I’m introducing this piece with a disastrous story of a government that advocated for “burial of all hatches,” whilst teachers were on strike, because the government had no idea what teachers’ role towards national development is. The teachers were on strike not because of their four years leave allowance arrears, long-overdue promotions, or a for other benefits which are all in mirage, but because of the non-payment of the meager salary due to them as teachers. The government turned deaf ears to their wailing. Their families suffered terribly of deprivation, their children starve to death right under their tearful eyes, their wives suffered reproach from market women and some of the teachers were succumbed to the final faith of death in a most humiliating manner while some were humiliated to death by debtors and heart failure.
Teachers, unlike the other professionals, deliberated on the possibility of calling of the strike because it was an eyesore for them to watch their girls turning to prostitutes, their boys taking robbery. They called for a meeting to make their demands. During the meeting, the N.U.T suggested that they should make a representation to the stakeholders of the society – Mosques, Churches, traditional rulers and Parents-Teachers Association to officially intervene on this absolute madness of the government. The representative met the government and were treated with no value. His Excellency tried bribing them with 1M naira each. They turned the offer down. Because they are agents to national development and nothing else.
His Excellency gloated that if they were looking for for a higher bill, they wouldn’t get it and therefore they should reason to accept his offer. The leader, NUT chairman, reminded him that he was talking to teachers who teach morals. His Excellency threatened them that he would punish them for their “insolence” or sack them all, or transfer them to a remote riverine area where their “big insolent mouth” will rot away. The strike continued and the society right away started to produce robbers, kidnappers, political thugs, bandits and more criminals. Teachers, when treated well, a nation develops, otherwise, unrest grows and peace vanishes.
From the societal point of view, teacher is the one who produces future teachers, doctors, architects, engineers, lawyers and so on. We can not rise above the qualities of our teachers, yet they shy away from calling themselves professionals due to the fact that they’re seen worthless by the society. They are the reason for national development and underdevelopment and at the same time. It just depends on how they are treated. It’s a fact that, a teacher is on a moral contract with society to nurture its young and teach them all they need to know in order to live a useful and productive life.
Who is a teacher? This question doesn’t need an answer. A teacher doesn’t need an introduction. A teacher, isn’t just a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue as defined by Wikipedia, but someone who is responsible for a whole generation. Like a farmer who plants crops, he plants generations.
Managing teacher professionalism as a means to national development is my point of discussion. It’s known that no member of a discipline get to be professional with just four years of study. So, there’s so much arguments to what it takes a teacher to be professional because the first degree with a stint in the classroom by way of the highly controversial teaching practice isn’t enough, that’s why teacher registration council which has been registering, testing and awarding teachers certificate was established. I personally believe that, teacher professionalism is one of the factors that gives access to quality education which serves as a means to national development.
Professionalism is strongly tied to programme evaluation and standards. This involves quality assurance process programme accreditation and setting of national benchmark or standards by which all programmes are evaluated. According to jurisdictional conception of profession, the distinctive work of professionals is the ability to effectively solve human problems using specialized expert knowledge. Professional jurisdiction refers to claim and authority for dealing with particular kinds of problems and these claims are based on control of particular knowledge or skills. Successful modern professions like medicine, law and engineering have tied their work to a system of knowledge that formalises the skills by which professional deliberation and actions proceed. Therefore, setting standard for professional competence are embodied in prescription about knowledge and competence. This should be understood, so that attention is paid to those aspects of teacher training that makes his training distinct and enables him compete as a professional.
For this operation, there are issues as public policy, funding, institutional support, practice and evaluation as viewed by several educationists.
Public policy involves provision of general guidelines for the education of the teachers including where and who does the education and to what public purpose. These are enshrined in the National Policy on Education. The national policy on education however has come under criticism as a dormant document whose speculation stops at the legislative levels because of the concurrent nature of education on the legislative list is impossible to harmonize basic operational issues on teacher training nationwide. There are many trained teachers on the streets unable to find jobs while illiterates and their cohorts are employed as teachers. Public policy has to have a strong bearing both in terms of execution and appraisal. Now, for instance, in 21st century, we don’t expect education for all to be an issue, girl child education or almajiri education. Therefore, we must find teachers to train and equip, with the best possible skills and gear, numerate then adequately and must ensure they retire without tears.
When it comes to funding, education was seen as a prime mover of the development agenda. Consequently, UNESCO recommended that not less than 26% of annual budgetary provision of any given country should be allocated to education. Nigeria as a signatory to the development agenda has been performing less than desired. Funding education is crucial enough that when Bill Clinton was asked what was the most important agenda that the world should face at the beginning of the millennium, he said education when asked of a second agenda he said education, and when he asked what after education, he stated once again education. Other countries like China, Brazil and Ghana have taken state responsibility for the training of their teachers. Ghana, for instance, provides bursaries for teachers in training. Conversely, lack of sufficient funding for in-service and pre-service teachers in Nigeria has multiple negative impact the training which unfortunately leads to our underdevelopment.
Institutional support in managing teachers professionalism is of crucial pertinency. We have training institutions like Colleges of Education (C.O.E), Universities, National Teachers Institute (N.T.I), Institutes of Education and Polytechnics. There are also support institutions like National Commission for Colleges of Education (N.C.C.E), National Educational Research and Development Council (N.E.R.D.C) and National Council of Education (N.C.E). There must be a conscientious link between what happens at the lowest level of training and at the highest. This is because what happens at one level affects the business of the other level, the circle must be a one devoid of weak links.
Practice involves knowledge of content area, ethics, moral and legal issues, code of conduct and accountability which are normally set by professional bodies to regulate the behavior of their members. An allied issue to professional competence is that of practice. Teachers have to protect themselves with a good amour of ethical and moral rectitude and a good dose of legal knowledge concerning their profession.
The institution supporting the training of teachers have clear mandates for providing minimum standards and accreditation of courses at approximate levels of functioning. We need to however revisit the accreditation procedure as a serious evaluation process. In this country, we have seen accreditors come and go but hardly does the quality of our teachers show any improvement. Therefore, accreditation exercise is required to be done differently from what is obtained now because there’s deception.
Education aims at all round development of individual personality in all its manifestations— physical, mental, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic. Without development of individual, national development cannot be possible. Therefore, education helps the individuals in developing and fostering the aforesaid qualities required for the resurgence and development of a nation. Education transforms people socially, culturally and economically to establish a socialistic, democratic and secular social order. This can ce reached with a qualitative education and teacher professionalism brings qualitative education.
Happy Teachers’ Day
Faculty of Education,
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
5th October, 2021.