We, at LEADERSHIP Newspapers, declare teachers as super-heroes. For us, teachers, the hands that rock the cradle, deserve to be recognised and celebrated on this day, October 5, set aside by the international community as World Teachers’ Day. The day is set aside every year in recognition of the rights and responsibilities of teachers and educators to nation building across the world.
There are structural problems within the education system, impeding development efforts. The challenges, particularly in Nigeria, include poor remuneration, poor capacity building, inadequate facilities and the inability to adapt teaching to meet the psycho-social needs of children. In spite of these, teachers trudge on, doing their best to raise future generations of nation builders.
The theme for this year’s edition of World Teachers’ Day is, ‘ Teachers at the heart of education recovery’. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) presented this theme to recognise their determined and diligent efforts in the crucial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On this day also, the services of teachers and their contributions to education as a tool for development, are acknowledged and their role and importance for the nurturing of children as the hope of the society appreciated.
Teachers’ Day is an occasion that pays tribute to teachers and tends to resolve some of the issues regarding their profession and hence tries to attract the brightest young minds towards this all-important profession. Various organisations like UNESCO, Education International (EI), UNICEF, UNDP, the International Labor Organisation (ILO), etc. organise campaigns and conferences to achieve this goal.
In Nigeria, the occasion serves only to highlight the plight of teaching as a profession. Recently, the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) revealed that only about 50 per cent of Nigerian teachers are qualified to teach. According TRCN, the requisite qualification of any teacher is the National Certificate in Education (NCE) as stipulated by the National Policy on Education.
This is a matter that the TRCN must take seriously. The onus lies on the council to check against the menace of quacks in the teaching profession. It should ensure that only qualified persons with the requisite training and qualifications are allowed into the teaching profession. A situation where teaching is seen as a means of survival in the face of rising unemployment in the country should be discouraged. The situation is prevalent in private schools where people without requisite qualifications are employed. The school proprietors do this mostly for cheap labour.
Again, the emphasis on certificates has led to a situation where many people have various kinds of certificates which they can hardly defend. Primary schools in Nigeria today are dominated by NCE and degree holders who are also registered with the TRCN.
We are, however, enamoured by the news that Nigerian teachers will soon begin to enjoy the new salary structure promised by President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, as an incentive, the service years for teachers have been raised from 35 to 40 years, while the retirement age was increased from 60 to 65 years. All that is required is for other actors down the line like state governors, the National Assembly and others to key into this initiative and ensure that the implementation is seamless.
This year’s World Teachers’ Day also reminds the country of the persistent attacks on schools by terrorists, especially in the North, where students and teachers are kidnapped for ransom. This has led to closure of schools and low turnouts in some states. Government must do everything within its powers to keep the schools safe.
Between 2015 and2021, there were no less than 116 attacks on schools in the country. These attacks have been on the increase between 2020 and 2021, which led to the closing of many schools by some state governments due to fear of being attacked. From January to September, 2021, over 1,000 children were abducted, with so many of them still in the kidnappers’ den.
In February, gunmen invaded a school in Niger State and kidnapped 41 persons. The gunmen raided Government Science College, Kagara, capturing students and teachers. Less than 10 days after the bandits raided Kagara, gunmen kidnapped 317 pupils from Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara State.
When schools are under attack, a nation’s education system and, worse, future generations are under attack. For instance, in the North East, not less than 802 schools have been shut down and 497 classrooms destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged.
As a newspaper, we commend the federal government for the new initiative to provide incentives to attract the best brains in the teaching profession. Notwithstanding, we call on the government to ensure that all welfare issues including housing, training, retraining, enhanced remuneration and allowances are taken care of. Government also needs to increase investment in education to address the multi-faceted factors hampering the sector.