On Tuesday October 5, Nigerian teachers joined their counterparts all over the world to celebrate this year’s World Teachers Day for which the United Nations set aside October 5th every year.
Teachers have enormous responsibilities. They work much and earn little. Their pay does not match the time and effort they put in to educate our children. But you cannot really pay teachers for what they do, just as you cannot reward parents for bringing up children. A teacher through whom all must pass to get to their career destination cannot be rewarded enough. However, teachers can be recognized, respected and remunerated well for their invaluable contribution to human development.
While we join the rest of the world to celebrate teachers for their immeasurable service, we painfully acknowledge the falling standard of education in our country. These are due to widespread corruption, inadequate funding, poor teachers’ remuneration and the affluent ones preference for overseas schooling, among others. All these combine to strip Nigeria’s education system of the prestige it once had.
Yet, we do not hesitate to give teachers their due. We honour those among them who have chosen to remain in the system and continue to do their best, in spite of the decay. Often, we blame them but what do we expect from teachers when we pay them a pittance and say their reward is in heaven? What do we expect when we owe them salaries, allowances, pensions and expect them to teach well? What do we expect when our Government refuses to give grants-in aid to mission schools which boosted pre-war Voluntary Agency efforts? What do we expect when schools lack toilets, children defecate openly, sit on blocks and teachers have no staff rooms? Many of our teachers cannot comfortably feed their families, irrespective of how long they have been on the job.
Yet, we do not absolve teachers of blame, knowing that some of them have contributed to the decay. Many teachers now see their job as “bigbusiness” and the children as merchandise instead of future generation. It is no longer strangefor some teachers to come to school and teach nothing/or the whole day.
It is known that some teachers accept money for grades, leak examination papers and engage in unspeakable things at school to make money. Teachers no longer go the extra mile to make sure their children learn. No wonder, there are many secondary school students, these days, who cannot read.
Whatever happens to the school system happens to society as a whole. Until Government begins to fimd education properly, recognize teachers and treat them as the professionals they are, the school system will continue to wobble.
We must help teachers to rebuild their image and to earn the respect of the children they teach as well as those of parents by paying them well and putting them in modern classrooms. Similarly, the teacher must know that every child matters and therefore treat them as future leaders: presidents, governors, CEOs, doctors, lawyers etc.
Society owes teachers a debt of gratitude and Government owes it to the Nigerian child to return respect and dignity to every school and classroom.