BETTER DEAL FOR NIGERIAN TEACHERS
At the recent celebration of World Teachers Day, an occasion set aside by the United Nations to draw global attention to the significance of teachers in the development of nations, in Abuja, President Goodluck Jonathan promised better days for Nigerian teachers.
While bemoaning the continued government neglect of their welfare despite their pre-eminent position in national development, the president, a former teacher, proclaimed his administration's commitment to improvement of teachers' welfare through the provision of incentives and other packages that will challenge them to greater professionalism.
Besides, the president underscored the growing importance of the teaching profession in nation building, saying the profession has become an integral part of the technology-driven world, with its attendant transformational changes. However, the president, who was represented at the occasion by the Education Minister, Prof. Ruquayyatu Rufai, admitted that teachers in Nigeria are still playing catch up with their counterparts across the world.
President Jonathan is right about the pitiable state of teaching and teachers in the country. His views mirror the position of many stakeholders in education, who have consistently called for urgent measures from the government to save the profession. Since the president has spoken so eloquently about the importance of teachers, the Federal Government should immediately pick up the gauntlet. It is time to walk the talk. There is no gainsaying the fact that teachers in Nigeria and, indeed, the teaching profession, have lost so much in terms of incentives and standards. As a result, teaching is no longer a popular profession. For many, it is a profession of last resort, after searches for better jobs have failed.
This problem is worsened by the fact that government appears no longer keen on adequately funding the education sector. Currently, teachers suffer not only from poor remuneration, other problems such as poor infrastructural facilities like classrooms, teaching aids, libraries and laboratories, bedevil the system. Paucity of qualified and dedicated teachers, and a growing student population that is apathetic to learning, have made teaching an emotionally unrewarding profession. Generally, teaching environment is no longer attractive and the system is in a shambles.
We, therefore, urge government to save the system and re-invigorate passion for teaching through a decent wage structure. Today, many teachers in both the public and private sectors earn poor wages that cannot take care of their basic needs. A major step forward is for the Federal and State governments to increase allocation of funds to education. A better package for teachers should include not only good salaries and welfare packages, but also funding of training and re-training of teaching personnel.
Successive governments in Nigeria, at all levels, have consistently fallen short of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)-recommended minimum of 26 percent for education in their annual budgets. Overall, there is a sharp decline in the core values that once made teaching a stimulating experience. Government, parents and all stakeholders must contribute towards helping teaching regain its lost glory.
The delivery of quality leadership in all sectors in the country depends, to a large extent, on teachers improving the quality of teaching. Problems militating against the profession call for a coordinated response from all stakeholders.