Monday, 4 July 2016

On the recruitment of 500,000 teachers

Written by the Editorial board of The Guardian Newspaper

The commencement of recruitment of 500,000 teachers by the Buhari administration is a commendable step towards raising trained and competent teachers for the nation’s school system. Unlike the crash programme of days gone by through which trained teachers were produced, the present scheme is more encompassing and likely to impact positively on the nation’s education system.

The programme resembles the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, which provides opportunity for tertiary institution graduates to serve the nation for one year. Given that raising teachers is at the centre of this programme, graduates with teaching qualifications should be given preference.

Coming at a time graduate unemployment has reached an alarming level, the scheme, if properly implemented, would provide relief to thousands of young graduates caught up in the unemployment mess. On that ground, the programme, tagged N-Power Teachers Corps, and part of the social support programme of the Buhari administration, should be supported in the national interest. President Muhammadu Buhari had promised during his 2015 campaign to provide social support to 25 million unemployed and vulnerable Nigerians and a sum of N500 billion provision was made in the 2016 national budget for this purpose.

The recruitment of the teachers is one of the three direct job creation and training schemes of the government. The others are N-Power Knowledge, which will train 25,000 Nigerians in technology and N-Power Build, which will train another 75,000 in building services, construction, utilities, hospitality and catering, and so on.

That gives a total of 600,000 beneficiaries out of the target 25 million. Some 35 million applicants have, however, reportedly hit the recruitment portal in a classic demonstration of how bad the unemployment situation is.
In a dysfunctional system like Nigeria’s without a database, therefore, there is an urgent need for the government to ensure that people who are registered in the scheme are those genuinely deserving of it.

The paid volunteer programme is for a two-year duration. All volunteers would be paid a stipend of N23, 000 monthly besides getting computer devices with information necessary for their specific assignments.

The scheme’s beneficiaries are expected to conduct teaching, instructional and advisory roles in primary and secondary schools. They would also service agricultural extension systems, public health and community education covering civic and adult education. The N-Power Teacher Corps is not designed to be a permanent employment scheme but merely an intervention that affords unemployed graduates the opportunity to acquire teaching skills needed in schools.

Nevertheless, the scheme has the capacity to instill confidence in the trainees and the training should be more useful than the stipend. There should, however, be an established way of implementing this programme. Since the scheme is not offering permanent employment to the participants, it is important to define what it is meant to achieve in the long run. Granted that those engaged may have the feeling of economic fulfillment, however temporary, what happens thereafter should be of major concern to the government.

More importantly, the Buhari administration has barely three years left in its first term, meaning that the programme can conveniently run out of steam in the government’s first outing. The critical worry now should be: can it be sustained beyond this term? These concerns need to be addressed in order to have a purpose-driven programme and one that etches the Buhari/Osinbajo administration in the hearts of Nigerians.

It would be meaningless to train 500,000 teachers without adequate arrangement for how to actually engage them in federal and state schools at the end of their training. Such open-ended schemes in place like National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) already throw graduates out after the service year and or skill acquisition period.

It may also be good to incorporate this new programme into the one-year NYSC. The three-week orientation period can be used to teach communication skills to the corps members before they are deployed to schools.

The Federal Government and the states should collaborate in order to work out a suitable framework for absorbing the trainees into the school system. Without such collaboration and arrangement, the scheme would be un-sustainable and its aim may be defeated.

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