To state that the nation’s education sector is ailing and requires immediate surgery is to state the obvious. Everybody can see the rot in the system but nobody, at least until recently, is willing to bell the cat. Yet, the rot continues.
The decay pervades the through all segments of the nation’s educational sectors including primary, secondary and tertiary institutions yet everyone seems to agree that quality education remains the bedrock of development with successive administrations paying lip service to the urgent task of revamping the sector.
But this seems to have attained its climax as those in power have come to recognize that fact that the country is sliding gradually into the Stone Age owing to the neglect of her educational sector.
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the effant terrible governor of Kaduna state, brought the issue to the fore recently when he ordered a competency test for primary schools teachers in the state. According to him, an elementary test meant for Primary Four pupils were set for the adults teachers and 22,000 of them failed scandalously.
Understandably, the shocked governor ordered their immediate sack and engagement of fresh hands in their stead. Like everything in this country, his action was sentimentally interpreted and perhaps politicized.
Furious labour leaders in Kaduna state mobilized and protested his decision urging him to retain those incompetent hands forgetting that doing so would only imperil the future of the innocent children. At this age of knowledge, it is appalling that some sane minds could even offer to defend the indefensible!
Those conversant with the recruitment process into the teaching profession have expressed no surprise at the development. They argue that the teaching profession has been debased as those unqualified teachers may have found their ways into the profession with the aid of their political mentors.
This, according to them, is not peculiar to Kaduna state as they hinted that such incompetency us not peculiar to teaching profession but abound in every sector in the country. They posit that the development was a signpost of the rot in the nation’s educational system as those who even claim to be graduates are mere ‘educated illiterates’.
Experts believe that the despoliation of the teaching profession, where teachers are regarded as the dregs of the society, was at the root of the rot in the system.
A profession which ought to attract the best of brains in the country has been relegated because of poor remuneration. Even those who are supposed to be trained teachers, having studied Education courses in schools, would rather not take up the profession as doing so would be tantamount to everlasting covenant with poverty. They view teaching as fit only for losers in the society.
In Nigeria, teachers are the least regarded. They are the most convenient set of people to be owed salaries and entitlements. This is despite the fact that they are the ones saddled with the task of preparing the children who are regarded as the future leaders.
The danger of the rot in the nation’s education sector has begun to set in as societal values has been debased and eroded. Those aspiring to be leaders in the country, especially those who fall into the category of second generation, are products of this dysfunctional system. Some of them are are with warped mindsets with dangerous intention for the country.
It is commonplace today to see university graduates who know next to nothing even in their areas of specialization. Some people have argued that the challenge of unemployment in the country is being overhyped because majority of those seeking for jobs are actually unemployable and empty shells.
The root cause of this is unarguably the bad foundation they got and the unrestrained deterioration of the nation’s educational system at all levels.
Dr. Olusola Osineye, a trained teacher based in the United Kingdom, in a piece someone posted on a Whatsapp group I belong, wrote this on the poor quality of teachers in this country: “If you want to teach in any developed country, you either study for education in your undergraduate course or you acquire your first degree and take post-graduate training in education. During this post-graduate training, you will then undergo proper training, with school placements to become a qualified teacher who is able to work with children from age 4-19
“Teaching is not for losers in other countries. It is only in Nigeria where teachers are viewed as losers. So, what you have in Kaduna and Edo State should not surprise anybody. The same situation plays itself out all over the country. I pity the South West States. I have been screaming for ages that SW states are doomed as far as education is concerned. Kaduna State is even higher than all of them in WAEC results.
What El-Rufai did in Kaduna is to me a meaningless political solution to a deep and protracted problem. The State has no trained teachers to fill the place of the sacked layabouts who should never have been anywhere close to a school. He is going to replace the current set of losers with another set of losers. People become teachers in Nigeria because they have nothing better to do. That is root of the problem.”
Osineye seems to have hit the nail on the head. The situation in Kaduna and Edo states is just a tip of the iceberg. The problem is endemic and would require a far reaching solution for the nation’s education sector to be revamped.
Teachers in primary schools are supposed to be super trained, hot headed professionals. This is because they are the first contact person for children and their action or unction could spell doom for the entire country.
On the way forward for Nigerian education, Osineye wrote: “For anything to change in Nigeria’s education sector, you have to demolish the whole nonsensical structure. The system is rotten inside out. The funding that goes towards education is incredibly depressing.The practitioners are paid minimum wage and therefore the sector only attracts losers. Sacking the teachers will not increase funding to the sector neither will it increase their wages. Teachers should be be qualified and trained before they are allowed near primary or secondary schools; they should be paid decent wages, the schools should be given resources to make the teachers effective.
There should be regular CPD to update the knowledge of the teachers. Teaching should be made a cult-like profession like in all other developed countries. Teachers are meant to build and train your future leaders. The current Nigerian teachers are losers; they are developing losers for the future of Nigeria.”
The menace of ‘educated illiterates’ must have become a source of worry to the federal government prompting the Buhari’s administration to launch its the “Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (2016-2019)” this week.
The program which articulates the President’s vision to reposition the nation’s education for increased productivity and competitiveness has also been described as a demonstration of Buhari’s awareness of the enormous challenges that the country faces in that sector and the need to have a robust plan that addresses the problems in a sustainable manner.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, expressed the believe that by the time the implementation of the program commences in earnest, Nigerians would begin to see drastic improvements in the quality of their public education at all levels.
It is however trite to note that Nigeria has remained underdeveloped because of the quality foundational education afforded the children. This, of course, must change. The Buhari administration would be assessed on the impact it could make in education as revamping the sector would solve most of the behavioral challenges in governance and the society at large.