A lot has been said about the teaching profession and teacher quality in Nigeria and the need for improvement. In this interview with WINIFRED OGBEBO, the new registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof Josiah Ajiboye, talks about new innovations to ensure professionalism and attract respect for teachers in the country.
Teachers’ reward being in heaven used to be a popular slogan. Is it still the case and if not, what has changed about the profession?
I think things are changing and gradually teachers are now also getting their reward here on earth. Some of us started from secondary school before we moved up. I taught at the secondary school level before I moved to the university. In the past, around 1980s and 1990s, when you go to schools, the only car you would see is going to be that of the headmaster or the principal of the school. But today, I think things are changing but teachers are still facing a lot of difficulties and challenges in terms of prompt payment of salaries.
It is good to appreciate the Federal Government of Nigeria especially with regards to payment of primary school teachers which has been placed on the first chart and that is why we don’t have difficulties with the payment of primary school teachers. But with secondary school in some states, we have some challenges and it is not only limited to teachers but it affects all the civil servants in those states.
One thing we want to ensure first is if you are a professional, you have the dignity of labour and be able to talk wherever you are. But today, so many teachers are being appointed as permanent secretaries in some states because they have distinguished themselves. We are going to make sure that we instill this professionalism in our teachers. Immediately our teachers acquire certain level of professionalism, we will be able to train them, if you cannot carry out the job here, you can move to another place.
The one that is most critical is about international opportunities. I want to say that inasmuch as we are not encouraging Nigerians to move abroad because of what we call brain drain, but there is also what we call brain sharing. We can share brain with the rest of the world. Nigerian teachers are also hot cakes when they get outside the country because they know that they are well grounded. The only thing they need perhaps is that encouragement and recognition. We will make sure that Nigerian teachers, through all the programmes that we are going to put in- like our continuing professional programmes, will now begin to accumulate points as they do in other professions.
If you accumulate points to a certain level, your licence will be changed and you will get another grade. This is the kind of thing we have in mind, when people know that they can aspire to higher grades on their job, they will try to do better. That is one of the things we are going to put in place in TRC.
Let them also recognize their own self-worth. When you recognize your own self-worth, you will be able to ask for what is due to you. If we are able to bring them up to the level where they can stand on their own as professionals, they will get paid and will be able to move out of the problem of remuneration. It is not just a reward that is going to be in heaven, we will make sure that they also get it here on earth.
How can we restore the lost glory of the teaching profession?
In those good old days when we were in primary school, the teacher was an authority in the local community. He was all in all. He was the secretary of the village, he was the chief letter writer and the chief adviser. But we started having so many teachers and many schools, gradually, this authority started waning down. But we are going to make sure that when our teachers become professionals of good standing, they will be able to hold their heads and stand up anywhere and to any challenge. The only way we can do this is when they have acquired the necessary skills. If you say this is the best mathematics teacher in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and he is so recognized, I’m sure everybody will want to reward the teacher. This is the kind of thing we want to do.
We will put certain incentives in place like awards ceremony for teachers across all the states of the federation so that people can compete in their subject areas and fields. We can say this this is the best teacher in mathematics all over the federation and we will showcase that teacher. Just a token, it mustn’t be a big thing but as an agency of government, our intention is that we should showcase our teachers so that when they are well recognized, they will be able to raise their heads wherever they find themselves. Teaching is not an all comers’ affair, you cannot just go to the classroom without the training. You must specialize in a particular field before you are able to teach. We now know that the specialization is very critical and this is what we want to make sure we do in TRC.
The change mantra of the president means that we cannot continue to do the same thing the same way. TRC is not insulated. The teaching profession should not be the same thing. It should not be business as usual. We are going to make sure that we drastically work on the quality of our teachers in this country, so that we can improve on the quality of their delivery. This change we are talking about is not just change in terms of physical infrastructure, but we also need change in terms of human capital development and to ensure that we get quality teachers who will be able to do quality delivery. That is what we meant when we said that we are going to make sure that we tackle all the issues that bother on teachers’ professionalism in the country. We will make sure that we reflect the change agenda of the president in this regard.
Judging from the Nigerian educational system, you will agree that there are people who have the minimum qualification and even degrees and beyond who cannot actually justify those qualifications in the classroom, meaning that we have qualified people without competence.
We have been operating for quite some time now, beyond a decade and registering people on the basis of qualifications obtained from teacher training institutions. We no longer have teacher training institutions. By law we have a minimum qualification and you agree that there are people who have subject qualifications that cannot be qualified by way of quality delivery in the classroom.
In order to bring about a multi-approach to the issue of incompetence in the classroom, don’t forget that in the past fifteen years we have been registering teachers on the basis of the qualifications; they obtained certificates as professionals which has brought about the prevalence of so many people in the system without any requisite qualification to justify it. Now, this year, before they venture in, we have put into the system, ‘Teacher Professional Development Assessment’ framework. The aim of this is to assist the employers of teachers at various levels, and in different times as a working tool towards assessing the efficacy of the teaching they deliver in the classrooms. That way, we will mitigate the instance and prevalence of people that are already registered in the system.
The efficacy is intended to arrest the entry and migration of unqualified teachers into the system. This will assist them in best practices where people are registered as professionals on the basis of passing through qualifying examination. This will guarantee the efficacy, quality and confidence of emerging teachers in the system. As for those who are already there, the Teacher Professional Development Assessment Framework Council will take care of them.
Coming to the timeline, we have developed a benchmark and a model and we are now working on it. It is our hope that by the beginning of next year we will be able to implement the examinations nationwide so that all emerging teachers that are now trained in the system will have adequate and guaranteed knowledge to display teaching in orthodox and good conditions.