Over the course of the weekend, i had cause to visit my alma mata to celebrate 20 years of graduating from Secondary School. And from Thursday to Sunday, several of us, representing others who couldn’t make it gathered at Mayflower School Ikenne Remo to not only celebrate 20 years, but to give back to the school and above all honor our teachers.
On the Assembly Ground in Students Second Home now called Mayflower Private School, still stands on the wall, the guiding thought of the great sage and teacher, the late Dr. Tai Solarin who founded Mayflower school, “We compare with the best boys and girls in the universe”. That thought, was what drove our teachers, and we the students to instill and impart in us, a knowledge and experience that cannot be quantified nor bought at any price. And i would call it Oga Tasere’s philosophy of education.
During the Teachers’ appreciation Lunch on Friday at Schimid Hall, Mayflower School Ikenne, We manage to bring together most of our teachers that taught us from JSS1 to SSS3 and their joy knew no bounds as they sat with us to wine and dine and prayed from the depths of their hearts for us, as we celebrated and appreciated them with gifts. In their very own words, we were the first set that would look back, to say thank you like the Samaritan in the scriptures that was healed of leprosy. Teachers that looked like demigods 20 years ago, that were feared and revered now look, aged and meek, but the look of contentment on their faces was priceless.
But do we need to wait 20 years before we appreciate our teachers? Are teachers rewards really in heaven? Do we have a National Teachers Policy? Why are teachers poorly treated and seem down the ladder of professional career path?
According to Adelabu 2005, “A broad consensus is that, prior to independence,
teaching was considered by almost all sections of society as a highly respected
profession. Teachers played key leadership roles in local communities and acted as role
models…However, after Independence, when the demand for educated labour grew
rapidly, many teachers left the profession to take up jobs elsewhere in the public and
private sector….this marked the beginning of the teacher motivation crisis in Nigeria, as the public began to look down on those teachers who remained in the classroom as second-string public servants. The growing tendency for school leavers to opt for teaching only if they are unable to find other more lucrative public or private sector employment further compounded this problem of lowered professional status” She stated further that, “Dr. Owusu, the leader of the accreditation team of the National Commission for Colleges of Education remarked that the teaching profession in Nigeria had been relegated to the background and that teaching is not accorded the respect it deserves (The Punch, 2004).”
So, can we now say, that the bane in our educational system over the years till now can be attributed to the lure of greener pastures of white-collar jobs and the resultant dearth of noble men and women who can prove to be worthy role models in the society and are passionate about their calling as teachers?
Can we also infer that the quality of our leadership in the country now, is birthed on the quality of education been entrenched in the system?
Let’s take a seat back and look at it critically, An American professor emeritus of education, Dr. Ivan Welton Fitzwater, once said “the future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad. Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant everyday, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.” If this is true, should the teacher not be the highest paid professional in the country?
Dear Friends, it is not the case. The welfare package of Nigerian Teachers is the worst in the country. And most of them have to go the extra leg to feed their family and make ends meet. I have Uncles and an Aunt, who are teachers and i know what they go through regularly. I think the Vanguard successful captures the plight of teachers with this headline of Oct 8 2015, “Nigerian teacher: A poorly paid professional expected to deliver gold”. And the truth is, so much blame has been heaped on teachers for thier “failure” to deliver quality education but we fail to ask ourselves a fundamental question, “How well appreciated, passionate and empowered are teachers?”
The average unemployed youth on the streets is expected or would rather, take up a teaching job to make ends meet without the requisite qualification and wherewithal to impart knowledge, simply because there is no other job opening available. How will such a teacher be passionate about his or her students. There are very few people i know, that went into teaching because they love to teach, and they went all out to get themselves empowered to deliver and be passionate about their job. But that is like minority in the whole population sample of teachers in the country.
And the passion for the job aside, if am not motivated at the work am doing, how can i impart knowledge when am thinking of how the next meal will come to the table or how i will transport myself home?? We have created a system in the country that regards teachers as the scum of professional ladder of success hence we have deliberately neglected the educational sector inadvertently while we praise the educational system of other countries and try to clone them through the establishment of Private schools in the country. But the sad truth is, we are robbing Peter to pay Paul. How you ask? How many People, can afford to send their children to a Private School? How many Teachers are qualified enough, to teach in a private school? Are we going to kill the public education system by burying our heads like the Ostrich and watch events as it takes a downward spiral?
My aim with this write-up, is not to find the merits and demerits of private and public schooling, but rather to call to light, the role of teachers in National Development. Our teachers need to be valued and celebrated as national heroes and empowered to empower the future that is coming. I once heard my Uncle, a lecturer at a College of Education lament, that he fears for his children because of the attitude of the crop of students that were passing through the system. They were there simply because JAMB and jammed them severally and they had no choice than to find the closest high institute of learning just for them to acquire a degree or certificate. This was 10 years ago.
“The plight of Nigeria’s teachers is pitiful as many of them have died of hunger, diseases and out of frustration. The system has turned a good number of them into beggars and destitutes such that the younger generation dread the idea of becoming teachers in the future. If our teachers are not appreciated and recognized, they would be forced to turn their noble job of inspiring the youth to higher academic excellence into positions of creating ‘yahoo boys’ and ‘runs girls’ in our schools”. (The Vanguard Oct 8 2015.). Ivan Fitzwater says, “The future of the World, is in my classroom today…..” Abraham Lincoln says, “Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults” But if we fail at the level of teaching children, how would we succeed in teaching adults?
The current Nigerian System has failed to teach children, hence we have a bunch of recalcitrant, uneducated, immature adults running the country! The Good Book, Ecc 10:16 AMP states, “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child and when your [incompetent] officials and princes feast in the morning” Malcom X says, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” How prepared, is the future of Nigeria with the current educational system that we have? Are we really sure we want a future for our Country? A great number of our citizens are bolting out of the country to other countries of the world that are better prepared for their future, but what are we doing?! Are we seating on our haunches and thinking to ourselves, the government should do something? WAKE UP!!!! YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT!!!!
An Old Chinese proverb states, “It is better to take many small steps in the right direction, than to make a giant leap forward only to stumble backward”. Let’s begin by appreciating and celebrating our teachers in our various communities and circles of influence. What we did, to our old teachers in Mayflower, is what i believe, a small step in the right direction. A token of appreciation and celebration. The next step is to ensure, we are positioned to make and execute policies that will influence and impact positively on our educational system. The National Teacher Educational Policy of 2014 needs to be implemented to the letter and not be placed in the archives gathering dust. The cut off score to study education in any higher institution must be increased to match that of other vital key professions such as medicine, pharmacy, Law just to mention a few. Our Educational Policy needs to be taken from the doldrums of politics and placed in the foster care of seasoned professionals who understand that the future of the nation is at stake and are willing to go all out to ensure that the quality of education improves drastically in Nigeria.
We must be involved in our educational system and not take a back seat. While we were growing up, we had the honor of being taught by Teachers who were passionate about the job, (One of my teachers was a student of my Uncle and i met him last week as well and he was ecstatic!) but who will be passionate to teach our future, our children? Mark Van Doreen says, “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” There are potential talents lying dormant, untapped and undiscovered in our current educational system. And for those who are “fortunate” to escape to other countries, they become a major assets to those nations as we have come to see. But what of those still here, unable to leave? Who will help them discover their talent? We have dormant Albert Einstein, Picasso, Henry Ford, Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, Tafawa Balewa, Bill Gates, Elon Musk just to mention a few. Brilliant Thinkers, World Class Inventors, Political Leaders, and worthy leaders. We have in our midst, men who can make significant impact in our nation and world at large, and who can stand before demagogues and damn its treacherous flatteries without winking.
Nation Building does not start with the political class, neither does it rest in the echelons of power, rather it resides in the classrooms, with teachers you and i relate with daily. That is the engine room of the future, where minds are moulded, ideals and ideology formed and the pathway of the future charted. In the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”