By Emmanuel Onyekwere
Let me begin with the story of the late Igbo highlife musical icon Chief Oliver De’coque. Oliver in one of his songs told the story of a great hunter and his brave dog which he valued and cherished only in the battle field (i.e during hunting expedition) he calls the dog all sorts of stirring names just to make the dog act appropriately. The brave dog on his part would work tirelessly running from one end of the bush to another chasing wild animals many of which most times fight back rebelliously causing the dog bruises and open wounds. The success of the hunter depended solely on the effort of this dog and not his gun, most times animals run away with bullet wounds and without the dog they will die somewhere and waste without the hunter finding them.
The pathetic end of the of the story is that at the end of the day’s toils the dog becomes something to watch out for, the dog is relegated to one corner of the house in chains living on the mercy of waste foods and bones, the hunter will give a very stringent warning to his entire household “beware of this dog, it might steal the meat. The dog, the best friend and companion of the hunter has all of a sudden become a thief.
I am optimistic I have not taken your mind elsewhere; the question then is who is a teacher? A teacher literally is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge in other words that person who instructs or passes information to a person or group of persons.
The above definition does not in any way relate the wonderful set of people I want to talk about, the role of teachers according to the foregoing can be carried out by anyone starting with parents, relations and friends and even enemies (your enemies also teach you big time lessons). Instead, Teachers are a set of brilliant individuals who by training and self-development undertook to carry the burden of other people’s future knowing that whatever a person becomes is their making (be it good or bad). They start from the scratch to raise children bearing the burdens that even the biological parents of such children cannot bear. At a very infantile stage in my life, my mother always sent us out to school (even on Saturdays), as a child I thought she so much loved education but far from it she didn’t just want us to be home all-day troubling her and the entire neighborhood, but with love and passion our teacher bore the headache on daily basis.
At a time in my secondary school my Social Studies teacher was brutally flogged by a certain man for flogging his daughter in school. The teachers was bad injured, we all expected a retaliatory action from him or at least a legal action but he didn’t nothing, not because he couldn’t do nothing but because he didn’t want to.
This is not actually what I want to address, I want us to ponder on how our teachers are treated here in Nigeria, the type of miserable and wretched life they are plunged into. Little wonder the gifted minds are running away from the profession leaving the upbringing of our dear future leaders in the hands of those ‘who had no other alternative’, our universities admit students who scored the least points in their entrance examinations into education department where our teachers are bred, this means that in the nearest future, the teaching profession will become something to abhor. Salary and allowances happen to be the bait that magnetize individuals to a particular profession but alas! The teaching profession is not enticing at all. Recently, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu announced that the federal government is working towards making teachers earn more than any other workers; according the minister this would attract the best to the teaching profession.
It does not baffle me however why the above statement is made every 5th October (Teachers day) and sometimes during events where teachers are actively involved, the government had never had any genuine intention to better the lives of our dear teachers, to appease their minds just like the name the hunter calls his dog during their hunting expedition, they lament the poor condition of teachers on who lies the task of molding the tomorrow’s generation and leaders, how they do not get their salaries and allowances as at when due, how they deserve the best of remuneration and so on, all these are just said to the Press and at the end of the day nothing is done and the condition grows even worse.
If they want their voices to be heard or their demands met, there is no medium, they must have to go on strike, only to come back with wonderful promises of better working conditions but still they end up unattained. They still don’t give up knowing that their profession is more of a sacrifice than just profession.
Conclusively, the big question is where would a nation that yearn for human development head without teachers? Our country has taken for granted the role of teachers in her all-round growth and development, the less lucrative the teaching profession the less the interest and this invariably results in the mass exodus of the gifted minds while the other class of ‘no other alternative’ will take over the future of our children and many generations yet to come.
Emmanuel Onyekwere is a Public Affairs Analyst.