By Dayo Adesulu & Elizabeth Uwandu
President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest to provide 500,000 unemployed Nigerian graduates jobs in the teaching profession, has attracted manifold reactions from stakeholders in the education sector. While a school of thought views it as a good policy thrust on tackling unemployment among youths, it is, however, perceived by many as a bid to solve one problem, which may lead to creating more in the process.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had recently stated that 500,000 unemployed graduates will be absorbed into the teaching profession to solve, in the interim, the problem of graduate unemployment in the country.
Apart from the reality that many square pegs will end up in round holes, stakeholders are also asking who will be responsible for the 500,000 teachers’ salaries, as the states and local governments over the years have had the responsibility of paying teachers’ salaries.
In her reaction, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics) University of Calabar and immediate past Dean, Faculty of Education, Professor Florence Banku-Obi applauded the Federal Government’s decision to create jobs, but added: “If the Federal Government is thinking of creating those jobs in the education sector by employing and sending them to the classroom, it is a move in the wrong direction.”
According to her, sending these graduates to the classroom will rather bring in more confusion into the education sector, warning that it is going to be a wrong step to send these untrained teachers into the classrooms.
To her, many of the said graduates are not trained teachers, and many, especially the younger generation don’t want to teach because they have no interest in teaching. She said: ”Employing them will just be a means of earning a living because they have no passion for teaching.”
Alternatively, the DVC disclosed that rather than the government sending them to the classrooms, they can focus on industrialization and other sectors.
“Government can expand agriculture where they need little or no skills to make returns. Yes, I know, there are people who are trained agriculturists, but that is the essence of extension workers. If you are going into agriculture and have no basic knowledge, then you need extension workers to groom you.”
Stressing the need for each state auditing of unemployed teachers for efficiency, Banku-Obi pointed out that there are still thousands of Nigerian youths who read education but are not employed.
She urged the Federal Government to task each state to do auditing for efficiency. She said: ‘’Each state has thousands of unemployed trained teachers seeking teaching jobs, they can be engaged and sent to classrooms, while government creates opportunities for the non-teaching graduates in other areas.’’
She noted that the same Federal Government which owns the Federal Government Teaching Scheme, employs NCE teachers for one or two years and disengages them. Rather than disengage them, she counselled that they should review the policy and make it permanent.
The professor maintained that many NCE graduates who were employed under that scheme, taught for one or two years and were sent back to the labour market.
Banku-Obi who lamented the policy somersaults in the sector said: “The confusion and the problems we have in the sector is as a result of policy inconsistency of the Federal Government. ‘We don’t have educators piloting the affairs of the Ministry of Education, like what we have in health and justice. ”It is high time the Federal Government began to think seriously of employing round pegs in round holes by getting professional educators to man the Ministry of Education.
“Today, we think we are getting to the right direction, tomorrow another minister comes who does not have an idea of what education and teaching is all about comes with another policy. Now, the new man thinks he is doing Nigeria good by sending unemployed graduates to the teaching profession, they are not thinking of the effect on the sector.
“Already, employers are complaining that we have graduates that are unemployable and the Federal Government is sending these same graduates to the teaching profession.
‘’What are you expecting to get from the system? It will be garbage in, garbage out. They are going to feed the tertiary institutions with poor students. At the end, the tertiary institutions will not be able to perform any magic on the undergraduates. I think we should have a good policy.
‘’If possible, government should have another education summit where people will come and discuss this issue. Unfortunately, when Ministry of Education calls for Education Summits, they bring in directors of different fields, staff from different ministries, professionals from different fields, they will never bring in educationists to talk about education.
‘’They see education summit as an avenue of making their own money. I strongly suggest that there should be a proper education summit and state auditing of teachers. Let them verify if they can get the numbers of teachers they are looking for from the states for the teaching profession. After this, they should engage the services of the Teachers Registration Council to set up aptitude tests and see those who are qualified and have a passion for the teaching profession before engaging them. The body should organize one or two months training for them before engaging them.
Speaking in the same vein, Deputy Director, Distance Learning Institute, University of Ibadan, Professor Oyesoji Aremu also applauded the initiative of the Federal Government to employ the 500,000 unemployed graduates, but however expresses some reservations.
He said: ‘’It is a welcome development given the paucity of teaching manpower generally in the school system (primary and secondary education). According to him, some cautionary notes should however, be sounded in the interest of pupils/students and education for part of the existing malady in the education sector not to repeat itself.
He, however frowned at employing wrong personnel (who masquerade as teachers) into the school system.
His words: “‘Mostly in many public schools (primary and secondary), the teaching force is populated by untrained teachers. This, with proven evidence, has contributed not only to the decline of standards in public schools but also poor academic performance as shown by West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council’s (NECO) results, where national performance norm is terribly below average. It has always made public schools unfashionable for many parents who prefer fee-paying private schools for their wards.”
Prof. Aremu added: ‘’With these cautionary notes, it is instructive to advise the Federal Government not to make the employment of 500,000 teachers an all-comers affair. One, it should be phased by first considering graduates of universities and colleges of education who studied education or who have had postgraduate diplomas in education, irrespective of their first degrees or Higher National Diploma certificates.
“The second phase is to consider others who are without certification in education pedagogy. This category of unemployed youths should be exposed to a stop-in-the-gap abridged training in education and should also be made to go through a mock teaching practice. This could be for a month and with a condition that such people be made to go for postgraduate diplomas in education on Open Distance Learning platform.
Aremu further advised; ‘’Logistics of stop-in-the-gap training should also be worked out by the Federal Ministries of Education and Labour in conjunction with state ministries and zonal offices. Lastly, the recruitment should pass integrity test so as not to be hijacked by politicians.’’
Also reacting, the Dean, School of Education, Adeniran Ogunsayan College of Education, Ijanikin, Dr. Deborah Delegiwa urged the Federal Government to reconsider its proposed plan. According to her, the decision to recruit graduates without training as teachers will spell doom for the sector, stating that teaching is an art, not a mere vocation.
She said:”Teaching is an art that requires a person to acquire basic and necessary knowledge before being qualified. If one then desires to go into teaching without being trained, it connotes disrespect of the teaching profession. The action also suggests that the colleges and faculties of education should cease to exist.”
On his part, the Head of Department, Early Childhood Care and Education, AOCOED, Mr Sunday Fowowe, stated that the decision of the President on recruiting graduates with no formal education as teachers amounts to passing no vote of confidence on Teachers ‘Education.
Said he: “No matter how brilliant an individual is, he may not be able to do well in class if he is not made to pass through teacher training programme. ‘’The President’s pronouncement is like passing vote of no confidence on teachers’ education, hence, all colleges and faculties of education should be scrapped.”added Mr Fowowe.
If you are considering 500,000 graduates into the teaching sector, they should be tested and trusted.
“Those who have been trained for three years in colleges of education or four years in faculties of education are the ones saddled with the sole responsibility of teaching because, they have been equipped with innovative and basic skills.