.In the last two months, I have been writing on the falling standard of education in Nigeria, its causes and effects. Specifically, I have looked at the role of parents and the place of curriculum in this regard. But as from this week, I will be writing on teachers and their employers and how they have contributed directly or indirectly to the dwindling standard of education in Nigeria.
BUT WHAT IS TEACHING?
Teaching is a vocation. It is a noble profession like Medicine and Law. Therefore, it ought and should be engaged in only by those with a special call who want to impart knowledge to others on the sole ground that they are happy doing so and because they believe that they have a special interest or ability to do so.
Teachers from time immemorial had always enjoyed a lot of respect. From the ancient times including Greeco-Roman civilization, the dark ages, the Middle Ages and the renaissance era, teachers were highly rated in the society. A classic example was the biblical Paul whose reputation as a teacher loomed large in the whole of Judea and Palestine. Teachers had always been the envy of other professionals and the society at large. That was also the position in Nigeria until early 80’s.
Our teachers before the take-over of the military had always been very well respected. They were God on earth mutatis mutandis. Those of us who attended schools in those days believed that teachers were something more than human beings. Our parents also saw teachers as special human beings. In fact, we the students always tried to avoid them at every possibility of contact. Most of us in those days would not believe that they had normal human experiences of urinating or defecating. Parents used to frighten stubborn children by telling them that their teacher was around the corner.
When the University College, Ibadan (now the University of Ibadan) was established, most educationally gifted students’ aspiration was to become professors. Lecturers received the first mention in the society before any other person. They had enormous dignity and aura that surrounded them. They were well remunerated. This was at a time when the Naira was a very strong currency and its value was enviable amongst its peers. University teachers were as comfortable and respected as their contemporaries abroad until the Naira lost its value and teachers became the butts of jests and jokes, such that in Nigeria today they are despised by the ordinary lady in the street who regard more highly, lawyers, doctors, bankers and engineers and even the local government councilors, than the lecturers.
TEACHERS OF TODAY.
But what do we have today? It is like the teachers of nowadays are diametrically different from those of yester years whose attractive picture I have just painted. The teachers of today would seem to lack the commitment of their peers in the past who regarded teaching not as a mere profession but vocation. This may be due to the different categories of people in teaching today.
· Most of the teacher of today have no business being in teaching at all because they lack the requisite education, character and or training.
· Many take to teaching as a hobby.
· Many take to teaching only to earn a living.
· Many take to teaching just to fill a gap in their lives looking for and waiting for better employment.
TEACHERS PROPERLY SO CALLED.
Teachers properly so called are those who believe that teaching is both a profession and a vocation. An example of a profession which does not qualify as a vocation is salesmanship or estate agency while a good example of a profession cum vocation is priesthood. A priest is not only in the profession of priesthood but he also renders service to the church.
This is why even though a priest has not received his salary, he will not go on strike because his profession of priesthood is also one of service. He will not abandon the sheep merely because of inadequate or delay in payment of salary. As the priest is developing people for salvation, the teacher is developing his students to become future leaders through quality education and high moral character.
MY EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER
I was a teacher and I am proud to say that any day, any time. I started teaching in my Alma Mata as a pupil teacher, Emmanuel Primary School, Ado-Ekiti, a fine Missionary institution after successful completion of my primary school education. I rose from the post of an infant Pupil Teacher to Secondary School teacher and later became the Vice Principal of a Secondary School before I became a lawyer.
As a lawyer, I continued to teach. I taught at the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies the highest law institute in Nigeria, the post graduate school in University of Ibadan and other higher institutions of learning. I still teach in faculty of law in Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti. The truth is that I have interest in teaching and I love teaching. I have come to realize that a good teacher also makes a good lawyer. A teacher learns how to teach others and therefore knows how to teach himself.
In those days, our teachers put premium on child development. They put in extra time and efforts to ensure that their students excelled in learning and character. Teachers knew the students by name and relate with parents for necessary co-operation in achieving the laudable goal of making a total man of the student. More importantly, they engaged the students in the evenings and spend part of their holidays to coach students at no extra cost. Today coaching of students by a teacher after school hour is an avenue to amass money. “Teachers reward was in heaven” was the well-known slogan in the days gone-bye. Now teacher’s reward is not only here on earth but in hard currency.
The question now is: why have those values diminished or gone into extinction? What must be done is to return teaching to the path of nobility of teaching profession.