The Minister of Education, Adama Adamu, disclosed last week that the Federal Government will recruit 1.3 million teachers in the next six years to address the shortage of teachers at the basic education level. Speaking at the flag-off of the Teacher Development Training Programme of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Abuja, he explained that aside from the quality of teachers, the government is disturbed about the dearth of qualified teachers in the basic education sector.
He pointed out that the availability of competent teachers and their continuous training and retraining will be emphasised to improve basic education in the country.
Apart from the intervention through UBEC, Adamu reiterated that government will also recruit about 500,000 teachers for the basic education sector nationwide. He explained that when the exercise is completed, the government will place more responsibilities on states and local councils to provide infrastructural and instructional materials to the teachers.
We commend the government for embarking on this ambitious initiative to improve the quality of teachers and teaching at the basic education level. This type of intervention is long overdue. Over time, the basic education sector has been neglected in terms of quality staffing, infrastructure and instructional materials. In most primary schools, especially those in rural areas, lessons are conducted in dilapidated classrooms, with leaking roofs and decrepit floors. Worse still, pupils in some schools are taught under trees in the absence of classrooms.
Apart from the dearth of teachers at the basic education level nationwide, the quality of the available teachers is nothing to write home about. The quality of teaching in most of these schools is also better imagined than described. This sorry state of the nation’s basic education system partly explains why many parents prefer to send their children and wards to private schools, where the quality of teachers and teaching is sometimes higher.
Some affluent Nigerians send their children abroad, even for basic education, while the less affluent ones send theirs to neighbouring West African countries such as Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana, where they think the quality is higher than what is obtainable on our shores.
It is good that the government has decided to rise to the challenge of poor staffing in our basic schools. We urge it to match its good intentions with action. The government should ensure that only suitably qualified teachers are recruited for this crucial assignment. It should also make sure that the exercise is transparent. It is time we stop paying lip-service to basic education in the country.
If we fail to get it right at the basic level, there is, indeed, no guarantee that we shall get it right at the higher levels. It is necessary to give our children a sound educational foundation.
It is, however, one thing to recruit teachers; it is another to pay them regularly. Therefore, the government should ensure that teachers are well remunerated and paid regularly. The tragedy of the teaching profession in Nigeria, at least at the basic level, is the lack of prestige and enhanced welfare package. Efforts should be made to make teaching prestigious and well paying at all levels.
That is the only way the profession can attract brilliant minds. If the government continues to handle issues that concern teachers with disdain and indifference, the profession will not be attractive to young and talented persons. In this recruitment exercise, the states should be carried along for maximum impact and success.