Looming Crisis: Dearth of Primary School Teachers in Nigeria
November 7, 2019
By: Noble Missions
Primary education is the most essential stage of a child’s development since it serves as a preparatory ground for the other two levels of education. Primary education as defined by the National Policy on Education (2004) is “education given in an institution for children aged normally between 6 years to 11 years plus. The Nigerian education is organized into 6 years of primary school, 3 years of junior secondary school, 3 years of senior secondary school and 4 years of higher institution.
Quality primary school education has been a priority for the government over the years, yet it is still far from being ready. The objective of primary education is to balance both physical and intellectual development and also to provide long term literacy that will enable an individual to communicate effectively within his immediate environment.
Nigerian education is faced with many challenges and among them is the shortfall of academic staff. In a report published by Punch Newspaper in May 2019, 28 states in Nigeria have not employed teachers in primary school since 2015 and some of these states are owing teachers months of unpaid salaries. In the National Policy on Education; for effective learning, the teacher-pupil ratio should be 1:35, it is disheartening to say Nigeria would need at least 250,000 additional teachers to achieve this recommended ratio because in some rural communities there are as low as 3 teachers in a school.
The major problem of the shortage of teachers in primary school, especially public ones, is that of dissatisfied working conditions. For example, some teachers are owed several months of salaries despite being paid as low as N12,000 – N15,000 monthly, i.e. less than $50. Often times the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) goes on strike because they have not to be paid salaries for doing such a demanding job. Most of them are made to handle numerous subjects and non-academic activities than their counterparts in private schools. Many public primary schools, both in rural communities and urban centres, are depending on the funds by Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs), Councils, and Community-based Organizations to pay their teachers. When the welfare of teachers is not put into consideration they cannot give their best.
Another problem with the shortfall of teachers in primary education is the lack of motivation. Some of the teachers are overqualified while some are less qualified to teach in a primary school. The majority of them were not actually trained to be teachers, they only settled for teaching because that was the only job they could get after graduating from school. They are therefore ill-motivated to do the work. In the general sense of things, teaching is considered a low standard job in Nigeria.
There are no adequate infrastructures and facilities to meet up with the development of schools, therefore, the school environment is not conducive for learning. Due to the physical conditions of most school buildings and lack of teaching and learning resources, most teachers absent themselves from work periodically to focus on other convenient income-generating activities.
What are the effects of the shortfall of teachers in Primary school?
The joy of every child is to be in a conducive school environment with qualified teaching professionals. But this is not the case of every child in Nigeria especially those in the disadvantaged areas of the country.
With the shortfall of teachers, there is high stress on the few academic staff available. The teachers are faced with handling several classroom management activities and some go as far as providing support for partially-trained and less-experienced teachers assigned to them. This has led to a lower standard of education in the country today. On the other hand, working teachers are given little or no freedom to be innovative and develop creative ideas on how to deliver the curriculum, if they are given this opportunity, it will go a long way to provide better results for the pupils.
The teaching approach adopted as a result of a shortage of teachers plays a huge role in determining the pupils’ academic performance. For example, the average number of students in a public primary school classroom can be up to 40 or more, because of this large number, the teacher cannot be pupil-focused enough to know who is facing or struggling to meet up with a subject’s content.
Another effect of the shortfall of teachers is Ineffective teaching methods. Many primary schools in Nigeria employ untrained teachers because they have “subject-area expertise” or reassign teachers to areas they were not trained for. For example, a teacher that has strength in only English subject would be made to teach every art and social science-related subjects. The policy of reassigning teachers to fill a need in an area they are not trained to teach actually hinders their teaching effectiveness.
What is the way out?
Going forward, there should be mass recruitment of teachers in public primary schools who are properly trained regularly and properly remunerated to ensure a better quality of education for our children. That being said, I strongly believe, we cannot leave this problem to the government, major Nigerian Education stakeholders, international agencies and NGOs to tackle alone because teachers’ shortage is reaching an epidemic. That is why we at Noble Missions birthed www.giveateach.org where working professionals in various areas of expertise can volunteer and teach children in disadvantaged communities. For more information about this project, please feel free to contact us here.