Teachers are critical nation builders. With a standard and up-to-date Teacher, qualitative impartation of knowledge will never be in doubt with glowing outcomes. It is on this strength that a nation cannot grow beyond the quality of her teachers (and the way it treats her teachers). Teachers are responsible for the production of the needed professionals to drive the health, socio-economic, and industrial sectors of the nation. Hence, no serious country should joke with treating her teachers well. A pool of poorly trained doctors, lawyers, engineers; pharmacists is a calamity waiting to happen. We all know the consequences of being operated upon by a quack doctor or consulting a quack engineer for a building project. This perhaps explains why the decision to weed out ‘cheaters’ from ‘teachers’ should be commended. There is no doubt that the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) has been catalysed with the recent appointment of former ASUU leader, Professor Olusegun Ajiboye as its Registrar. By January 2018, the Federal Ministry of Education has promised full implementation of “No TRCN Certificate, No Job” policy. Those in classrooms without TRCN certificate are also going to be thrown out of the classrooms.
Till date, close to 1.7million professional teachers have been registered by the Council in her drive to rid the profession of quacks. As part of the policy drive of the present administration, the Federal Ministry of Education has joined forces with the Council towards implementing its policy not to allow any person without a professional certification from the TRCN to teach any child in Nigeria public and private schools. This is a welcome development in the light of the dismal performances in Nigeria’s education sector. Regular examination and training may be needed for teachers to update their knowledge in line with global best practices. Nigerian children cannot be left behind while their counterparts across the globe are in tune with current state of knowledge. In order to set the tone for the implementation of professional standards, TRCN recently organised a workshop at the University of Ibadan where far reaching recommendations were made.
In the communiqué signed by Professor Olusegun Ajiboye, experts at the three-day workshop resolved that TRCN certificate and license should be used as part of the requirements for the employment of teachers in all states in the country. If this recommendation is followed the issue of professionalism in the teaching profession will get the desired attention. However, political convenience among politicians may be a clog in the wheel of this suggestion as Nigerian politicians have been known to sacrifice the pursuit of the common good for selfish, personal interest.
Nigeria Education suffers because thoseformulating policiesin the area of teaching are not even core professionals. This perhaps explains why the workshop recommended that policy makers in Education in Nigeria must themselves be professional teachers and hold TRCN certificates. This is a valid suggestion as only those who wear the shoe know where it pinches. It goes to say that round pegs should be put in round holes. Nigeria obviously suffers because critical sectors of the economy are manned by people who do not have the requisite expertise to deliver on the job. Even when people are nominated for political appointments, the executive which ought to use qualification in assigning responsibilities usually does not.
The Minister of State for Education Professor Anthony Onwuka has threatened not to employ anybody without TRCN certificate into the teaching profession again and sack those already teaching without holding TRCN certificate from 2018. This is why the suggestion that a mechanism should be put in place to check procurement of fake certificates and licences should be seriously implemented. A lot must be done to ensure that those teaching in private schools are cleaned-out while monetary expectations of proprietors causing marks to be ‘allocated’ rather than ‘earned’ must be investigated and sanctioned.
The experts also made case for periodic examination of teachers to validate their licenses in such a way that teachers who do not meet the criteria could be allowed to undergo in-service, in-house training or even a full-time programme and those who are unable to cope should be shown the way out of the classroom. This, to me, is to prevent rustiness among teachers. This move if faithfully implemented will ensure that Nigerian teachers regularly update themselves knowing that a periodic examination will determine their fates. There is however a major contention to the policy. The Minister of State for Education threatened that implementation will start next year and nobody will be speared no matter how highly placed. This includes lecturers in tertiary institutions who have shown reluctance from registering with TRCN. Lecturers in tertiary institutions were enjoined to enrol for Post-doctoral Diploma in Education (PDDE).
Teaching covers all fields of knowledge with its unique training focused on methods of imparting knowledge and these differ with many teachers having no training at all in methods. Instead of instruction in teaching, university lecturers have long period of training in a specialised field of knowledge which makes them to see themselves as professional sociologists, chemists, psychologists, economists rather than professional teachers. Unlike teachers, University lecturers enjoy autonomy fought and won by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) with the Senate taking decisions. They decide who to hire and fire and enjoyed considerable autonomy. Can principals of primary and secondary schools employ teachers without the State? In the universities, students interested in becoming professional teachers come to my Faculty of the Social Sciences, Arts or Sciences to borrow teaching courses in Economics, Political Science, Chemistry, Physics, English to mention but a few. Let induction by TRCN stay with those in Faculties of Education.
Methinks TRCN should champion what will enhance the prestige of the ‘profession’, design welfare package and ensure teachers discharge their duties in a clement environment. A TRCN-certified teacher teaching students under roofless classrooms or under the tree will be a magician to be able to impart anything in a distracting context. A TRCN certificate with regular funding of education and supply of necessary materials will boost morale. Extortion and corrupt activities will fester when teachers’ salaries are unpaid for months. We cannot treat our teachers as inconsequential and expect them to deliver the best for Nigeria’s future. Beyond the TRCN certification, teachers deserve the best and need recognition.
Written by Dr Oludayo Tade, a sociologist.