Teachers and the burden of conviction

Recently, the Registrar and Chief Executive of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Professor Josiah Ajiboye in an interview revealed that only about 50 percent of Nigerian teachers are qualified to teach. According to him, the requisite qualification of any teacher is the National Certificate in Education (NCE) as stipulated by the National Policy on Education. Ajiboye stressed therefore that whoever is to be engaged as a teacher in any school in the country either public or private must possess a minimum of NCE plus TRCN certificate. Based on this interview, most people will agree with the submission of the erudite professor since he only reiterated what has always been the submission of TRCN. Indeed, in every organized society, it is normal for anyone aspiring to be involved in the field of imparting knowledge not only to be properly groomed but to carry all the necessary license that can enable him or her to practice.

However, a critical survey of the quality of teachers already carrying the TRCN certificates across the country will render the learned professor’s argument null and void and totally inconsequential. As a matter of fact, if there is anything further from the truth, it is any argument linking the performance of any individual to the certificate he or she carries. Over the years, the mistake has been made and is still being made owing to such arguments as put forward by the TRCN Chairman. The emphasis placed on certificates has led to a situation where many people are proud owners of various kinds of certificates which they are never able to defend. Primary schools in Nigeria today are dominated by NCE and degrees holders who have also registered with the TRCN but what is the level of impact in the society? A fact that is open to investigation by any skeptics is that only very few of the teachers carrying the TRCN certificate can communicate fluently in English, write flawless sentences or understand what they teach. The  proficiency test carried out in Kwara, Edo and Kaduna states some years back are solid proofs.

The sad effect of such unfortunate loophole is that most pupils pushed from the primary schools to the post primary are grossly below standards. The same is applicable to the secondary schools. Teachers’ very low quality in spite of possessing all requisite teaching qualifications plus even obtaining the TRCN certificate is largely at the root of continuous poor performance of the learners of senior secondary schools in external exams. The problem is made worse by the fact that most teachers who fall far below the average standard are also never willing to improve themselves in a practical manner through knowledge seeking endeavours. Rather all they engage in is devising various ways to extort their pupils and students, and taking more interest in trading during official hours.

Under such unacademic atmosphere, how knowledge is expected to be imparted remains to be seen. Under the prevalent situation therefore, arguing that teaching cannot be an all comers profession does not hold any water at all. Teaching should also not be for those who have teaching certificates but cannot deliver. The genesis of the whole problem is not unconnected with the entry requirements to the various teachers training institutions. Most times, a larger percentage of candidates getting enrolment are those who can never be accepted elsewhere.

What Nigeria’s education planners need to understand is that it is impossible to continue to offer admission to the dregs of the society into our teachers training institutes and still expect a miracle in terms of, tangible result. A common saying is that no one can give what he or she lacks. If excellence in teaching is the goal, then the best brains in the land must be recruited into the sector. To achieve that is simple if Nigeria is ready. Making teaching highly lucrative by paying special knowledge allowance to teachers and creating other juicy packages will naturally draw the best brains. At the same time, there must be a procedure to detect and reject those who have no business in the education arena .

In essence, there must be a proven proficiency test before anyone is deemed as fit for the classroom. As at now therefore, all that TRCN has been able to achieve is the continuous milking of teachers most of who rush to get registered either in order to keep their jobs or in order to be considered fit for employment. The argument that only those who carry the TRCN certification should be allowed to teach does not hold any water whatsoever since it is an already established fact that many of those who carry the certificates are found to be academically deficient. The constant threats about sanctioning whoever has not registered with TRCN is only a ploy to create unjustifiable fears and in order to have more funds into the TRCN coffers.

Even as far back as the 1970s, it was not uncommon to find secondary schools leavers with excellent and intimidating WAEC results being coopted to teach, and they did so brilliantly well. If the TRCN really wishes to make any meaningful impact on education in Nigeria, the first task is to take the battle to the teachers training institutions by insisting that only the best candidates are offered admission. It is after a good foundation has been laid through a thorough admission process that other conditionalities such as issuance of TRCN certificates can follow as a further affirmation of confidence. If and when that happens, anyone certified by TRCN will be equal to the task in a manner that can push education forward and that will be a clear departure from what currently obtains. For now, what ought to be paramount is how to seek out all outstanding graduates from whatever field and then groom them for the classroom. In reality, anybody who has acquired a proper education convincingly, if given the opportunity, will be able to impact more positively in the education sector than mere carriers of questionable TRCN licenses.

Oyewusi, the coordinator of Ethics Watch International wrote from Lagos.


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