Nigeria: Urgent need to interrogate the crisis in teacher training
BY UBAKA OKOFU.
When the makers of our earlier Education Policies built the entire policy books on education around the philosophy of “No Education can rise above the quality of its teachers,” it was meant to give the country an endearing and formidable foundation in the training of teachers. It never envisaged the massive rate of collapse presently being experienced in Colleges of Education across the country.
As it stands, there is regrettably nothing impressive to write home about the quality and sustainability of the Nigerian education system other than the fact these institutions churn out large numbers of graduates who are considered half baked. Alarmingly still, is the fact that the teaching profession is not as attractive as it was in the 1980s and 1990s when Colleges of Education were in full capacity and producing teachers of very high standard.
The idea behind the National Certificate of Education, N.C.E was a good one as it was to build on the capacity already established by the Teacher’s Training Institutes across the country. The Teacher’s Training Institute was an immediate solution in responding to the small needs of those who were ready, prepared and desirous of acquiring western education at the expense of our earliest belief system. It was very difficult to convince the people of Nigeria that western education was not a twin brother of the Christian religion meant to indoctrinate and further annihilate the cultures and traditions of the people. This accounted for the limited response of Nigerians who were willing and ready to be trained to become teachers for onward engagement in the rural areas of the country.
Apathy and cynicism about education by the rural dwellers gave way to enthusiasm and optimism, hence the urgent need to stretch the capacity of the few Grade II Teacher’s Training institutions to accommodate advanced curricular, specifically to trained teachers that would run the now Post Primary sector that were being managed by foreign or expatriate teachers. It was for that reason that it became mandatory to possess the National certificate of Education in order to level up with the Ghanaian and Indian teachers already engaged in those levels of our education institutions as teachers or lecturers as the case was.
The government were conscious that they could not rely on foreigners to run the country’s education system, and the solution to doing away with foreign teachers was to build capacity in the training of teachers in advanced curricular. The then Military government of Nigeria had no option but to promulgate Decree 13 on 17th of January, 1989 establishing the National Commission for Colleges of Education to supervise that aspect of non-degree awarding teacher’s education (institutions).
The desire to further strengthen the education sector was essentially the reason Decree 13 was amended in 1993 to deepen the roles of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE). The role of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) was further expanded by the amendment of the above-mentioned Decree to be the sole regulator of the very few Colleges of Education solely owned and financed by the government at the center. Let me quickly add here that the main function of the National Commission of Colleges of Education till date has been the training and development of teacher’s education.
The above efforts of the government yielded positive results until the later part of 1990s when things started falling apart in the education sector. But, quite notably, the state of Colleges of Education in the country is not as deplorable in the Northern part of the country as it is in the Southern part where the NCE education has considerably waned, and is still suffering the ravages of low enrolment. This in itself is a subject that should generate more scrutiny.
Overall, however, the low salaries of teachers and the deplorable conditions under which teachers work are twin factors that are presently affecting the enrolment of students in the over 113 Colleges of Education across the country. The enthusiasm and hitherto pride generated by being trained as teachers had considerably died down in the last two decades especially in the Southern part of the country. Almost nobody very quickly wants to be a teacher today as the profession is perceived to be a one-way ticket to poverty and hopelessness.
The move by the government to professionalize teaching is even laughable. The Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN was established in 1993 to, among other benefits, enhance the working condition of teachers. Presently, TRCN is acting like one that is adding salt to a wound. Teachers pay money to be registered as members yet, the working condition of teachers across the country is even worse than it was before the coming of TRCN. More annoying is the fact that those running the TRCN have presently turned the agency into a money-making machine. Applicants spend as high as N60,000 (Sixty thousand Naira) from the point of purchasing the form and taking the qualifying examination to the last stage of induction.
The call to design special pay packets for teachers in view of their importance in nation building has been on the front burner. The recent announcement by the immediate past administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to offer mouthwatering scholarships and immediate employment to graduates of education was a mere lip service. Even if one is to concede to the incentives to study education, it is rather too late as the negative impression about the teaching profession has already done far-reaching damage to the system.
Again, one of the greatest faux pas of the administrators of Colleges of Education was to raise the entry qualification to be at par with that of universities, especially in the Southern part of the country. It makes sense to use the same five credit passes including in Mathematics and English language to enroll in a university to study education than in a College of Education which is being looked down on as a glorified secondary school.
This had, and is still affecting the enrolment of students for the National Certificate of Education. In view of the importance attached to the university degree, students prefer to enroll for a straight university degree within 4yrs than the NCE programme which takes up to 3yrs. Also, the duplicated situation of having universities offering courses in education alongside the Colleges of Education has also railroaded the decline in enrolment of students in Colleges of Education.
Again, holders of NCE are restricted to teaching only in Primary schools and in some cases, in the Junior Secondary classes. The feeling one goes away with from being barred at the junior classes is definitely discouraging. This trend has made so many to apply to the universities and study education for 4yrs than beginning at the College of Education and still go on to enroll in the universities to obtain a degree in the same Education.
Statistics available shows that teacher supply is still inadequate in the Northern part of the country. Perhaps, this partly explains why the Colleges of Education in the Northern are presently enjoying high patronage than those in the Southern part. It’s also important to state here that we have more Colleges of Education in the Northern part of the country than there are in the South. While the zeal and euphoria to be trained as a teacher is gradually dying down in the Southern part of the country, the spirit is being rekindled in the Northern part of the country where administrators have deliberately lowered entry qualifications to shore up enrolment numbers. The evidence buttressing the above claim is the growing number of Colleges of Education and the corresponding increase in students’ enrolment in the colleges in Northern Nigeria.
In the face of the falling standard in teacher’s education and the eroding value of the National Certificate of Education, government can do either of the two: collapse Colleges of Education into the faculty of Education in existing universities; or upgrade Colleges of Education to degree awarding institutions as we now have in a few cases. Whatever the case, teachers must be properly taken care of as is obtainable in most advanced countries of the world. No country can record meaningful development without paying adequate attention to its education system.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria