Despite their important role as molders of tomorrow’s leaders, Nigerian teachers are still grappling with numerous challenges, such as poor pay, deplorable working conditions and infrastructure, poor funding, lack of recognition and others. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the plight of teachers as many were laid off due to inability of schools to pay them.
As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate teachers, stakeholders were unanimous in their position that the teaching profession must be repositioned to attract young and brilliant minds for a better society.
Speaking on this year’s theme: “Teachers at the heart of education recovery,” lawyer and education consultant, Jacqueline Odiadi, said the COVID-19 pandemic, no doubt, caught the sector napping, as regulators, administrators, parents and consultants, grappled with how to adjust to the “new norma.”
According to her, advanced countries adjusted swiftly to the “new normal” because they have ICT infrastructure in place and had no problem deploying educational tools and resources required for online learning.
“But here in Nigeria, before the pandemic, teaching profession was already full of challenges. This noble profession, which is considered the instrument with which learning is deployed and impacted, was already strained due to the disconnect between modern day realities and curriculum content, while the methodology of teaching was still very much straight lined and not a two-way means of exchange between the teacher and learner,” she said.
Odiadi pointed out that the pandemic brought to fore the importance of funding in the sector.
“Due to the challenging economic times worsened by the pandemic, there was paucity of funds to address the capacity challenge of teachers and students in the use of the necessary ICT tools and other resources for learning to take place.
“Both students and teachers had no training on how to engage each other neither were they able to fund the required hardware and tools for education to thrive,” she explained.
Speaking on support teachers need to fully contribute to the recovery process, she said there is need to address challenges confronting the sector, which are negatively impacting the teaching profession.
Odiadi said education development must move beyond political rhetorics, while policy inconsistencies must be addressed; from recruitment to training, infrastructure, remuneration/emoluments/entitlements, health, pension, general welfare, to education management, funding, stronger sustainability measures; security and enabling environment for learning, among others.
She said teachers should not be regarded as magicians or expected to live a life of sacrifice for heavenly benefits.
According to her, the Federal Government must show greater commitment to efficient and quality education, service delivery and transparent in their dealings with donor agencies for wider impact.
“The strategies of learning or teaching process must align more closely with economic development agenda of government. The cost of education, teacher training, lack of learning materials, access to education for students with special needs and efficiency and quality of education service delivery in the non-formal education sector must be and remain on the front burner of issues for consideration, for implementation, review and further development,” she said.
On effective and promising policy responses to ensure teaching personnel develop their potentials, the consultant called for a good governance framework, which would serve as a knitting thread for the various activities of actors in the sector.
She advocated the adoption of good governance principles in the sector, to aid the process of education management, from policy formulation to implementation, monitoring, evaluation and assessment.
Also, Education Consultant, Grace Schools, Adesope Edun, agreed that the effect the pandemic had on the teaching profession are numerous
He said it has brought to the fore the need for schools to go digital, imperative for government to give subventions, and need for schools to have contingency plans on ground.
He said for the much-touted recovery, teachers need support to fully contribute to the process.
Edun stated that teachers need to be digitally trained to be able to have classes both online and offline, to ensure that the next time such a pandemic happens, they would be equipped to deal with it.
“Teachers also need to have an emergency fund activated for this kind of unprecedented problem, which should be provided by government to ensure that both private and public school teachers are assisted through grants to enable them equip themselves with digital skills.”
Education administrator, Emmanuel Taiwo Akinola, on his part, said the country must focus on teachers to build a strong foundation for education to thrive. According to him, ensuring teachers get adequate and regular training will not only help the sector, but also affect other sectors, as education supports and nourishes other parts of the nation’s economy.
“If this root is destroyed or not given the prominent attention it deserves, the educational system in all its entirety will collapse and consequently development and growth in all the sectors of the economy would remain standstill.
“The importance of teacher education in Nigeria is further re-echoed in the National Policy on Education (2014). It is explicitly stated in paragraph 70 of the document that, since no education system may rise above the quality of its teachers, teacher education shall continue to be given major emphasis in all educational planning and development,” he said.
Akinola noted that there is an urgent need to revisit teacher education policy to meet with present reality and improve on teacher education goals in Nigeria. He pointed out that there is the need to improve on the quality assurance strategies to bring relevant recovery to education in Nigeria.
He said it is crucial to integrate information and communication technology into teacher education programmes because it has become imperative to train them in that direction with special focus on its application in the classroom to enhance pedagogy.
According to him, it is highly imperative to produce high quality teachers who would utilise their required knowledge, skills and attitudinal values to train and develop high quality manpower required for the socio-economical and technological emancipation of Nigeria. He stressed that this requires proper integration of ICT into teacher education programmes.
“As teacher education serves as a formidable tool for political stability, economic buoyancy, cultural integration and social reconstruction in Nigeria, ICT should be properly integrated into teacher education programmes to ensure that good standards are set for various processes and activities that lead to production of high quality teachers for all levels of education in Nigeria,” he said.
Akinola also stressed the need to put in place effective and promising responses to save education. He highlighted the need to have appropriate quality assurance policy, adequate funding of education and creating effective awareness to all stakeholders. He added that stakeholders must desist from politicising education and emphasise the need to integrate ICT into teacher education programmes with adequate facilities.
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