Teaching profession loses charm among youths

A teacher attending to students

A teacher attending to students

In March, Nancie Atwell, a teacher at The Centre for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, United States, emerged the first ever winner of the $1m Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize.

Atwell discovered a love of books while bedridden with rheumatic fever as a child. She grew up loving books and ended up a teacher.

In the writing-reading workshop, which she runs, students choose the subjects they write about and the books they read: an average of 20 pieces of publishable writing and 40 books each year. Her students experience a volume of practice that leads to engagement, stamina, and skill.

In 1990, she founded the Centre for Teaching and Learning, a non-profit demonstration school created for the purpose of developing and disseminating effective classroom practices. The faculty conducts seminars, publishes professional books and articles, and invites teachers from across the United States and other countries to spend a week at the school to experience its methods firsthand.

Founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher Prize, Sunny Varkey, speaking at the event congratulate Nancie Atwell for being the very first recipient of the prize, adding that her incredible story will shine a light on the tireless work that teachers do all over the world.

Varkey added, “We all need to find ways of collectively celebrating teachers, of saying to a celebrity-obsessed world that teachers are important and worthy of respect. Right now, we need teachers more than ever. We need great teachers to grow great minds or we will never tackle the problems facing the world, from global poverty to climate change.

The teaching profession in Nigeria has been bogged down by several factors principal among which are neglect by government, extremely poor remuneration, poor welfare scheme, lack of training programmes and quackery occasioned by lack of capacity just to mention but a few.

When national honours and recognitions are dished out, authorities reckon with an infinitesimal number of teachers even when teachers trained all the award givers.

This grim scenario has now succeeded in scaring off Nigerian youths from taking to teaching as a profession, a development that spells doom for a country that is contending with immense problems at the basic education level, and in dire need of good teachers.

Shortfall in number of teachers at basic education level
In September 2012, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) said it would take the country 20 years to produce the 1.3 million teachers required to bridge existing shortfall at basic education level.

Immediate past Executive Secretary of the commission, Prof. Muhammed Junaid, while delivering the 35th pre-convocation lecture at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Lagos, said this challenge, forced the commission to design policies to address the issue.

“In 2009, the Federal Ministry of Education’s roadmap to transformation reported that a total of 969, 078 teachers would be needed for the early childhood and care education sub sector and 338, 147 others for the primary education sub sector,” Junaid stated adding that “the report further said that a total of 12, 329 teachers would also be needed for the nomadic education sub-sector and 581 others for the junior secondary education sub- sector.

This brings the total of overall teacher shortage at the basic education level to 1,320,135, across the country.”

Frightening statistics from JAMB
It would have been expected that governments at all levels would have stepped up efforts to bridge this yawning gap. That has not been the case. In fact, barely three years after the NCCE made the revelation, the demand for teachers has skyrocketed further leaving the country with an alarmingly high deficit, while the Federal Government continues to pay lip service, even though it recently upgraded some colleges of education to universities of education.

A dangerous dimension to the scenario is the fact that Nigerian youths and students are now shunning education and teaching-related courses in universities and sundry institutions where teachers are groomed.

For instance, out of the 1.4 million candidates that wrote the 2015 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), only 19, 428 candidates applied to study education. The number represents less than two per cent of the total number of admission seekers.

Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State ranked top as the destination of choice for the highest number of applicants. It had 5, 101 candidates seeking to study education there.

“The statistics of choice of institutions,” a Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), document further states that Umar Ibn Ibrahim El-Kanemi College of Education, Science and Technology, Bama, Bornu State; Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, which is affiliated to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State; College of Education, Ankpa, Benue State affiliated to the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi and Federal College of Education (Technical) Gombe, affiliated to ATBU) all had one candidate each showing interest in them.

The document listed Federal College of Education (Technical), Asaba, Delta State, an institution affiliated to the Federal University of Technology, Minna State, as having two candidates applying for admission there; Federal College of Education, Kontagora, which is affiliated to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria had three and Kwara State College of Education (Technical), Lafia, Nasarawa State, which is affiliated to ABU, Zaria, also had three candidates showing interest.

Also, while Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Noforija, Epe, Lagos (affiliated to Ekiti State University), alongside Niger State College of Education, Minna (affiliated to ABU, Zaria), have seven candidates each; College of Education, Akwanga (affiliated to ABU Zaria) has only 15 applicants.

Osun State College of Education, Ila-Orangun (affiliated to University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State) has 30 candidates.

wenty-five of the 30 candidates chose the college as their first choice institution, while five others picked it as their second choice school.

The JAMB document also showed that FCE, Zaria, hitherto affiliated to ABU, Zaria, received only 28 applicants in this year’s UTME.

Whereas only 41 candidates applied to study at the FCE Kano, an affiliate of ABU, Zaria; Adeyemi College of Education (affiliated to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State) and Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri (affiliated to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka) got 3, 363 and 3, 894 candidates respectively.

Lack of recognition, bane of teaching profession
According to Executive Director of VoluteerCorps Nigeria, Adeola Awogbemi, the mockery, which the society exposes teachers to, was largely responsible for the lack of interest in the profession by young Nigerians. “Teachers are not given enough recognition in our society and this has a rippling effect. In schools, students see that their teachers are resorting to selling little items like biscuits and groundnuts to make ends meet. As they grow up, they come to the conclusion that the profession is not profitable and so they turn away from it. The situation can only get worse if not checked.

“No child wants to get into a profession that is so less fancied and poorly remunerated because it is not worthy of their time as their peers tend to look down at them.

On the way out, she stressed, “Because of their contributions to society’s advancement, teachers should be celebrated and given the highest recognition of the land. The perception that it is only those who could not make JAMB’s cut-off point that go into teaching must end now. The government needs to radically improve the salary and the welfare package of teachers. Over all, we need to re-assess our teacher’s training curriculum and also conduct an impact assessment on the profession.

Vista of hope
During a consultative meeting with members of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in Lagos in April, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo said continuous education for teachers was one of the core programmes of the new All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to raise standard of education in the country.

Osinbajo stressed that the administration would guarantee regular teacher training, noting that education and health would receive priority attention in Buhari’s administration.

The professor, “If you look at our manifesto, we would spend a lot of time and money on public education that is why this consultation is very important but it is just the beginning of the series of consultations that we intend to have. Fortunately, I am from here, I am one of you and this means there will be direct access, which will make it easier for us to do all we want to do.

“Lagos is the mode of what we intend to do. For instance, we talk about free education for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and free education at the tertiary level for teachers. So teachers who want to go to university will enjoy free education.

“It is a very important programme because one of the basic problems we have is the fact that we have not been able to continue effectively with teacher training.

“So, continuous education for teachers and teacher training in particular is very important to us. It is important for us in Lagos to know that we are a very important part of what the Federal Government will do in education.

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