Imperative of investment in teaching professionals

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder

Nature and nurture are critical factors in human development. While one influences the other, the ability of individuals to learn and apply such knowledge to needs in the society is imperative.This truism is demonstrated in Nigeria where though there is abundance of natural resources, the inability of the country to own the means of production especially her oil and gas resources has limited the ability of the country to use it to build an industrial base for her development. 

In Kaduna state where there has been faceoff between the organised labour and government over the modalities to adopt in order to improve the standard and quality of education, the need to revamp the quality of education in itself via recruitment of qualified teachers have yet to be engaged in critical debate.There is also no argument about the urgent need to recruit more teachers to augument the current inadequacies. 

The consensus was that the teaching profession should be given more priority if Nigeria was serious about developing her latent potential. Speaking at the Teachers World Day in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari said with over 10 million (presently 13.1m) children out of school, the Federal Government would need about 250,000 teachers to achieve the recommended teacher to pupil ratio of one teacher to 30 pupils. 

The President also lamented that the teaching profession has been turned into a ‘dumping ground’ considered good enough for graduates who do have any other alternative and young men and women and who practice the profession as a stop-gap before they secure admission. President Buhari assured teachers in the country of Federal Government’s determination to better their lots through provision of necessary incentives. He said his administration was committed to the cause of the teaching profession, saying efforts are underway to improve teachers’ education through teacher’s continuous profession development.

No doubt, the Teachers Registration Council (TRCN) and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) have taken steps to professionalise the teaching profession by ensuring that only qualified teachers are allowed to practice the profession. Recently, the world celebrated World Teachers’ Day, held yearly on 5 October since 1994.

The World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the 1966 International Labour Organisation (ILO)/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.It is co-convened in partnership with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organisation, and Education International.

This year’s World Teachers’ Day 2018 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that recognizes education as a key fundamental right and establishes and to free compulsory education, ensuring inclusive and equitable access for all children.

In its message on this year’s theme, ‘The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher’, the ILO said the theme was chosen to remind the global community that the right to education couldn’t be achieved without the right to trained and qualified teachers. The global labour watch body said even today, a continuing challenge worldwide is the shortage of teachers with an estimated 264 million children and youths still out of school globally.

Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder said to reach the 2030 Education Goals of universal primary and secondary education, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers.According to him, this ‘teacher gap’ is more pronounced among vulnerable populations, such as girls, children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, or poor children living in rural or remote areas.He reminded governments and the international community of the importance of safeguarding that right by investing in a strong teaching workforce, including in conflict-affected countries.

To ensure that all children are prepared to learn and take their place in society, he noted that teachers must receive effective training and support that equip them to respond to the needs of all students, including the most marginalised.During the celebration in Nigeria, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Nasir Idris, said that over 400,000 teachers are needed in basic and public secondary schools to tackle shortage of teachers. He equally asked the government to raise the retirement year of the nation’s teachers from its current 60 to 65 years and service period from 35 to 40 years respectively.

Idris appealed to the Federal Government to give adequate support to the on-going professionalization of teaching by ensuring that only professionally trained and qualified teachers are recruited to teach in our schools. He said the President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award, has helped to give hope to teachers and restore the dignity of the teaching profession.

“We call on the Federal Government to approve the payment of the 27.5 percent Teachers Enhancement Allowance to teachers in the Unity Schools and other Federal Government Schools. These teachers should also be allowed to exercise their trade union rights by belonging to the Industrial Unions of their choice.“The Federal Government, as a matter of urgent importance, should organize an Education Summit not just a forum for the traditional paper presentation, but a forum where all stakeholders will meet to resolve and strengthen the weak links and fill all gaps that have incapacitated and bedridden our education system,” he submitted.

On his part, the Acting State Secretary, Lagos State chapter of NUT, Gbenga Ayetoba, commended Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who he said improved the infrastructure development of schools in the state as well as ensured prompt payment of workers’ salaries.However, on some challenges, he told The Guardian that there are shortages of teachers in the state. He said after some teachers who have attained the statutory age of retirement are out of service, it takes a very long while to replace them, thereby leaving those behind to fill in for the retired personnel, until a new teacher is replaced.

The challenge, another teacher, who does not want to be mentioned, explained makes it difficult for teachers to handle a required standard class of students, stating that at time up to three classes are merged and handled by one teacher. Regarding teachers who are owed up to ten months salaries in other states, Ayetoba, who described the situation as pathetic, said that as comrades, “an injury to one is an injury to all. We are appealing to governors of such states to ensure teachers’ salaries are promptly paid.

“The working condition of teachers is the learning condition of the pupils, so if teachers are not being motivated, I wonder how such teachers would deliver effectively, you can’t put in your best on an empty stomach.“As the general election approaches, if they refuse to do what is right, we will tell them how to do it right.” He said there has been training and retraining of teachers to meet teaching standards, stating that issues of unqualified teachers is a thing of the past in the state, even as the governor has promised to recruit over 2,000 teachers.

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