Home Editorial Nigeria’s worrisome 68.8m teachers’ gap and 2030 target

Nigeria’s worrisome 68.8m teachers’ gap and 2030 target

The disclosure by the United Nations Education, Scientic and Cultural Organisation UNESCO, that Nigeria has a huge 68.8 million teaching staff gap in its primary and secondary school is worrisome, alarming and unacceptable, and demands that urgent steps be taken by federal and state authorities to close the gap.
This massive gap in the teaching staff of the country’s primary and secondary schools is existing even as the UNESCO has set 2030 target for countries across the globe to eradicate  illiteracy and by extension reduce poverty. Under this programme, the UNESCO has challenged all countries, especially developing and third world countries, with huge illiterate population to pursue its eradication using all available material and human resources to achieve the target. It is expected by the UNESCO that by 2030, countries like Nigeria with over 10 million children and in particular, the girl-child, would have eliminated the scourge.
The attainment of this target which is a decade and four years away from now, would also significantly impact on the reduction of poverty among the female population, empower them on reproduction health, gender balance and female sexuality.
UNESCO used this year’s World Teachers’ Day on October 5, 2016, to remind the Nigerian government that failure to close this gap- 24.4 million in primary and 44.4 million in secondary – would spell disaster for the country as not much would be achieved with an illiterate population. This year’s celebration has its theme: Valuing Teachers, Improving Their Status; and had Nigerian teachers joining their counterparts elsewhere in the world to mark it as work-free day and with pomp and ceremony in most state capitals.
While the figures released by UNESCO could be staggering, frightening and perhaps, hard to believe, any person who has followed developments surrounding those two levels of education in the country, will even think that the figures were under-valued. This is especially as most schools in parts of the country do not have facilities including roof over the heads of the pupils and students to think of getting teachers for such schools. For a fact,  public schools in some states and localities are at best vexatious and depicts the lack of seriousness attached to education by governments over the years. Redressing this scenario will take time, but achievable with diligent commitment by everybody concerned.
Indeed, some schools at the secondary school level only have teachers posted to them from the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, while the primary schools usually have only the head teachers and their assistantswithut qualified salaried teachers.
Of course, there is no other way to further buttress the fact that the country has this inexcusable teachers’ gap than the outcome of the terminal examinations secondary school students are subjected to each year- especially the West African School Certification Examinations and the National Examination Council of Nigeria, NECO. Nigeria has for the past three years trailed behind Ghana in the competitive examination, a development that clearly demonstrates the gap in teaching and perhaps, other facilities.
Whereas teachers are to blame for not doing their job properly, the government has all the blames for not employing the right caliber of teachers and in their right numbers. Therefore, it is our demand, that the federal and state governments should immediately begin massive recruitment of teachers at both primary and secondary school levels to bridge the teachers gap in the schools.
The point must also be stressed that the recruitment must not be carried out simply to fulfil all righteousness. No,  that should not be the case. Those that should be recruited, in our view, must be qualified with passion for the classroom. Those who wish to use teaching as a stepping stone or for reduction of boredom should be excused from the recruitment. We dare say that it is this kind of teachers that abandon their classes to chase other interests. It is our belief that the country has enough trained teachers to fill this yawning gap.
The recruitment should not be used to settle political hangers-on as doing so would be tantamount to dashing money to beggars. They will not stay. They will not be committed. The gap will remain and the students untaught.
We are aware that most states are not paying salaries of their workers including teachers. This abnormality should be quickly addressed as labourers are entitled to their wages. It must be noted that the failure of governments to pay teachers as and when due is at the not of most young, talented and trained teachers not wanting to be in the profession. This is also part of the reasons while some of the teachers have turned to business and petty trading to keep soul and body together. In all, it is the pupils, students and the society that suffer for it.
We insist that this sad narrative should change if the country must join the rest of the world to bid farewell to illiteracy,  poverty and gender imbalance by 2030. We are aware that the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, are currently engaging all tiers of government with a view to ensuring that all salary arrears are paid and facilities provided for better service delivery in all public schools across the country. This is a welcome development. We note that the negotiation should not be allowed to breakdown.
Even then, we counsel federal and state authorities to be proactive to meet the demands of the teachers and not wait until they withdraw their services in a nationwide strike – as they have threatened.
While we urge Nigerian teachers to remain focused, courageous and proud of their calling, we challenge the governments to strive to protect teachers against the excesses of those who deliberately withhold their salaries, promotions and other entitlements that could enhance the value and status of teachers in the country. Those ministry officials who whimsically and cynically devalue the worth and status of teachers by laying unnecessary burdens on them are, indeed, enemies of education and should be fished out and punished. Given that the teacher provides the light that education gives, it boils down to the fact that  the absence of teachers would deepen the darkness in any land. The consequence of this for Nigeria is foreboding and must be avoided like a plague. Therefore, let there be more teachers to lighten the nation.

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