The declaration by the Federal Government that unqualified teachers, who are not yet licensed and registered by the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), would be flushed out by 2019 did not come as a surprise given numerous challenges facing the delivery of qualitative education in the country. Even before issuing the deadline, the high rate of unqualified teachers has constituted a threat to the nation’s education sector. It is alarming that 207,818 unqualified teachers are in primary schools across the country, as declared by TRCN based on a survey carried out last year by the Federal Government.
The survey conducted by the Federal Government revealed that of the 207,818 unqualified teachers in the primary school sub-sector, the North-East geopolitical zone had the highest figure of 57.7 per cent. The Council traced this misfortune to the invasion of Boko Haram insurgents and other militias that ravaged the nation with the North-West having 46.8 per cent; North-Central 38 per cent; South-South 19.2 per cent, South- East 16.7 per cent and South-West 6.7 per cent unqualified teachers. Unfortunately, beyond the crisis of massive unqualified teachers, it is sad that the system is bogged down by challenges of low period of internship for teachers, high teacher-pupil ratio, politicisation of education and unwarranted government interferences, poor funding and irregular budgetary allocations, poor working environment, as well as porous entry qualification into the teaching profession.
It is, however, gratifying to note that steps were being taken by the Council to ensure teachers’ efficiency in the country with plans to register and license about 1.8 million qualified teachers to properly take charge of quality teaching in the schools. Again, the introduction of accreditation exercise, monitoring and supervision of courses and programmes offered by the teacher training institutions, induction of education graduates at the point of graduation to create professional consciousness and mitigate certificate forgery with a view to ensuring quality in the system by the TRCN is highly applauded.
Thus, the TRCN Act 3 of 1993, Section 17(2) prohibits any individual to teach, use the identity of a teacher or earned a reward of a teacher without being registered and licensed by the Council. The person who runs afoul of this law on conviction will be liable to a fine or jail term or both, should also be held sacrosanct. It is on the basis of this development that the Kaduna State Government, last year, sacked 21,780 unqualified teachers, who were reported to have failed competency test conducted by the government. Despite the fact that the development generated hitches in the system, as the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) proceeded on an indefinite strike on November 23 to protest against sack of the teachers, we must not shirk away from the fact that sanity should be restored to our schools, not minding whose ox is gored. We also applaud states who have initiated programmes to retrain unqualified teachers, especially sending them to school.
Those who fail to measure up should be redeployed to other areas outside teaching. Doing away with the unqualified teachers will go a long way to address the damage that may have been done to the nation’s education in terms of poor teaching and low standard. Accordingly, the decision of Federal Government to give any teacher, who fails a Professional Qualifying Examination (PQE) introduced by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria before December 2019, to leave the system, is nothing, but a welcome development to rescue the system from quackery.
In line with this, the insistence of the Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, that the standards must be raised without compromising the entry teaching qualification, which is the Nigerian Certificate in Education (NCE) and the university education qualification should be adhered to. Nonetheless, there is the urgent need for the government to put to task activities of most private schools in the nation’s education landscape, which predominantly are neck deep in recruiting unqualified teachers to cut cost, thereby offering in the process substandard education. One area which the federal and the state governments should focus on is the professionalisation of teaching, which all schools, either public or private, should be forced to key into the policy.
That said, private school owners as well as public school managers, as a matter of policy, should recruit qualified teachers into the system, while the unqualified teachers should be shown the way out of the school system, without further delay. In the final analysis, Ministry of Education at federal and state levels, as well as other education agencies, including the Nigerian, Educational and Research Development Council (NERDC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), National Commission for Education (NCE), the National Commission for Colleges of Education, and key stakeholders/education policymakers, among other agencies or authorities, should rise up to their responsibilities in ensuring proper and regular training and retraining of teachers. It is when these are done that the nation would be proud to have put its education system in a better framework for the delivery of qualitative education.
A New Telegraph Editorial