Not many know that the World Teachers’ Day has been celebrated October 5 since 1994. ‘This is a day to honor teachers and teacher organizations. Teachers make a vital contribution to the education and development of our future leaders. More than 100 different countries observe this holiday’.

It is not known if all these countries are engaged it in as mere ceremony. While some are indeed committed to meeting targets in uplifting the standards of teaching and of teachers, here in Nigeria teachers do not get the commensurate backing deserving of their sacrifice. It is either they are told that their rewards are being expected or wait for a better opportunity.

This year’s theme: “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession,” is tangential to the declaration of the state of emergency by certain state governments to ensure that they would give education higher premium. The time to give the teaching profession value is now, more so that we are indeed at a cross road.

The man on the street does no appreciate the worth of the teacher, very few do. They do not see the teacher of today deserving respect and honour that the teacher of yester years would have been given. You and I know that the teacher used to be everything that was found in society except the bad. Therefore, if it has changed, and by every inch it has, we have every reason not to see the teacher as an example that he used to be some years back. It is only through the realization of this precarious position that we can begin to address those issues that bother him daily.

Young people must be encouraged to take interest in the profession, therefore, it is right to also invite  teacher  unions,  private  sector  employers,  school  principals,  parent-teacher associations,  school  management  committees,  education  officials  and  teacher  trainers  to  share  their  wisdom  and  experiences  in  promoting  the  emergence  of  a  vibrant teaching force. Above  all,  we  celebrate  the  work  of  dedicated  teachers  around  the  world  who continue to strive every day to ensure that “inclusive and equitable quality education” and the promotion of “lifelong learning opportunities for all” become a reality in every corner of the globe.”

Therefore, to start this piece with a lamentation on the state of the Nigerian teacher, it is assumed that you know why. However, if you do not understand why, perhaps the reason is that you may not have had a teacher in your life. Therefore, whatever is said by you is understood having been uttered on the basis of ignorance.

Let it be known that I am not ashamed of all my teachers; particularly those of them who taught me in the primary and secondary schools. That is not to say I have no regard for those who taught me in the university. I am proud I passed under their tutelage. I am a product of education; and I am what I am today because I had teachers.

I read this somewhere and for me it captures the essence of my thoughts this morning: The lawyer hopes you get into trouble, the doctor hopes you fall sick, the police hope you become a criminal; the coffin maker wants you dead, only the teacher wishes to educate you and liberate you from bondage of ignorance. Please hug the next teacher by your side; he/she is one of your true friend.

Some of us are ashamed of their teachers. Whenever you meet them, they are not identified; we have always thought that avoiding them may enable us not to be associated with them and by extension their state.

This display by most of us not to be seen to have identified with an old teacher’s cause or plight each day drives them to despondency. The fact that they are frustrated tells others that no one cares about them. And in truth, haven’t we given them little for the much they give? Have we not looked at them as not befitting of the honour they should get? To say that this group is responsible for building and moulding future leaders, yet is the same people who hardly recognize their existence and their sacrifices they make to raise us.

It is not a curse, and to be fair to them, I hate to say it; you can pick a teacher from a distance. Those of you who return home to the villages to visit their parents come face to face with this stark reality. Those of you who have been in position to change their status don’t have the recourse to think that they deserve better treatment.

Are we not aware that teachers get better and higher salaries in some saner climes? There, it is believed that the place of the teacher cannot be compromised; therefore, he is regarded and placed rightly. In our time and for decades, the usual refrain we often hear is the reward of the teacher is in heaven.

We have long passed that stage where the teacher is told that he must wait to get to heaven before he is rewarded. Perhaps that is the reason governments over the years have treated teachers with levity. Their reward here on earth is the thicker consistency they have received in the hands of the authority. The bitter reward society has given them

Several states have made great efforts to get the right caliber of teachers for their primary and secondary schools. Some states have not joined the bandwagon; all manners of people are recruited, meaning in the real sense of the word, the best will not be given.

To be fair to some governments, if they had not sent some of the teachers under their employ, the danger our education would continue to face can only be imagined. Yet at the point they were sent packing to go get another job or to return to the classroom and update themselves; many kicked against the termination of their employment. I am sure by now, many are the more informed.

But come to think of it, any teacher cannot be worth his salt if such remains without updating his or her knowledge. Some of the teachers were given appointment letters without the requisite training. They came on board because they had someone speaking for them. When it was time for them to be disengaged, people thought they were been victimized.

The attitude of some teachers is at variance with what they know should be done. Those of them in the villages are fond of using their pupils on their farms. It has got to be stopped. Village schools are mostly abandoned on certain days to be on the teachers’ farms.

No wonder, there are several states which gave their primary school teachers the boot.  They discovered they are not qualified and therefore cannot give to their pupils what they do not have. Some, since the coming on board of the Teachers Registration Council, a lot more have returned to school to upgrade their knowledge using the window of that opportunity.

Since it came on board, we hear only about 2 million teachers have so far registered, however Nigeria needs about 250,000 annually to make for the deficit. ‘By registering, we mean those teachers who are qualified and have come forward for registration. In Sub-Saharan Africa, we still have a shortfall of about seven million school teachers and Nigeria carries a large chunk of that number. This is because we have the largest number of out-of-school children in the region’.

That is a big problem in our hands. There are chances to get off the ground, as there are opportunities to rejig the system for the better. Our children need quality education from teachers who are reengineered through quality policies in the system.

Talking about policy, it is time government looked at the issue of the proliferation schools. Whoever is in charge of monitoring or inspection should be told they have a responsibility to watch how all manners of schools mushroom in our neighbourhoods. Some don’t even have the facilities and teachers, yet they have been established and our children are sent to be raised in such institutions through a nod by a government official. Some are hardly given any, but have gone ahead to start those schools.

It is about time we thought about the treatment teachers receive in Nigeria. Without being sentimental, teachers deserve a lot more than they are currently being given. Why it should be so, is against the backdrop of what is happening in other civilized climes. Teachers are the bedrock of the development of any society.

If all of us realize this by now, we should be advocating for more budgetary allocations about primary and secondary education. If the teacher means a lot to our development, the National and State Assemblies have a huge responsibility to ensuring that their plight, which has assume a frightening dimension is reduced.

With such a wonderful theme, it is expected that government all over would have a rethink on how they are rated and even treated. It offers an opportunity to young professionals the window to take to teaching.

Categories: Column

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