Date Published: 10/28/09
Nigerian teachers for South African schools? By Joel Nwokeoma
It is incomprehensible how some Nigerian policy makers contemplate and implement some evidently wrong-headed initiatives and decisions that leave not a few of us wondering and stupefied. There are many of such instances if you look around very well.
Less than two months after Nigeria’s two public post-primary schools examination bodies, the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examinations Council (NECO), released, one after another, the results of their last examinations, which showed mass failure of candidates, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Education, last week, began a process of recruiting Mathematics and Science teachers to work in South Africa for three years. Curiously, it was silent on the programme being pursued therefrom as well as its import.
In a widely publicised advertorial signed by Prof O. A. Afolabi, the Permanent Secretary, the Federal Ministry of Education, which ordinarily should be scandalised by the failure recorded by Nigerian students in these public examinations over the years and begin to initiate actions and programmes to redress such, instead invited applications “from suitably qualified candidates for recruitment as Mathematics and Science Teachers respectively to work in Republic of South Africa for a period of 3 (three) years at the first instance”. It listed a litany of requirements interested applicants must fulfil before they could be considered.
Amongst the requirements listed include possession of a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a minimum of 2 nd Class lower division or Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and that applicants must be registered by the Teacher Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN). Besides, it expects prospective beneficiaries to be “computer literate”, be of “good moral behaviour without criminal record” as well as be certified medically fit by a Government Health Provider, and many more.
Tried as one could, it is simply difficult to comprehend how the Nigerian government could come up with this bizarre idea of recruiting skilled Nigerian teachers for South African schools in subjects the nation sorely lacks but needs highly to make any headway in science and technology education. More so, when lack of quality teachers in subjects like Mathematics was said to be among the factors that contributed to mass failure in public examinations recently. This, to me, is akin to offering to salvage the situation of someone else at a time one is even in a more severe and pitiable condition. Something like charity beginning somewhere else other than home!
In the 2009 May/June Senior School Certificate Examination results released by WAEC in September, only 25.99 per cent, about 356,981 of the 1,373,009 candidates that took part in the examinations, recorded five credits including English and Mathematics. Meaning that, about 75 per cent of the candidates failed!
As if this was not sad and bad enough, the results announced by NECO almost at the same time indicated that only 10 per cent, numbering 126,500 of the 1,200,765 candidates who registered for the body’s examination passed five subjects, including English and Mathematics.
Interestingly, government seems unperturbed by this depressing reality in the education sector, or has simply refused to face up to the challenge and do the needful, as evidenced by its actions and/or inactions. As a vice-principal at Iwo Grammar School in Osun State, Mr. Akanmu, reportedly disclosed in a recent newspaper interview, “If the government can look into getting more teachers, that would help”, noting that he has had to, owing to paucity of teaching staff in his school, combine administrative work with teaching, as a result. According to him, “there are too many students in each class. You find you cannot blame teachers who do not have the time to go and check each student’s practice during the 40 minutes of each class period”.
It is obvious that this scheme will not and cannot benefit Nigeria. Or, is it possible that the Federal Ministry of Education is undertaking this largely ungainful adventure without the knowledge of the Federal Government? If so, in what way and manner will the recruitment of much needed quality teaching staff for South African schools advance the educational interests of this country? And, how can it be explained that the ministry could contemplate recruiting Nigerian teachers for another country when it could barely meet its own need?
However, this recruitment exercise, whose purpose as noted earlier is yet undefined, could actually be useful to the nation if it is aimed at affording the prospective beneficiaries some international experience and exposure as part of an exchange programme. On the other hand, if it is to become an avenue for brain drain, this time in a more organised way, as it obviously looks most likely, more so at a time like this, it is, no doubt, one of the most disingenuous thoughts and initiatives that one can ever imagine.
It therefore behoves the federal ministry of education to throw more light on the benefits to the nation of this inauspicious recruitment it has embarked upon. Nigerians deserve to know the promoters of this recruitment of teachers by a Nigerian ministry for South Africa.
Apparently, it is a disservice to the nation for a ministry that should be concerned about improving the state of teaching and learning to be overtly involved, or be seen to be involved, in an arrangement that would ultimately defeat this goal. Nigeria needs more teachers to be recruited, but surely not for another country’s gain!