Sacking of teachers in Kaduna: Why NLC, NUT must not act as survivalist trade unions

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SACKING OF TEACHERS IN KADUNA: NLC, NUT, DO NOT PLAY GAMES WITH OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE: WHY YOU MUST ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL BODY AND NOT A SURVIVALIST TRADE UNION

By  Dr. (Mrs.) Veronica Ogbuagu

The protest embarked upon by the members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Nigeria Union of Teachers in Kaduna State against the sack of over 21,000 teachers is shameful, counter-productive and a disgrace to the teaching profession.

The stands of NUT instigated by NLC are clear indications that they are trying to politicize this very important issue. I dont think they mean well to the teaching profession, our children and the education industry.

It is very sad to note that there has been a pressing need for trained teachers over the few years. Professor A. Babs Fafunwa; was aware of this problem when in a paper he read on Teacher Education in Nigeria at the National Curriculum Conference in Lagos in September 1969, he brought the problem into focus with all the verbal force at his disposal in these words;  Of all the educational problems that beset Nigeria today, none is as persistent and as agonizing as the one relating to the training of competent teachers.

The demands for more and better schools; the need to relate the curriculum to the needs of the child and his environment; the crying need for appropriate text books and other instructional materials; the desirability of training in vocational and technical skills and indeed the overall problem of preparing the future citizens of Nigeria who will be fully oriented to their environment cannot be effectively accomplished without the aid of competent teachers.

Nor can the demand for trained man power be adequately met, because the success or failure of all these goals depends entirely on the pattern, the content and the objectives of the teacher education programme designed for these.

Although Professor Fafunwa said this four decades ago, the problem is still unsolved.

In the past twenty (20) years, there has been several complaints about the decline in the standard of education in Nigeria. We have heard the voice of educators, parents, government functionaries and laymen, scholars and the press (with conflicting ideas), speaking of the ills of our educational system and particularly, of Teachers, due to poor teacher preparation.

In the last few years, Nigerias policy makers have made significant changes, designed to produce Nigerias least experienced and least qualified Teachers. This has not yielded result, because, many of our primary school teachers of today are not much more literate than the children they teach. Which makes it obvious that they simply do not know what to teach, let alone know how to teach.

In 2012, the Delta State Government returned some schools to missions. The Catholic mission advertised for teachers. Over five hundred teachers applied to teach in the various schools. Our first task was to short-list applicants. Over 200 copies of application letters submitted to the mission were nothing but hilarious jokes. If not seen, one would imagine it is a tale. In these letters, a lot of errors were observed: autographical (spelling) errors, incorrect sentences, organizational errors, and lack of cohesion. The letters had no margin, some underlined capital letters, using the informal diction Dear in a formal letter, wrong uses of tenses, wrong appropriateness of punctuation marks, etc. the following are specimen copies of some of the application letters. Please note that the identity of the applicants have been kept confidential.

These applicants were stopped but imagine if it were to be under the public school teacher recruitment process, many of these applications will go through under the Let my people go principle of promoting mediocrity and nepotism in the public school system which Kaduna state is eager to correct.

It is common knowledge that, teachers of old were better and more dedicated to the calling, than teachers of today. This has been traced to the type of training which they had. If this is so, then it can be concluded that Teacher Training Programmes of the past produced better Teachers, than what present day Teacher Training programmes are producing.

Therefore, to salvage the situation, it is necessary to look to the past and use it to enrich the present. On this note, it is important to re-visit the following for consideration:

The scrapping of the conventional Teachers Training Colleges in Nigeria, where teachers were well groomed in the Principles and Practice of Education, does not appear to be expedient. The TC II programmes used to be the basic foundation of Teachers Education in Nigeria. The effect of scrapping them has been the lack of thoroughness and depth, which characterize the teaching practice today. There is need to consider its re-introduction into the Senior Secondary School as was originally conceived of the 6-3-3-4 system, so that our children from the Junior Secondary School can be streamed into the Senior Secondary School (Teacher Education). Thereafter, they can progress into the Colleges of Education as initially envisaged.

In addition, the T.C. II curriculum should be enriched with functional Information Technology (IT), the Fundamentals of Counseling, Creative and Thinking Skills, Principles of Child Care and Effective Parenting. Holders of the T.C. II would be Care Givers (Not Teachers) in the Early Child Care and Development Education (ECCDE) Centres and Nursery Schools or Kindergartens, to be eventually attached to all primary schools across the country.

The problem of lack of flexibility of the curriculum for Teacher Education, must not go without mention. The society is not static, but dynamic and so the planning of the curriculum must give room for changes and must keep pace with the social, economic and technological advancement in the world. This is because, everyday new changes occur and so our Teachers and our youths should move with the time. Curriculum development must therefore, be a process to meet with the aspirations and the needs of the Nigerian people. The Teacher Education Programmes should be re-planned to focus on both preparation for teaching and the acquisition of significant knowledge of the subject matter.

The training of Teachers should be vigorously pursued. The institutions that prepare Teachers must re-examine their roles and try to improve the quality of the existing teaching force. There are three principal educational institutions for Teacher preparation. The first route is through the National Teachers Institute. The programmes of the National Teachers; Institute (NTI) are very poor. The National Teachers Institute is the present basic foundation of Teacher Education in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the NTI teachers are teaching in the primary schools all over Nigeria. The second route is the Colleges of Education and the third route is through an academic degree in a given subject, plus one year post-graduate certificate course in pedagogy or an integrated three-year combined degree course in education and two teaching subjects, leading to the award of a Bachelor of Arts in Education, or Bachelor of Science in Education.

Most of the lecturers preparing teachers in the various Colleges of Education, Institutes of Education, Teachers Training Colleges and the Faculty of Education in our universities, are not trained teachers. There is a lot of difference between a trained graduate teacher and an untrained graduate teacher. For instance, some teachers teaching in the Colleges of Education do not possess a teaching qualification. One wonders what knowledge an untrained teacher have to train a teacher? You do not give what you do not have. Ideally, no graduate should teach without a professional Teachers Certificate.

A good Teacher Training Programme is the key to the accomplishment of educational goals. All too often, the programmes involves inadequate coursework, inadequate pedagogical training, inadequate supervision, support, and mentoring.

The supply and training of Teachers lie at the very heart of the foundations for Teacher training in Nigeria. Improved student learning will take place, only when Teachers have access to the necessary training, knowledge, skills, working conditions and materials resources so for them to have the tools they need, major changes must be made.

It would seem to me that these institutions should be specially charged with the responsibilities of producing Teachers. The time has come when our University Lecturers should have a teaching qualification before they are adjudged qualified to teach or train Teachers.

The mode of recruitment of Teachers is another problem. Most of the present chairmen of Boards of Education are political appointees who, not being educationalists with teaching qualification, base most of their decisions on political considerations, without realizing the harm they may be doing to the system.

Teachers are posted not because Principals of schools request for those particular subject Teachers, but because it satisfies the political will of political godfathers and the who-is-who in political circles. Thus, some schools are over bloated with Teachers, while others do no have Teachers at all. Even, some schools which are bursting at the seams with Teachers, have no Teachers in crucial subjects area like Mathematics, English Language and the Sciences because there is no balancing of the considerations that should accompany the posting or deployment of teachers.

Most people ask if teaching is a profession in Nigeria, like Medicine or Law. In our society it is believed that anyone can be a teacher, that little or no expertise is required. It is a fact that Teachers are not appreciated for what they do, they are vulnerable to public attacks. Teaching is a profession, and it must be repositioned for all to realize that. To solve this problem, we must strive to have a higher status and be treated as real professionals.

There are many ideas on how to turn Teachers into high status professionals: increased pay, increased certification requirements, more accountability, career ladders, peer review, training Teachers as researchers, and encouraging Teachers themselves to set the standards for entrance into the profession.

Teachers must have the ability and inclination to continue to learn. Just as physicians must continually upgrade their knowledge of therapies, medications, and surgical procedures, teachers must stay abreast of recent research in their field. Effective teachers stay abreast of research findings in their fields, in response to their increased knowledge.

Teachers organisations in Nigeria must behave like professional organizations and less like trade unions. I want to suggest that since the union is more engrossed in union activities, another body should be established which would ensure that Teachers meet professional standards.

Attaining Certification: The National Board For Professional Teaching Standards

There is need to establish a board to be known as, the National Board For professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This board will be saddled with the responsibility of strengthening teaching as a profession and raising the quality of education by recognizing the contributions of exemplary teachers, compensate them financially, give them increased responsibility, and increase their role in decision making.

Certification is a special recognition by a professional organization indicating that an individual has met certain requirements specified by the organization.

The NBPTS is a national effort to personalize teaching. NBPTS certification is an excellent long-term career goal for which there is also a financial incentive. Evidence indicates that National Board Certification makes a difference in teacher quality. National Board Certification is well worth pursuing.

To receive certification from the National Board For professional Teaching Standards, teachers must demonstrate their expertise through examinations and classroom performance. National Board Certification has five important features:

It is designed for experienced teachers. Applicants must have graduated from an accredited university and must have taught at least 5 years.

Applying for National Board Certification is strictly voluntary and independent of any states licensure. It is intended to indicate a high level of skill and professionalism.

Acquiring National Board Certification requires that teachers pass a set of exams in their area of specialization, such as Mathematics, Sciences, Early Childhood or Physical And Health Education.

Additional evidence, such as video tapes of teaching and a personal portfolio, are used in the assessment process.

The primary control of NBPTS will be in the hands of practicing teachers, which increases the professionalism of teaching.

Licensure And Certification

In advance countries, they have standards for licensure and certification of Teachers. A license is issued when an individual meets requirements proposed by the state, such as completing a preparation programme, or achieving a minimum score on test of context knowledge, or professional practice. Some countries issue graduates a temporary certificate that is valid for two or three years, during which time the individual must perform satisfactorily, in order to qualify for a standard certification.

As with Physicians, Law, Bankers, and Engineers, Teachers must earn a license that allows them to practice their profession. The license is intended to certify, that the Teacher is knowledgeable and competent, and as with other professions, Teachers must renew their license periodically, to confirm that they are staying current in their fields. Teachers need at least a Bachelors degree prior to licensure.

Most professions designate a period of apprenticeship for a novice practitioner. Doctors work as interns and residents before assuming responsibility for a patient. But teachers, from the moment they are awarded their certificates, are considered full members of the profession.

A newly licensed architect, for example, would never be asked to design a major building in the first week on the job, all alone. But this is exactly what teachers are asked to do, and it reflects a structural challenge in the profession.

The personal experience of a respondent who taught in the North revealed that; a secondary school leaver in some parts of the North with one or two credits can be admitted into a remedial programme in many Colleges of Education, and then expected to remedy the Olevel requirements before they can be issued with the NCE Certificates.

Kaduna state government has set a precedence in correcting the observed problem and overhauling the entire process of training and recruitment of teachers.

The action of Nasir-El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state is a clarion call to other states to brace up to the challenge of low quality teachers arising from low quality of both students who apply to the institutions and poor quality Teacher Preparation Programme.

The action of the NLC and NUT in Kaduna state is condemnable in that they should strive to defend the integrity of teaching profession and embrace what the state governor is doing rather than struggling to save face and defending unqualified colleagues.

They should partner with the Kaduna state government to implement a new dawn in the teaching service in the state and their names will be written in gold.

The state government should be highly commended for striving to bring back the good old days in teaching and eschewing completely, the gory reality where a few schools committed to quality teaching/learning, and research are going into extinction, the miracle educational centres are booming as more and more parents and guardians are busy patronizing these citadels of examinations malpractices at the detriment of the future of their children.

Dr. (Mrs.) Veronica Ogbuagu, a former commissioner for education in Delta state, writes from Warri

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