11th December 2019
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The education structure in Nigeria is no doubt an inheritance from the colonial interruption. It is therefore implausible not to blame the travails experienced by education seekers on the colonial and possibly, neo-colonial strategies. However, it is important to note that after gaining political independence, Nigeria and Nigerians had the opportunity to right any wrong the colonial masters may have etched in the psyche of the nation.

There are several pointers to the fact that education in Nigeria is far flung from global best practices. First, there is a proliferation of private educational institutions which is an expression of absolute dissatisfaction with what avails. Second, a good number of Nigerians aspire to acquire foreign educational training, even in neighboring Benin Republic, Niger Republic and Ghana. This is encouraged by the preference accorded foreign certificate holders by employers in Nigeria. The mother of all ironies is in the fact that the federal government of Nigeria sponsors her lecturers to study in foreign universities and take up courses available for study in Nigerian universities. This is a clear acceptance of the low standard of education by the country’s government.

Education at all levels is bedeviled by several factors. It is quite difficult enumerating the challenges and the cause(s) of the menace education has become to the future of the nation. The quality of teachers however, seem to be a basic problem bedeviling Nigeria’s education system. It is feared that the country may in the nearest future be in dire lack of teachers. This does not mean that there will be no Nigerians wielding certificates that say they are teachers. No. It is known in every Nigerian school and society at large, that the brightest pupils and students are usually urged to, and become, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other ‘glorified’ professions/careers. The teaching profession is therefore left for the ‘wretched of the earth’, so to speak. Mostly, those who end up as teachers are the ones who do not possess the requisite qualification to gain admission into universities.

These ilk end up in teacher-training institutions known as colleges of education. They spend 3-4 years and then acquire the basic minimum qualification for teaching in Nigeria: National Certificate in Education (NCE). An institution that has contributed to the deterioration of the educational system is the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI). This institute doles out NCEs, but with a difference. The institute trains teachers though Distance Learning, thereby contributing to the many reasons why majority of their students are people who lacked intellectual capacity to complete higher education. They arguably did not acquire the expected skills while at the foundational levels of education. Teaching for this category of students is simply a means of livelihood. They turn up at teacher training institutions not just ill prepared, but also already un-teachable. Hence, there is hardly any magic the teacher trainers could perform to transform them into world class teachers. It suffices therefore to conclude that the bulk of teachers in Nigeria are not, or were not the brightest during the course of their education.  

The proliferation of the brightest pupils in professions that are more financially beneficial is not unconnected to the low remuneration of teachers. It is observed that the lowest paid civil servants are usually teachers. This discourages persons with high intellectual abilities to go into the teaching profession. Teachers in tertiary institutions are not left out in the financial starvation. It is common knowledge that university and polytechnic teachers almost yearly, embark on strikes (industrial action – downing tools) before they get the government to fund their institutions and pay their accrued allowances. Since 5 November, 2018, University teachers have been on strike and government seem to be carefree towards their demands, even when the strike is already in its 3rd month.

Until the best amongst us become our teachers, until the government begins to consider funding of education as priority and make the wages/salaries of teachers attractive, this ominous situation will persist. One fears that Nigeria may soon have to ‘import’ teachers as the quality of the home trained ones continue to decline.

Joe Dameh

Joe Dameh is a Lecturer at Bayero University Kano, Nigeria. He is very passionate about improving the education system in Nigeria.

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