Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teachers’ Warning

THE three-day teachers’ warning strike was long overdue. The teachers could have struck earlier, for the problems are not new.

Our long-suffering teachers are used to neglect. Their welfare is unimportant, the school buildings, in the cases they exist, are collapsing on them, and if there is no consideration for their present, their future is pure darkness.

Teachers have been told their reward is in heaven. We therefore treat them as if others who are consigning the country’s resources to themselves are not aspirants for heaven. Teachers want their rewards here, and in heaven.

Whatever their plight it is rooted in the national education policy, which lays more emphases on the principles than the practitioners of those principles. Teachers are owed salaries and it has become common practice for grateful delegations to head to government houses to thank the authorities for paying. When they retire, they join the long queue of pensioners, who die off waiting for pittance that rarely comes.

Teachers get some of the most disdainful treatments. They do not earn enough to attain respectable sociable status in a society where money is all. Their children cannot get good education because their parents ironically, cannot afford it.

Many ills have crept into the profession. Most of today’s teachers are not qualified and the society does not care about this. In some schools, teachers spend official hours fending for themselves, knowing that governments that engage them are least interested in their welfare. Others have kept themselves busy with examination malpractices, where they make a tidy sum aiding pupils to cheat.

These ills are on the increase as years of uncaring governments and lip service to education have left most schools worst than pigsties. Government officials ensure their children are in private schools where they can get good education. Other Nigerians are condemned to schools and teachers that belong to antiquity, with facilities that cannot prepare the pupils for the modern age, unless they too can pay for private education for their children.

Governments that know the importance of education are investing more of their resources in it. They are preparing their people for a future where illiteracy would be intolerable, a future cast on science and technology. Our governments are busy inflating budgets for education and creaming off the surplus to their purses. It does not matter to them whether the public education system works or not.

This strike is an opportunity to address the deeper issues in our education, including curriculum that is so outdated that it testifies to the fact that government does not consider educating Nigerians important. Others are the dilapidation of the learning environment and unavailability of instructional materials.

Nothing can be done about these without attending to the welfare of teachers, who currently projects so much poverty that they can no longer be the role models thy were to our children. Little wonder younger people do not want to be teachers –– that is the next danger for our education, schools without teachers.