With the foregoing in mind, permit me to explore some identified missing link in the teaching profession in the Third World or better put the characteristics of teaching in the state of nature.
- Sweeping Poverty: There is sweeping poverty in the land therefore people are in different sectors in search of the good of their belly and not necessarily because they have any particular interest. The other day I was making a presentation at a parent/teacher association meeting of a big private group of schools in Lagos, and I engaged two of the teachers. The question I posed to them was simple: why are you teaching here? The answer was strange and complicated, ‘I did not find another job. I decided to pass time with this one.’ Of course a ‘pass time’ teacher will not have the presence of mind and will not do too much for his or her pupils.
- Poor Hiring Process: Employers of teachers do not do a thorough job in the hiring process, including ensuring the passion and character of applicants before putting them on the job. I do not think everyone, who applies for a teaching job should be given a job. The responsibility of molding a child is a delicate one that must not be left to those who we cannot vouch for. I was involved in a matter where a 24 year-old teacher was caught molesting a 6 year old girl child. The school owner rose stoutly in the deference of the teacher and his school. After much pressure, she was forced to sack the teacher. To our amazement, report soon reached us that the suspected teacher, who was released on bail by the court, had been employed by another school. To vouch for a man or woman, we must be interested in their career history. It means we must take time to investigate a teacher very well before we open the doors of schools to them. The patience to conduct due diligence become the golden rule before we employ teachers. To do otherwise is to open up the children to the lions in sheep clothing. I have listened to school owners, who run elementary school saying that as a safety measures, they do not hire male teachers. They only hire female teachers. Well, that may be a good idea, but I must say that it is not sound enough negate the need for due diligence in hiring. Recent developments show that a teacher is not safe with the children by virtues of her or her gender. A school owner once told us the story a female teacher, who stripped herself half-naked and asked the primary school pupils to massage her back. Lesbianism is fast becoming the order of the day. A lady, who we spoke to recently, was introduced to lesbianism by her female mentor. That could have been a teacher. I lost my virginity to an older female at the age of six. She could have been a school teacher. A lady recently told us how her female house-help was in the habit of fiddling with the penis of her son until the three year old boy reported the matter to her mother. We are living perilous times, where we need to be very careful.
- Poor remuneration and welfare package for teachers: Unknown to the employers, ‘Good teachers are costly, but bad teachers cost more.’ Published on the website, http://www.worldsalaries.org is an article titled, Teacher Salaries – International Comparison. The article did a comparative analysis of teachers’ salaries in 26 countries. The United States of America tops the international rating list. The average salary of a teacher in the United States of America is put at five thousand, two hundred and sixty six dollars. Twenty-three percent is deducted as income tax, municipal tax, provincial/state income tax, social security or (pension plan, medicare). The teacher puts in thirty-six point six hours weekly. His or her job descriptions include: (i) prepares annual programmes of work for classes in secondary education establishment; (ii) gives instruction and conducts discussions; (iii) maintains discipline in class; (iv) prepares, assigns and corrects exercises; (v) sets, administers and marks tests and examinations; (vi) reports on pupil progress to head teacher and parents. The last country rated is European country known as Romania. It is curious that no African country is rated. Though our advocacy through the TeacherFIRE program is that teachers must act at all times in the child, we believe that the task is made easy where the welfare of teachers is made a priority in the scheme of affairs in the schools system. Every tree produces after its kind. It is high time we began to invest in our teachers what we want them to be to our children, if we are really interested in the future of our dear nation, which our children represent.
- Lack of teaching tools/aids and favourable learning environment for teachers to do their job: The teaching environment, particularly in the public schools and in some private schools in Nigeria is not fit. Besides there are not contemporary teaching aids to help the teachers in the discharge of their responsibilities. Many schools owners will first invest in their personal comfort instead of establishing structures that will aid the learning of their pupils.
- Lack of Unifying Leadership: Lack of leadership within the teachers’ body, which is able to represent diverse interests and galvanize members to pursue common goals.
- Lack of a genuine relationship between parents and teachers as partners in progress. Some schools actually frustrate relationships between teachers and parents. Parents/teachers associations and their meetings may not serve the personal cause of an individual pupil, who to the knowledge of the teacher needs special attention. How effective is our open day? Parents do not attend. In most cases they send a staff or relation, who for sundry reasons gives them reports that are many miles away from the truth.
- Comatose regulatory bodies: The regulatory bodies like the Ministry of Education, pressure groups are not alive to their responsibilities. For example the ministry of education at the state and federal levels do not have a clear database of the pupils in private and public primary and secondary schools, not to talk of the numbers of teachers.
It is like the ministries of education had abandoned their responsibilities, particularly in respect of private schools. Many are private schools, which are not registered with the ministries of education both at the state and federal levels.
I was in a meeting the other day when an official of the ministry of education in one of the leading states in Nigeria argued that a program aimed at creating awareness for the Child’s Rights Law of the State should not be taken to schools, which are not registered. I kicked against the position and posited that it is the failure of the ministry of education that they do not solution to the problem of school running unregistered. I further stated that to exclude the unregistered school will mean to open children, who attend such schools to abuse.
It goes without saying that when a school is not registered, it is not regulated and when it is not regulated, the lives of the pupils and the teachers alike are at the mercy of the school owners. Expecting teachers to give their best in an unregistered and unregulated school is almost a laughable attempt at hallucination. Even for schools that are registered, I am not aware that are stated conditions of engagement of teachers. The conditions of service, including remuneration are left to the whims and caprices of the school board and owners.
The ministries of education and all other agencies must arise and regulate the school system in Nigeria. They must the interested in the welfare packages of teachers and other in the workforce of the school system.
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