States and widening shortage of teachers


THE alarming shortfall of qualified teachers in public primary and secondary schools across the country was highlighted recently by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, which also bemoaned the failure of state governments to correct the anomaly. The NUT National President, Titus Amba, lamented that teachers leaving the service in many states were not being replaced, while the quality of teaching was fast declining. This calls for urgent and creative action by the state governments to lay a solid foundation for national development by giving priority to the education system.

Amba’s alarm is not new. Over the years, various stakeholders have complained of both the acute shortage of instructors and the quality of those in service.

The Universal Basic Education Commission revealed on its website that Nigeria had 47 million students, 171,027 schools, and 1.68 million teachers. Its 2022 National Personnel Audit breakdown showed that there were 354,651 teachers for 7.2 million students in pre-primary schools; 915,593 teachers for 32 million students in primary schools; and 416,291 teachers for eight million students in junior secondary schools. The number of registered teachers on the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria database by 2023 was 2.3 million.

A report by The PUNCH said that Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Rivers, Kwara, Gombe, and Katsina states were plagued by the shortage of teachers in public schools. In Ogun, 1,500 teachers recently retired without being replaced, while drastic shortfalls were also witnessed in rural and semi-urban areas in Kwara, Osun, Ondo, and Lagos states despite recruitment efforts.

Nigeria’s leaders fail to prioritise education because they lack vision. Education, the Internet Public Library, an online resource, declares, “is the most important factor in national development,” providing manpower for the future and stimulating productivity, innovation, and growth. Experts recognise primary and secondary schooling as the foundation.

The country’s first generation of leaders appreciated this. The other two (later three) regions of the pre-independence self-rule and First Republic eras prioritised education after the trail-blazing free primary education programme launched in the defunct Western Region in the mid-1950s.

But leaders of the Fourth Republic especially, have missed the way. On their watch, the country’s education system is in shambles, headlined by a children out-of-school population of over 18 million per United Nations data, dilapidated structures, inadequate number of schools, under-funding, and shortage of teachers.

Efforts to mitigate these are either absent, too little, or misplaced. In one glaring case of lack of rigour, the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari raised the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65. This is counter-productive, primarily because the country has an over-large army of unemployed youth – over 52 percent – that ought to be employed, trained and motivated to fill the teacher inadequacy gap.

State governments need to prioritise the recruitment, training, motivation, and incentivising of teachers to boost the profession and primary and secondary school systems in their states. They should fully domesticate and rigorously implement the Child Rights Act.

Studies show that the acute shortages in teachers are caused by poor salaries, poor work conditions, and high student-teacher ratios that put undue pressure on pedagogy and stress the teachers. Other causal factors are the lack of teaching equipment and infrastructure to ease their work. Mismanagement, corruption, and political recklessness also lead to career instability and a deficit of teachers in the states.

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Moreover, many states owe teachers. This, coupled with low pay, dissuades many educated Nigerians from the profession. The absence of teachers and quality teaching in the formative years of learning adversely affects many Nigerian youths.

Nigeria has the highest out-of-school rate in the world with over 18 million, including 10 million girls, while 3.3 million students drop out before JSS 1, according to UNICEF data in June 2022. UNESCO put Nigeria’s out-of-school children population at 20 million earlier. Insecurity also poses a threat to out-of-school rates in the North-East, North-West, and South-East zones. The federal and state governments need to devise means to reduce these abysmal global ratings.

The Executive Secretary of UBEC, Hamid Bobboyi, blames the state governments for the rot despite receiving N57 million to drive teacher development programmes between 2009 and 2022.  Bobboyi said “67.5 percent of teachers in public schools and 85.3 percent in private schools have not attended any in-service training between 2018 and 2022.”

Apart from shortages, quality is a problem in most states. TRCN reported that many teachers are unqualified to teach their assigned subjects. In Kaduna State, the then Governor Nasir el-Rufai sacked 21,780 teachers for failing competency tests in 2017.

Recklessly, governors continue to owe teachers’ salaries. The NUT said states owed primary school teachers a backlog of between four and 18 months salaries by October 2022. Erstwhile Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, bequeathed 11 months of local government teachers’ salaries to his successor. Governor Agbu Kefas of Taraba inherited five months of unpaid primary school teachers’ salaries from his predecessor, Darius Ishaku, while the then Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, owed some teachers seven years’ back pay.

The President, Nigerian Academy of Science, Ekanem Braide, stated in October 2022 that public schools across the country lacked modern science equipment that would engender competitiveness with their counterparts across the globe. States must invest in STEM –Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The governors also fail to provide counterpart funding to access the UBEC infrastructure-support grants over the years. According to Dataphyte, Ogun State has the highest amount of un-accessed UBEC funds over 16 years. It did not provide the N437 million counterpart funds to access N946 million in 2021. Other unserious states include Osun, Enugu, Niger, Abia, and 19 others.

Brookings Institution, a United States-based think tank, noted that teachers in Luxembourg, Slovenia, Israel, Finland, Greece, Estonia, and Poland receive better pay than their counterparts in the US, while an NGO, Centre for Global Development, said teachers in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, and The Gambia earn more than their other educated professionals.

Nigeria’s state governors should get serious and prioritise primary and secondary education by investing in human capital, infrastructure, and student enrolment campaigns. ,

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