Professor Segun Ajiboye is the Registrar of the Teachers Regulation Council of Nigeria (TRCN). He was formerly the chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Ibadan Branch. In this interview with ADEBAYO WAHEED, he bares his mind on the activities of Council in the past two years. Excerpts
How has it been with the TRCN since you were appointed as the registrar/chief executive officer?
To start with, President Muhammed Buhari appointed me the serve as registrar/chief executive of the council on the 10th of August, 2016. So by the end of July, it will be two good years for me in that office as a Chairman of TRCN. Before I came on board, as a first comer, I went to TRCN, checked their website but discovered that it was down.
Today by the grace of God, we have turned around the fortune of the TRCN and it has now become a household name in the country. When you are talking about teachers regulations, I think by today it is only a person that will pretend that will say he has not heard about teachers regulatory Council.
TRCN is now accepted throughout the schools in Nigeria. Its certificate is now one of the criteria for employment of teachers in the country today. It has registered about two million teachers throughout the country, and they have also been licensed to practice. Teachers now know that if nurses could have their license and doctors could have, why not teachers? Nigerian teachers now know that it is compulsory for the schoolteachers to have certificate and be registered and also have license or certificate of authenticity from TRCN.
What is the relationship between the TRCN and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT)?
The Nigeria Union of Teachers has been a strong pillar and the brain behind the successful creation of TRCN, but at a time, the leadership of NUT felt they were alone and they sought relationship with TRCN. The first thing I did as a Unionist was to go back to my constituency, which is the Nigeria Union of Teachers.
And I can assure you the collaboration we enjoy with NUT today is superb. You will recollect that the last struggle which we did in Oyo State was the strike by the NUT and that reverberated to the Federal level, to the extent that when the National came to settle the matter in Oyo state, they were looking for us. And that has created a bond between the NUT and us.
What is the situation now with your advocacy on licensing and certification?
The two issues of certificate and licensing have now become a settled matter. A lot of teachers that did not register before my assumption of office were made to take a professional qualifying examination. I want to report to Nigerians that the TRCN had done one examination before I came on board, but it was messed up because they did the same exam for all the categories.
In the first one, we had different categories: we have category A, B and C just like we have teachers with NCE holders, B. Sc, and so we based the exam on the level of their categories and it was computer based examination. It was taken in all the states of the federation except one state, Bayelsa and the FCT where they didn’t get the prerequisite numbers of teachers that will do the exam. I still believe they are going to join, nevertheless.
Every year now, starting from 2018, we will be having two diets of professional examination for teachers all over the country. We are going to have the May diet and the October diet. Very soon, the May diet will hold as we are already preparing for it. So many people are already registering for the May diet.
Kano State has about 2000 applicants who have registered, and that is Kano State alone. We have that number in nearly all the states including Plateau, and Kaduna. Recently, in Kaduna, the governor was having issues with the teachers, but part of the requirements for them to be re-employed is the TRCN certificate and that made it mandatory for all the teachers in the state to go and register with the TRCN.
What has changed with the reformation you have introduced into TRCN?
Through the three key areas we have identified, among them: enforcement of special standard, the attitude of teachers has changed. Before now, anybody could say that he would want to teach and thereafter start teaching in maybe private or public schools. We have said no to that. It is our objective that we want competent hands in the teaching profession.
To this end, we have developed a set of standard for teachers and we are going to monitor it in Nigeria to be able to follow up in terms of knowledge they need to have, and also in terms of attitude and value when you talk of ethics and code of conduct.
It is not just for you to have the knowledge of what to teach but also to have the fundamental skills, and have the basic ethics in terms of basic conduct that a teacher needs to observe. We have developed that for Nigerian teachers.
What are some of your main targets for the TRCN?
To be specific, I have come to TRCN to revolutionise the teaching sector in the country. We will remove those teachers that are not capable to be in our classrooms and I will like to tell Nigerians that we are in this process, and we have started seeing the impacts on the students’ achievement as it is getting better gradually now in both local and international examinations.
Another thing we have to do now is looking at the education of the teachers in terms of what they are teaching in the school, and the need to follow what they are being taught in schools, in the Universities and even in the Teachers Colleges.
Apart from this, when they graduate from schools, we intend to see how we need to strengthen the teaching practice. But apart from these, we are working with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to see how we can make sure that we have what we call internship program for the intending teachers so that when they graduate, they will need to go and do a year program like doctors always do Housemanship when they finish their MBBS, and like lawyers also do after their days in University when they go to the Law School.
So when you graduate from the College or University where you study Education, you have to go and do one year program before you can be certified as a professional teacher. We are working on that, and we are working on how the government will re-introduce bursary to those students studying Education in the tertiary institutions.
We thought this out because it has been discovered that not many students want to study education as you will see, in the class of a hundred students, it is hard for you to see a single student raising up his hand that he will like to become a teacher in the future. Government is also working on the issue of scholarship award to education students and possibly awards for the students reading Education.
Those are the kind of things we are trying to do and we have discovered that most of the issues with teachers are issues with attitude. Because you are a teacher does not mean you should always be looking haggard; it does not mean you should not dress well.
In Imo state, they have created a dress code for the teachers and it is a welcome idea. A teacher should always look good and dress perfectly because you are a role model and as a role model, you should dress very well. That is what we want all states to emulate.
Gone are those days when teachers were rated as sub humans in their community. We are coming there where the glory of the past will return to the teachers by changing their attitude by themselves, and we are there to change the attitude of the people towards the teachers. Enough of the saying: “This house is for rent; not for teachers”.
Recently I was in Imo State where I told their governor that I was at their Imo Education Week to see to the welfare of the teachers in the state, and I was told that the state did not owe the teachers any dime. I commended that because if you are not teacher-friendly, and you don’t pay their salaries, you cannot be a friend of the TRCN.
This is because TRCN as a regulatory body has to look into teachers’ welfare, the teachers’ attitude and the masses’ attitude towards the teachers. This is why this year the TRCN has set aside about N`00,000,000 (one hundred million naira) for teachers’ welfare. We have to collaborate with other agencies to give out either cash price or gift to make sure that the teachers are appreciated.
How are you ensuring compliance with TRCN rules by the operators of private schools because many of them don’t employ qualified teachers?
When I came on board, the first thing I did then was to organise a meeting with the private schools proprietors, I met with their leadership and I told them that they are the centre of our focus; that they are more guilty when it comes to the issue of using quacks as their teachers.
When you go to government public schools, you meet quality and qualified teachers, but when it comes to the private schools, they use quacks as their teachers.
It is so sad. I have had to talk to their leadership, and I want to tell you that it is because of them that we are delaying the regular registration process from April to June because their leadership said most of them were outside the country and they want all of them to register. Today, they are keyed in.
How many states have you been able to cover in terms of monitoring for compliance?
In terms of monitoring, we wanted to monitor 12 states this year, but the fund released by the Federal Government cannot cover 12 states, so we have reduced the monitoring to six states covering the geo-political zones.
In the South West, we are in Ogun State; in the South East, we are looking at Ebonyi State; in the South South, we are looking at Cross River State; in the North West, we are looking at Jigawa State; in the North East, we are using Bauchi, and the North Central is Nasarawa State.
TRCN is monitoring compliance concurrently both in the public and the private schools. Our consultants are going round the schools and it is going to be a continuous exercise.
After we are settled with the issue of qualification and professionalism, we will then treat the issue of remuneration, particularly in the private schools where employers pay many teachers peanuts. There should be a minimum amount of salary to be paid professional teachers, but we are going to get there soon.
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