educational planning and development.”

This admonition notwithstanding, teacher education in the country has continually been treated with kid gloves, a development that has provided ample evidence why the country may never get a mention when countries like South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland are praised for leading the pack in countries with top-notch education systems, according to Pearson Education Ranking for 2014.

On Monday, October 5th when the world marked the 2015 World Teachers Day (WTD), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) informed that about 10.9 million primary school teachers will need to be recruited by 2020 to meet the goal of providing universal primary education for all.

JoshuaBringing it down to Nigeria, UNESCO also estimated that the country would need 1.4 million teachers more to provide every child with good quality primary education by 2030.
According to a document it released on October 2, 2015 to commemorate the WTD, Sub Sahara Africa faces the biggest challenge, “with a total of 2.7 million teachers needed in schools” even now. And for every 100 children of school age existing today, the report estimates that there will be 142 in 2030.”
Consequently, nations across the region, the report stated, would need to create 2.2 million new teaching positions by 2030, while filling about 3.9 million vacant positions.

Nigeria’s has some of the worst education indicators in the world and her lack of qualified teachers, being one of them, has been well documented by relevant concerned individuals, groups and governments.
For instance, last July, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, lamented the dearth of English language and mathematics teachers in the state, while also stressing that the state was facing acute shortage of teachers in primary and secondary schools.

Masari, who was on a visit to the management of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), in Abuja lamented, “In Katsina, we have a College of Education that has existed for 20 years. And in Katsina, we have no English language or mathematic teachers. Today, one of the biggest problems we are facing is the issue of English language and Mathematics teachers and you know without English language and mathematics, you can’t go anywhere…”

The following month, another former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwaal, bothered by the dearth of teachers in the state and its negative impact on educational development of the state approved the employment of 500 teachers.

Tambuwal, who had also lamented the dearth of teachers in the state, while receiving the Chief of Sokoto Field Office of UNICEF, Mr. Mohammadu Muhidden, who paid him a courtesy visit pointed out that the recruitment was to address the shortfall in teaching personnel in public secondary schools as the state bids to provide qualitative and sound education to its pupils.

Still in August 2015, the Emir of Kaiama in Kwara State, Alhaji Mu’azu Omar, said there was acute shortage of teachers in rural schools across Kaiama Local Government Area of the State.
Omar, who said most schools in the area had less than five teachers stressed, “What you see in the schools are only Arabic teachers. There are children in the interior parts of the council who want to go to schools, but there are no teachers.”

Olukoya

Olukoya

In September, it was the turn of the Federal Government to again bemoan the dearth of qualified teachers just as it reiterated that no nation or society could rise above the quality of its teachers and the education system.
The former acting permanent secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Hindatu Umar Abdullahi, who spoke while playing host to the national executive members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in her office had said, “I must acknowledge sincerely that we are not there yet because the struggle is still on. The UNESCO report on the National Literacy Action Plan for 2012-2015 has put literacy rate at 56.9%. One fundamental constraint to expansion of access in the country is the shortage of professionally qualified teachers and the challenging circumstances in which most teachers perform their duties.”

However, since the pronouncement by the president, supports for the idea has been upswing. For instance, the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Prof. Monday Joshua, said the proposal in the 2016 budget proposal “gladdens my heart because employing 500, 000 teachers will go a long way in boosting basic education in the country.
“We are all aware of the fact that many classrooms across the country need the services of qualified teachers, which some state governments have not been able to employ owing to obvious economic constraints. We are also aware of the fact that many graduates of colleges of education and holders of NCE are without employment many years after graduation. So, this proposal by the president is going to address two issues at once, and that is why it gladdens my heart,” Joshua stated.

Joshua, who commended the Federal Government for the proposal, which he noted would help curb unemployment, stressed the need for relevant bodies to play their part towards the realisation of such a lofty goal.
On fears that political elite could hijack the scheme when operational and flood it with unqualified persons, he doubted the probability of such happening considering the president’s change mantra.
“With the president’s political clout and unquestionable integrity, it is going to be extremely difficult for the scheme to be hijacked by the political elite. Since the president is out to revive the ailing basic education, I believe that after the National Assembly has done the needful, he would resort to the use of appropriate establishments that would ensure that the exercise is transparently handled in order for it to achieve its aim.”

What the Buhari administration should do in the first run of the recruitment is to conduct a selection test for those applying to be employed under the scheme. The test should have four main components- test of pedagogic skills, test of content knowledge (in the teaching subject), communication skills (oral and written in English language) as well as ICT literacy. Even if the first run results in recruiting only 100, 000 good quality teachers in 2016, it will be a better deal than one million teachers who are mediocre

For former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, “To a very large extent, employment of about 500, 000 teachers will give what you can call a turbo-boost to the basic education delivery system. It is quite refreshing to see the Buhari administration take on the issue of teacher quantity and quality frontally. In the past, the quest to hire more teachers was hindered by the inability of state governments at the state and federal levels to pay, in turn, made impossible by the huge slice of the budget going into personal pockets through corruption.

“The typical scenario in state schools even in federal unity colleges is to employ about half of the teachers needed to deliver quality education. About a quarter is recruited and paid for by the parent-teacher associations (PTAs). The remaining quarter makes up the shortfall in the teacher stock. In my view, the action by the Buhari administration is to close this gap progressively.

On the figure to be employed falling short of UNESCO’s recommendation, Okebukola the first African to win the prestigious UNESCO Kalinga Prize for the Communication of Science said, “Keep in mind that little drops of water make a mighty ocean. In this case, the drops are really big drops as 500,000 teachers is a huge number. If we can do 500, 000, we can progressively scale up to more than 1.4 million in the shortest possible time. My research group believes that the 1.4 million computed by UNESCO is an under-estimate.

With the anticipated population growth rate of about 2.9 per cent running up to 2030, anticipated increase in the gross enrolment rate for primary education, the low use of technology at the basic education level and attrition in the teaching profession due to retirement, we will be needing about two million teachers. We can easily achieve the two million if the Buhari formula is sustained.”

Teachers-in-Kenya-CopyCommenting on the worsening teacher quality, which has been a big topic of discussion over time in the country, the fellow of the Board of Directors of the International Academy of Education, and member of the Executive Board of the International Association for Research in Science Teaching said, “No doubt, we have the challenge of poor quality teachers especially at the basic education level. A number of our teacher preparation institutions, like fake drugs factories are producing poor-quality teachers, who are poisoning the system. Sandwich and distance learning programmes on teacher training are particularly guilty. These programmes are just selling NCE and degree certificates in education and harming the education system. Employing the teachers from this stock will be the mistake of the century!

What the Buhari administration should do in the first run of the recruitment is to conduct a selection test for those applying to be employed under the scheme. The test should have four main components- test of pedagogic skills, test of content knowledge (in the teaching subject), communication skills (oral and written in English language) as well as ICT literacy. Even if the first run results in recruiting only 100, 000 good quality teachers in 2016, it will be a better deal than one million teachers who are mediocre.
“The second run of the scheme should involve re-training those who have not done so well in the selection test through a scaffolding or remedial programme. Training, which should run between three to six months, should be mounted in some of the colleges of education running degree programmes. A special quality assurance unit made up of NUC, NCCE and NBTE officials should oversee the implementation of the re-training programme. At the end of the training, participants should re-take the selection test and successful candidates employed into the scheme.

The third run of the scheme should target selected universities and colleges of education that are well-resourced to train quality teachers. Perhaps two universities, two polytechnics offering teacher education and two colleges of education from each of the six geopolitical zones should be selected based on some transparent criteria. We should begin with updating the teacher education curriculum in these institutions followed by refresher training for the teacher trainers. With the updated curriculum in place and the lecturers now better skilled, candidates can now be admitted through the Buhari scholarship scheme and we should now be on course to produce a continuous stream of quality teachers for the basic education system,” the university teacher said.

On what factors should be taken into cognizance to ensure that the planned exercise brings about the anticipated results, he responded, “The critical factors are good planning, good management of the scheme and respectable funding. Mind you, I have not said adequate funding because you can hardly get funding to be adequate. What you require is a good management team for the scheme that will display prudence, honesty and transparency in the true Buhari tradition.”
Are fears that the planned exercise could be compromised genuine? He responded in the affirmative. “These fears are genuine. However, I am confident that in this season of “change”, we will get minimal manifestation of the “man-know-man” phenomenon. The situation can be nipped in the bud by installing a good management team for the scheme, headed by a fearless and genuinely committed technocrat rather than a politician.”

The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), sees the planned recruitment exercise as a laudable one, but is quick to caution against resorting to the employment of other professionals that funds would be expended on for teaching training before they are deployed.

According to National President of the union, Mr. Michael Olukoya, “The planned programme I must say is a very laudable one especially considering the lack of qualified teachers that basic education faces. But it is very important to point out that all 500, 000 must necessarily be graduates with teaching qualification. Doing otherwise would surely be a disservice to everyone.”

He explained. “There are over one million qualified teaching professionals that hold NCE, B. Ed, masters’ and doctorate degrees roaming the streets. So it is wise to employ from this pool instead of employing graduates of other professions that the country would be spending scarce resources on a one-year training programme to equip them with teaching skills. We all have to know that not every one that is intelligent has the capacity to impart knowledge.”

While also admitting that politicians may muddle up situation by throwing their non-teaching professional into the fray, Olukoya said, “There is really nothing that politicians cannot influence. But I would advise that they should influence in a way that would add value to the system. As a union, we would support the Federal Government in the actualisation of this policy.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), while extolling the plan for its capacity to drive down the rising unemployment figure in the country, used the opportunity to urge the government to call a stakeholders meeting, which include labour to discuss why it has become impossible to refine and sell fuel for as low as N50 per litre.

In a statement signed its National President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama and General Secretary, Musa Lawal, the union said, “The decision to recruit 500, 000 unemployed graduates and National Certificate in Education (NCE) holders as teachers to curb the escalating rate of unemployment and to ensure that all the Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) are captured and brought under the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) are laudable ideas.
“The move will not only reduce the burden of manual preparation of payrolls but also curb cases of sharp practices in the system and will also help to compile the list of the less-privileged in order to implement better transfer programme. We urge that the policy be made transparent and inclusive without discrimination.



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