Who Wants To Be A Teacher?

Opinion

By Olalekan Olagunju

It is incredible and disturbing to read from the media about the recent industrial action embarked upon by teachers of the over 100 Federal Unity Colleges in the country. The crux of the matter is the same old song: agitation for improved salary, nonpayment of salary arrears and promotion allowance/remuneration and improved condition of service.

At this stage in our education level, all well meaning individuals and other stakeholders in the education sector are concerned about the not too rosy state of affairs in the sector. I believe any concerned citizen will be concerned about the situation we find ourselves now as far as education is concerned. If we are to attain National Development, Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), Education for All (EFA) and Vision 20:2020 among others, happenings in the education could scuttle such goals.

The majority of Nigerian graduates are unemployable because of the instability in the sector. We should not be amazed at this revelation. Since we have placed little value on our schools over the past decades, we should not expect to harvest great proceeds. It is a fact, whether we like it or not, that teachers, schools and national development/advancement are inseparable. Hence, what naturally comes to mind is the adage “as you lay your bed, you lay on it”. No wonder we are lagging behind when compared with nations such as India, Malaysia, Ghana, and Trinidad and Tobago, to mention but a few among nations with whom we obtained political independence around the same. In terms of vibrant educational achievements, agriculture, scientific and technological landmarks, these nations are ahead of us.

We are where we are as a result of our lackadaisical attitude towards teachers and the teaching profession. At this juncture, it is pertinent to understand who really a teacher is. The verb to teach simply means to impart information or skills (subject) to a person. The actor here is the teacher. Teaching, one of the oldest professions in the world, dates back to 3000 B.C. It is an art and science that gives knowledge in teaching/learning processes either formal or informal. The main goal of teaching is to change the behaviour of the child (learner) and make him/her a useful member of the society; while the central figure, as mentioned earlier, is the teacher.

A teacher means many things to many people; everyone has a mental image of his personality. Some see him/her as a”chalk person” who is carrying the whole world with knowledge, a repertoire or fountain of wisdom and information. In addition, some understand, this person of noble profession, to be a diligent careerist who is not fixing his mind on worldly possessions but on heavenly gains. To others, a teacher is a despondent or rejected individual who has resigned to fate.

The way people see teachers varies from one society and culture to the other. In Hebrew, he is known as “Rabbi” (the great scholar). Indians call him “Brahaman” (the esteemed one), in Athens, he is referred to as ‘prodigy’,  that is, the most intelligent one in the community; while to the Chinese, a teacher is one who cannot secure a civil service job. In Rome, a teacher is a ‘pedagogo’, meaning a slave whose duty is to teach the young ones. Back home in Nigeria, it is believed in some quarters that teachers are generally wretched and stingy persons who measure yams with a ruler or foodstuffs  such as garri (cassava flour), rice, beans, etc. in order to determine the quantity to be cooked. As evident in our society, teachers are usually sneered at for their not too comfortable and favourable social status.

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In education, a teacher is one who helps students or pupils, often in a school as well as in a family, religious or community setting. A teacher is an acknowledged guide or helper in processes of teaching/learning. A teacher’s role varies between cultures. Academic subjects are emphasised in many societies; a teacher’s duty may include instruction in craftsmanship or vocational training, spirituality, civic community activities, sciences or life skills among others.

In civilized and organized societies, teachers are defined, rated, and respected as specialised professionals; on the same level as many other professions. The way forward: let’s give honour to whom honour is due, and give onto our teachers the reward of their professionalism, competence, nobility and authority reposed in them to educate our children.

In this clime, for us to redefine our perception of teachers and get the best out of them, we need to reflect on the message of Dr. Eric Williams, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, to the youth of his country at the country’s Independence Youth Rally in 1962. In his words at the occasion, Dr. Williams said, among others, that: “To your tender and loving hands the future of the nation is entrusted. In your innocent heart the pride of the nation is enshrined. On your scholastic development the salvation of the nation is dependent. When you return to your classes after independence, remember, therefore, each and everyone of you, that you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags. We should all note that “An educated nation is a liberated people”. How apt!

Being the Centre of Excellence, Lagos State has already keyed into the noble vision of according teachers their well deserved status in the scheme of things.  This has been done through the elevation of teachers in their career progression as Tutor Generals/Permanent Secretaries. This is a way of encouraging teachers to aspire to the utmost height in the public service.  It is gratifying that some states are already emulating Lagos in his direction.

It is, however, important, for teachers to see their vocation as a life changing one that involves giving the nation a fulfilled future. Consequently, teachers need to be dedicated and committed towards giving the best to the all round development of students and pupils in their care. Stakeholders in education sector, private organisations and spirited individuals are equally enjoined to work as a formidable team in order to uplift education in Nigeria to enviable standards.

On a final note, we need to go back to the basics by according our beloved teachers the honour and respect they deserve.

•Olagunju wrote from Alausa, Ikeja

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