Few months after Lagos State Government recruited 1,300 teachers to fill the teachers’ gap in the state’s school system, the Federal Government is set to address this need in the primary and secondary schools across the nation.
The dearth of teachers in the school system over the years has been one of the major challenges confronting the nation’s education sector, with the attendant poor quality delivery and mass failure in internal and external examinations.
For the country to meet its teacher needs, in terms of quality and professionalism, the system would require more than 2.5 million teachers in the next five years. Worst affected are the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where in most cases, studies have shown that the teacher-student ratio stands at 1:100 ratio.
Faced with this challenge and other crises stagnating the sector, including shortage of classrooms, decayed infrastructure, classroom congestion and inadequate instructional materials, among others, the Federal Government, last week, took the bull by the horns, when it announced the recruitment of 500,000 teachers to address the challenges.
This, according to the Federal Government, controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC) had become imperative to shore up the schools’ teacher-base in order to guarantee delivery of quality education at both the basic and middle school levels.
But rather than hailing the development, various stakeholders in the nation’s education sector including the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT); the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN); the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA); the Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) and the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), have expressed mixed feelings, raising several posers about the initiative.
According to them, apart from not disclosing the details of the programme, they accused the Federal Government of not adequately carrying them along in its plans, as key stakeholders in the nation’s education project.
The decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, they claim might on the long run be counterproductive. It would be recalled that the Federal Government had on Wednesday issued a statement directing would-be applicants to go online as from Sunday June 12, to commence their application processes, adding that successful candidates would be drafted to schools on a part-time basis.
The initiative, which according to the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Mr. Laolu Akande, is part of the Government’s social investment programmes aimed at cushioning the effects of the economic downturn in the country and the urgent need to create employment opportunity for Nigerians as well as reposition the education sector.
He said the online applications for the positions in the direct teacher jobs scheme will be done through an internet portal namednpower. gov.ng.
The statement reads in part: “It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari in his May 29 Democracy Day broadcast to the nation formally launched the unprecedented social investment programmes already provided for under the 2016 Appropriation Bill by the administration.
The 500,000 Teacher Corps, christened “NPower Teach on the Portal,” is one of the three direct job creation and training schemes the unemployed youths could begin to apply for beginning from Sunday June 12.”
He added that other programmes, including technology training; building, construction, hospitality and automotive vocation training will also accommodate or target between 25,000 and 75,000 unemployed youths respectively, and that all trainees would be paid throughout the duration of their training.
Akanded said: “The N-Power Teacher Corps initiative, which will engage and train 500,000 young unemployed graduates, is a paid volunteer programme of two-year duration under which unemployed Nigerians selected and trained will play teaching, instructional, and advisory roles in primary and secondary schools, agricultural extension systems across the country, public health and community education – covering civic and adult education.
“Apart from their monthly take home pay put at about N23,000, the selected 500,000 graduates will also get computer devices that will contain information necessary for their specific engagement, as well as information for their continuous training and development.
They get to keep the devices even after exiting from the programme.” However, commenting on the programme, the Second Vice-President of NUT, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan, said though it will provide a temporary relief for the already overworked teachers, but that in the long run the initiative may have no meaningful impact on the nation’s troubled educational sector.
Adesiyan, who accused the government of complicating the crisis in the sector through what he described as policy inconsistences, said until the nation goes back to the drawing board, all the palliative measures currently being provided may not help matters. He said: “Nigeria’s crisis in the education sector started with the scrapping of the Grade II Teacher training colleges and since the young boys and girls leaving secondary schools begin to secure admission straight to universities, the value of teachers’ training had been lost.
“Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry will apply to become teachers and the Federal Government will willingly draft them to our schools without requisite training.” Meanwhile, the Director at the Lagos State Office of the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, Mr. Gbolahan Enilolobo, said the government should beware of mobilising quacks to schools to teach, even as he argued that where quality education thrives, core professionals are drafted to classrooms.
“It is a welcome development that the government is looking into the teachers’ inadequacy in our schools. But it is not enough to recruit those who are not professionals.
Teaching is like other specialized professions such as Medicine and Engineering and should be treated as such. But, bringing graduates not trained as teachers will not help the education system,” Enilolobo stressed.
Echoing TRCN’s position, the National Deputy President of NAPPS, Otunba Yomi Otubela, however, noted that since the recruits are already aware that they will only be employed for a period of two years, they may not be committed to the job. His words: “Teachers are not the type to be employed on part-time basis.
Their whole attention is needed to perform optimally, but when they know they will be dropped very soon, their psychology will definitely be affected. “It would have been understandable if the government will employ them on permanent basis on low income, but with a pledge that as soon as economy improves their emoluments and welfare will be improved.”
Given the same scenario, the Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of ASUSS, Mr. Kazeem Labaika commended the Federal Government for the initiative, saying it will go a long way in addressing the existing gap in the teacher-students ratio. He, however, cautioned the Federal Government to be thorough in the recruitment process and consider only those with relevant educational qualifications “and not just any unwilling applicant.”
On his part, the immediate past Coordinator of South West PTA, Deacon Olusoji Adams, said it will be too early to either condemn or praise the government, but insisted rather that stakeholders should wait patiently for the outcome of implementation of the scheme. “It will be too early to start hatching our eggs before they are laid.
So, we keep our fingers crossed till we see the outcome of the initiative. But, we still commend the government for thinking along the line of the mass vacancies in our schools,” Adams said