By Oghenemaro Eruteyan
The Nigerian education standard is gradually falling. The future of the teaching profession looks bleak. Its future prospects are bleak because educators who are already in the system are retiring and migrating, whereas youths have no passion to study education courses.
Students no longer want to study education courses because they see teaching profession as not worthwhile, as computer courses have arrested the interest of youngsters and youths. From the younger ones, one would ask about a child’s future ambition: they would mention doctors, engineers, lawyers, nurses, bankers, and politicians, rather than becoming educators (teachers). Even on school career day, no child dresses as a teacher.
The importance of education cannot be overemphasized. Education is at the forefront of growth and development in a society and the country at large. It encourages a healthy lifestyle, aids productivity, improves critical thinking skills, builds self-confidence and creativity in essence. Education is “what makes us human and what strengthens a country to grow”.
The future of education in Nigeria has to be looked into because schools and colleges cannot achieve society’s expectations as government do not invest enough to uplift the standard of education.
“To develop a good education system, a strong economy is required, and a strong economy in turn requires quality education.”
In the Northern part of the country, education is taken for granted and educational crisis lingers on as performances continue to remain poorer than their counterparts. The quality of basic education is extremely poor, leading to low demand and academic performance with poverty, disease, insecurity, shortage of educators, interest in Koranic rather than formal education .
Research conducted in 2022 showed that Nigeria was experiencing learning poverty in which 70 per cent of 10-year-olds could not understand simple sentences or perform basic numeracy tasks.
Despite the government’s and the Minister for Education’s efforts in providing incentives and lower cut-off marks to aid the admission process, students still defer to study Education related courses.
Data obtained from the 2023 Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) UTME examination showed that only 52,702 candidates applied for education-related courses despite having about 111,176 spaces made provisionally available.
The JAMB cut-off mark for College of Education and Polytechnics is 100 and the UTME cut-off is usually the lowest. The irony of this implication is that we would have educators who would not be qualified to educate our future young brains.
Teachers are often unpaid, untrained and overstretched. The task of educators is not an easy one considering the workload and they are under-compensated as their salaries are simply inadequate for their welfare and that of their families, given that there is no support from the government and the amount received from tuition is insufficient.
Teacher burnout has skyrocketed over the years, and is thus a threat to the education system. It is the condition where educators have exhausted both personal and professional resources to do their job. While it is a common phenomenon in all professions, teachers experience higher levels of burnout.
Students under teachers with high anxiety, fatigue, and lack of job satisfaction tend to perform poorly academically.
Studies have shown that teachers’ burnout is a result of varying factors including; Over workload, poor education landscape of individual education programme (IEP) plans, staff shortages, low salaries, mental health and deficit of education funds amongst others.
As educators quit their jobs, more positions are unfilled and teachers who have stuck to the job are compelled to compensate for those who resigned and migrated.
Statistics showed that more than 300,000 public school teachers and other education-related staff have left their jobs between February 2020 and May 2022, and about 90% of teachers claim that feeling burnt out is a serious problem, while over half of teachers say they will leave teaching sooner than originally planned which leaves the education system in a state of jeopardy.
In several interviews with The Hope, educators have lamented over the dearth of teachers.
A teacher, Alexia Onojeghwo believed that students are not interested education courses because the teaching profession is devalued, and not profitable or prestigious considering teachers low pay.
Her words: “According to statistics, education is one of the lowest paid professions in Nigeria and the most devalued ”.
Although in recent times, Federal Government and Association of Teachers in Nigeria came together to regulate teaching profession, still, most public and private schools still employ graduates from other professions instead of those who studied education.
This is because they feel professionally qualified educators would request to be paid more than they can offer, so students coming into the system would not want to be associated with the profession “If anybody can venture into teaching, what is the essence of getting the education degree?” she said.
She added that teachers on the other hand now exhibit lukewarm attitude because they are frustrated with their low income. Students are not motivated to learn “Wealth is not tied to a degree” and administrators are more concerned with their finance than the job.
She further suggested that the government should pay teachers when due, embrace professionalism by employing qualified teachers rather than any graduate, increase salaries and give stipends to academic bodies to develop and advance the sector and education should be added to the exclusive list of the federal government rather than just the residual list.
Also, Dr. Israel Okudaye, an economist said students nowadays are no longer interested in the teaching profession, as a result of the method of teaching and learning, overloaded curriculums, low-income, poor learning environment and lack of facilities.
He mentioned that teachers are now reluctant to administer knowledge because of lack of motivation from school management, obsolete educational materials, tools/equipment and lack of skilled workers.
He suggested ways government and teachers can rejuvenate the education system. “Government should provide adequate resources for learning and teaching, create periodical training programmes for educationists and increase their wages/salaries to motivate them do better, Teachers should seek training regularly to enhance their knowledge and mastery of subject area to teach effectively.
Sharing a similar view, a lecturer, Hannah Sodje said students may not be interested in education-related courses or teaching for some reasons; The profession is not as strong as it once was, they are disillusioned with the state of the education system, the profession is demanding and they are not getting the support or resources they need to motivate them and their efforts not appreciated.
She added that teachers should, however, focus on building strong relationships with their students to motivate them to learn, they should make efforts to stay updated with educational research and advocate for change at the local and state level.
She recommended that government should increase funding for education which would allow better pay, resources and support, they should also implement policies that make teaching a more attractive profession and finally, they could launch a public campaign to highlight the importance of education and the positive impact that teachers have on students.
A Professor, Mrs Okocha said that some students feel after graduation, there is no money in the country and the teaching profession, youths nowadays focus on the get rich quick “trend” to source for money and not consider education as part of survival means.
Her words: “Teachers are not well paid, not well taken care of, and are undervalued therefore, youths no longer want to be called a teacher”.
Explaining further, she reiterated that government should motivate teachers by paying them well, giving them allowances such as; hazard, marking, petrol and wardrobe allowances.
Students should be counselled on the importance of education and they should know that “Wealth without Education leaves no prestige”.
Other educators simply identified as Enifome Diamond, Promise Onoharigho Chineye and Michael Obada enumerated that teaching is unappreciated, disregarded and not as lucrative compared to other professions.
They recommended that government should create means for educators to be trained both internally and internationally, prioritize teachers’ welfare, revise education policies, invest heavily in projects that would aid teaching in various states, ensure adequate supervision in schools and institutions and ensure quacks are not employed, and they should give good HMOs.
Quality education is not given the importance and improvement it ought to have. The Nigerian educational system is sadly faced with some challenges that need resurgence, there are cases of dilapidated infrastructures, waste of resources, sordid conditions of service, poverty, insufficiently developed education, increased tuition fees, strikes and difficulty in gaining admission.
In Nigeria, however, the government seemed unconcerned whether public universities remain open or closed indefinitely. No one cares about its impact on the quality of teaching, research, and learning in universities.
Eruteyan is a corps member serving with The Hope.