Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The menace of unqualified Nigerian teachers

The screaming headline in Daily Trust of Friday, February 15, 2013 reads: “1,300 Kaduna teachers fail primary school test”. The rider says, “Head teachers, education secretaries unqualified”. The unsavoury news was broken by the Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Usman Mohammed. He made the dreadful disclosure at an education summit tagged, “Education for all is responsibility of all”, held at the Hassan Usman Katsina House on February 14. The report quoted the commissioner thus: “A total of 1,599 teachers selected from across the state were given primary four tests in Mathematics and Basic literacy. Only one of them scored 75 per cent, 250 scored between 50 and 75 per cent and 1,300 scored below 25 per cent”. According to him, the same examination was conducted for 1,800 primary school pupils but a larger per cent of them failed woefully. The commissioner said many of the head teachers of the primary schools are not competent, and also that a majority of the Education Secretaries of the local government areas are appointed based on political patronage hence their inability to perform well.
Another speaker at the summit, Mohammed Yunusa, who is the chairman of the state House of Assembly Committee on Education, was also quoted as saying that “out of the 36,000 teachers in the state, 15,000 are not qualified.” The story noted further that in November 2012, the late Governor Patrick Yakowa also disclosed that a verification by the state government had revealed no fewer than 2,000 teachers with fake certificates employed in public schools.
Are these revelations alarming? Of course, they go to confirm our worst fears about the collapse of education in Nigeria. The Kaduna episode resonates with earlier revelations in Kwara State in 2008. According to Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who was the Education Commissioner in the state then, “An aptitude and capacity test was organised for a total of 19,125 teachers in the state’s public school system. Out of these, 2,628 were university graduates. The teachers were given tests that were designed originally for primary four pupils in English and Mathematics.
At the end of the exercise, only seven teachers out of the 19,125 crossed the minimum aptitude and capacity threshold. Only one out of the 2,628 graduate teachers passed the test, 10 graduates scored outright zero. The teachers fared worse in literacy assessments which recorded only 1.2 per cent pass rate. More worrying is that nearly 60 per cent of the teachers cannot read information or use the information in preparing a simple lesson.”
We would be missing the point if we think it is only in Kaduna and Kwara states that such unqualified tutors are found. Perhaps, a similar scenario would have played out in Ekiti State had the teachers not vehemently resisted the attempt by the state’s commissioner for education to force them to sit for a similar competency test. Half-baked teachers are in all states, and at all levels of our academic system from primary to tertiary institutions. The Nigerian education foundation is very wobbly. Aside from the phenomenon of unqualified teachers, there are other challenges ranging from inadequate funding leading to overstretched resources including manpower, structures and equipment, frequent strikes by the teachers, truancy on the part of pupils and students, policy summersaults on the part of government, inadequate monitoring of teachers by the inspectorate division of the education ministry, parents aiding and abetting their children and wards to cheat in exams by paying for the services of impersonators or buying them answer scripts.
The aforementioned do not only manifest in public schools. Even though the malaise is more pronounced in government owned institutions, it has also spread to privately owned schools. Many of the private schools operate illegally without proper authorisation by the education ministry. The structures of some of them are very terrible. They are located in uncompleted buildings without conveniences for the pupils. No playing ground and the teachers, who are not allowed to unionise, are poorly paid. These led to high turnover of teachers in some of these schools. The upshot of all these is the mass failure of pupils in internal and external examinations.
The Universal Basic Education Programme was introduced in 1999 by the Federal Government as a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring quality of basic education throughout Nigeria. The UBE programme objectives include: Ensuring an uninterrupted access to a nine-year formal education by providing free, and compulsory basic education for every child of school-going age under six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education providing early childhood care development and education; reducing school drop-out and improving relevance, quality and efficiency as well as acquisition of literacy, numeracy, life skills and values for lifelong education and useful living.
Since 2005, the UBEC has been providing matching grants to states to assist them in providing basic infrastructure for their schools. Information on the website of the commission shows that states such as Nasarawa, Ebonyi , Imo and Ogun have yet to access their 2010, 2011 and 2012 grants while only seven states and the Federal Capital Territory have claimed their 2012 matching grants as of February 4, 2013.
If we are to turn things around positively in our basic education which is the pillar upon which secondary and tertiary education lies, we need to do things differently. This malaise of unqualified teachers has to be urgently addressed and redressed. Ace musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was spot on when he sang many years ago “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”.
There are no two ways about it, an unqualified or ill-trained and ill-equipped teacher will teach nothing but nonsense. Many states in Nigeria need to declare a state of emergency in their academic institutions, yet they are playing politics with the issue. Schools need to be well-resourced in order for the teachers and pupils to excel. Our education budget in Nigeria is very short of the 26 per cent recommended by the UNESCO. The Federal Government voted about nine per cent for education in the 2013 budget while in some states, the figure is less than two per cent. Given this, how then can we expect our schools to churn out quality pupils?
Our teacher training schools need to be rehabilitated and well-equipped so that they can produce quality graduates. Teachers need to be trained and retrained with modern day curriculum that has Montessori and other contemporary skills. They also need to be well remunerated. The inspectorate division of ministry of education and local government need to be well staffed in order for them to be able to effectively monitor the performance of these teachers. It behooves guardians and parents alike to complement government effort by paying their children and wards school fees and other legitimate fees. They need to buy them needed textbooks and other learning materials. These are the ways we could roll back illiteracy in Nigeria and hope to attain the Millennium Development Goals come 2015.