The recent revelation that 5,400 primary and secondary school teachers in the country failed the professional qualifying examination is not acceptable. About 17,000 primary and secondary school teachers were reported to have sat for the examination, which was organised in October by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).
The Registrar of the council, Prof. Olusegun Ajiboye, explained that those that failed the computer-based test would not be registered as teachers by the council. He also announced that any teacher not registered by the council by December next year and who has not acquired any professional certificate would be barred from practising as a teacher in Nigeria.
The fact that some of our teachers at the basic education level are not knowledgeable enough is condemnable. We recall that out of the 33,000 teachers that sat for a basic competency test in Kaduna State last year, 21,780 failed. It was a primary four test, yet 66 per cent of the teachers failed.
In August 2013, a video of a school-teacher in Edo State who struggled fruitlessly to read her own document was widely circulated. About the same time in Ekiti State, the governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had a running battle with teachers in the state who, for months, resisted a competency test being planned by the government. The test was eventually cancelled.
And last year, a competency test instituted by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, for the state teachers was not only repudiated by the teachers, it also became a subject of condemnation by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). The national president of the body, Michael Olukoya, described the examination as a ploy to weed out teachers. Olukoya also reportedly claimed that teaching did not require quality control like the product industry.
It is disturbing that many teachers in the country cannot pass the basic competency tests. That the NUT is averse to the conduct of such examinations is bewildering. Without doubt, teachers, who fail the qualifying examination for teaching, cannot perform well in the classroom. And no society develops when those responsible for the education of children are equally found wanting.
All over the country, it is a distressing reality that the quality of educa- tion has fallen to an abysmal level. In March this year, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) an- nounced that of the 11, 307 candi- dates that sat for the West African Se- nior School Certificate Examination for private candidates in the country, only 1, 937 or 17.13 per cent obtained the required minimum of credits in five subjects and above, including English and Mathematics.
For the May/June examinations this year, only 786, 016 candidates out of the 1, 572,396 that wrote the examination had five credits and above, including English Language and Mathematics, which was a 49.98 per cent pass rate. The previous year, the pass rate was 59.22 per cent. This is unacceptable.
Teachers, especially in elementary and secondary schools, are very important in every society. No society grows without well-trained and highly skilled teachers. The authorities must see the failure recorded by teachers as a national emergency.
Training and retraining of teachers must be prioritised. In the past, teacher training colleges where those that impart knowledge at the primary schools were trained dotted all parts of the country. They seem to have disappeared now. It is high time such colleges were reintroduced. Existing colleges of education must also be strengthened.
It is not enough to debar teachers that fail examinations. Already, the nation suffers from dearth of well- trained teachers. Most of those in the profession are there for lack of better jobs.
The federal, state and local governments need to demonstrate more commitment to the training of teachers. Government must ensure the welfare of teachers and also professionalise teaching. At this stage of our national development, Nigeria needs skilled and knowledgeable teachers.