|The teaching profession in Nigeria: the yesteryears and the present
|| PRINTABLE VERSION
| The late Julius Nyerere of Tanzania was a teacher. After some years in the profession, he joined politics from where he later became the president of his country for twenty-four years. Tafawa Balewa was a Nigerian. He started a career in the teaching profession and later, he too joined politics and from there became Nigeria’s Prime Minister. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s first executive president, late Michael Adekunle Ajasin, late Samuel Ladoke Akintola to mention but a few, started as teachers and they are very great in the society. The list of those who started their career as teachers and later ended up becoming people of influence in the society are endless.
Those were in the olden days, when teachers were gods. They were next to the white colonial masters in order of ranking. They were respected and valued. They were seen as people sent by God to take ignorance away from the land in substitute for fortunes and good tidings of life. A community of old would never take a decision if the teacher is absent, for his input is crucial to decision of the elders.
The teacher in the olden days never suffered anything. He was robust and well fed. He hardly touched his salary except when he needed it to buy a car or to build a house. His accommodation and food were taken care of by the community. His washings and house cleaning were exclusively the preserve of the students. They represented the community at governmental and other meetings. Teachers in the olden days were next to kings.
But his counterpart in modern times is easily recognized when cornered. He moves about in tattered clothes. His shoes are worn-out. He is so lean and dry that his trouser occasionally drops from his buttocks. When he puts on a tie, there is always a wide gap between his neck and the collar of his shirt. He is always hungry and hence, always angry. Out of anger at times, he beats a student and the next day, the parent of the child comes to school to harass him.
He dares not introduce himself before important people as a teacher if he wants recognition; rather, he prefers a more polished phrase – Education Consultant. Because his salary is too meager to sustain him for the month, he resorts to extorting money from the students using one excuse or the other. At times, he engages in GCE ‘expo’ business to make ends meet.
Some of the students even call him by various appellations and he answers joyfully. Nobody recognizes him when he attends a community function. He finds it difficult to get a lady of his choice because no girl wants a teacher for a date. He dares not attend a political meeting if his pocket is not fat enough, else he will not be recognized. His input without cash to back it up will not be welcomed, irrespective of his education and wealth of experience.
Every student wants to be taught by him, but no student wants to be in his profession. Every parent needs him to teach his son or daughter but no parent wants his son or daughter to teach to earn a living. The modern day teacher’s plight is pitiable; can the present status of the teaching profession in Nigeria change for the better again?
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