Alarming Shortage of Teachers in Lagos Public Schools
Alarming Shortage of Teachers in Lagos Public Schools
By H.T. Soweto and Aj Dagga Tolar, ERC National Coordinator and Chairman,
NUT Ajeromi-Ifelodun respectively
It is no news that public education in Lagos state faces several crises. Some of these include leaking roofs, flooded school premises, overcrowded classroom, unsafe and unhealthy school environment, decaying infrastructures and a curriculum largely aimed at making students acquire skills that will at best in future make them an army of unskilled labourers. But this is not all. There is also the problem of a poorly-motivated and overburdened teaching force with a monthly wage that practically amount to peanuts considering rising inflation and the high cost of living in Lagos.
What then can be news is the fact that the hammer is already being wielded to finally nail the coffin of public education. This is happening by way of the massive shortage of teachers in nearly all subject areas in public schools in Lagos state coupled with the refusal of the government to do the needful by recruiting new hands to fill in the vacancies.
100 PUPILS TO ONE TEACHER!
Latest finding by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) reveals an alarming shortage of teachers in public primary schools as well as junior and senior secondary schools. In some public primary schools, there are only 5 teachers available to teach over 500 pupils. That amount is more than 100 pupils to a teacher contrary to the UNESCO recommendation of one teacher to not more than 35 pupils. Mind you, these 5 teachers also include the head tutor and deputies who are administrative staff. In nearly most of these schools, unqualified clerical staffs are being used as make-shift staff to assist the teachers.
A few months ago, the Lagos Wing of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) under the leadership of Mr. Segun Raheem put forward a proposal of a temporary measure for some of these clerical staffs that have acquired the necessary qualification to be converted into full teaching staff in the primary schools. Unfortunately, the Ambode administration in Lagos State chose instead to announce a recruitment drive of 1,300 teachers – a figure even which if dispatched to just one of the twenty Local Governments in the state will still largely not fundamentally reverse the situation.
From one local government to another the same dismal situation prevails. In one school, only 6 teachers are available to teach 669 pupils! In another one, only 9 teachers are employed to teach 863 pupils! In one of the local governments, only about half of the total number of teachers needed is available. For a pupil population of 29, 033 and 706 streams, only 347 teachers are employed. Similar and even worse situation exists in all the 20 local governments and 37 LCDAs in the state.
The secondary schools are not necessarily different. A new curriculum introducing a new range of subjects numbering as much as twenty and providing a wide range of choice for students has left a lot of school managers in tight situation given the fact that they do not have the number of staff required to teach these subjects. This is despite the fact that the government had run the “Eko Project” which saw, over the years, funding in the region of N10 million each injected into all junior and senior secondary schools in Lagos. But the fact remains that the work force remains a key factor. Unfortunately, the previous Fashola administration completely neglected recruitment. Unless challenged by mass struggle, the Ambode administration would also do the same.
Of course, all these means teachers are overworked and are not able to pay enough attention to individual pupils because of the sheer numbers they have to handle. Added to the above is the attendant implication that overwork has for teachers’ health. There has been an alarming increase in the numbers of deaths on the job. Little wonder why the standard of education is on a decline and mass failure on the rise.
APC’S EMBARRASSING SCORE CARD
Despite hot air and propaganda, these findings show that not much improvement has come the way of public education over the last 16 years. And this is in spite of the fact that the same political party has been in power ever since civilian rule was restored. 8 years ago, when Babatunde Raji Fashola, now a federal minister, became the state governor, he vowed to turn Lagos into a mega city like London and Paris. But while talking of transforming Lagos into a megacity, what Fashola and previous governments before his have all succeeded in doing is to divide the city in half one part for the rich, the other for the poor.
This class polarization in Lagos state is graphically manifested in the education sector where for the majority of the city’s poor and working class, the public schools with their collapsing roofs or the mushroom private schools are the only options they can afford if their children must be educated. The rich, especially the politicians, have no need of public schools since they can easily afford high brow private schools within and outside the country.
Interestingly, the shortage of teachers is not due to the inadequacy of graduate teachers. Annually, the departments of education in the two Universities in Lagos together with the colleges of education turn out thousands of graduates. The problem is that the state government is not employing. For years, less and less teachers are employed to replace those retiring. For those in service, their pay and conditions are poor and the workload simply terrible. All of these make a career in the teaching profession not to be in the top priority of many young graduates.
Despite propaganda, the reality is that public education in Lagos is in total mess. For some years now, the Punch newspaper has been publishing revelations of the terrible conditions in primary and secondary schools in Lagos. However further confirmation of APC’s mournful 16-year scorecard came to the fore on the evening of Tuesday 26 January 2016 during a live radio interview session with the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh, on City Fm. Callers after callers reeled out gory tales of the deplorable condition of schools around their areas. The complaints, though many, were very similar. They ranged from complaints that there are no desks, no chairs, overcrowding, teacher shortage, leaking roofs etc. In response to all of these, the SSA announced that the Ambode APC government has now budgeted 17 percent of the 2016 budget for education and that citizens would now see drastic improvement in school conditions. You would have thought it was not the same party that has been in power since 1999.
However the question is not just about the quantum of funds. Corruption, waste and mismanagement are crucial issues that if not addressed would ensure that a bigger allocation does not necessarily lead to any improvement in the condition of education. A case in point is the EKO project. Under this project, the Lagos state government secured a World Bank loan to upgrade junior and senior secondary schools in Lagos. But despite the quantum of funds involved, this project has so far failed. In many cases, the funds were mismanaged and looted by school principals and bureaucrats in the education ministry. For instance, some schools used their share of the funds to procure photo copier machines and laptops. However when question papers were to be produced for examinations last year, some of these copier machines were found not to be functioning. Apparently someone simply bought fake or dysfunctional copier machines and pocketed the rest of the money! This and many more is essentially why the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) while making a case for improved funding often stress the need for democratic control and management of schools by elected representatives of teachers, students, parents and communities.
THE NUT MUST TAKE ACTION!
At the radio interview mentioned above, the SSA, Obafela Bank-Olemoh, scoffed at the suggestion that raising teachers’ pay could improve teaching quality when this was suggested by the host. Yet teachers are have one of the worst working condition in the country. They certainly deserve better. But improving the pay and teaching conditions is not enough. There must also be adequate funding of the colleges of education and education departments in the Universities in order to provide necessary facilities and personnel for quality training of teachers. Without this, the quality of teachers will be abysmally low. With the conditions under which trainee teachers are taught, the quality of teaching can only get worse.
Indeed, right from the college, a trainee teacher already gets the idea that he or she is going into an undignified and lowly profession. For instance, the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED) Epe and the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education Ijanikin have become eyesores. At MOCPED, the degree graduates do not get their statement of results on time not to talk of certificates! It took recent vigorous protests by the students and campaign by the ERC for the institution to begin to release some results for many who graduated more than five years ago!
Unfortunately despite the crisis, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) aside from occasional media statements has not yet come up with a clear strategy to build a mass movement to challenge government on these issues. Activists and rank and file members must put a stop to this lethargy of the NUT while teachers suffer terrible conditions and the fate of public education hangs in a balance. The NUT must come up with a program of actions to confront the government with demand for adequate teaching staff, improved conditions of teachers and better facilities for quality education in schools.
Without mass struggle, the situation can only get worse. Now instead of commencing the process of recruiting teachers, the government has gone ahead to commence the arbitrary transfer of teachers from one local government to another. Imagine transferring a teacher from say Agege to Apapa! The practical implication of this is that such a teacher considering the traffic situation will most likely always get to school tired and worn out.
A teacher who was moved from a school in Oshodi to one in Surulere told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the transfer was not evenly done. According to her, there were four English teachers in her former school teaching about 120 students in a class. “Two of the English teachers have been transferred without replacement; the remaining teachers are forced to take about 28 periods every week â€¦ Meanwhile, where I am transferred to, they have enough English teachers compared to where I am coming from” (Daily Times 22/2/2016).
The chairman of the Lagos wing of the NUT, Segun Raheem, has been quoted to have stated that “You don’t transfer a teacher mid-session and expect positive results, it is professionally wrong” (Daily Times, 22/2/2016). The ERC while welcoming the position of the union in opposing the transfer of teachers however demand that the NUT must prepare itself to commence series of actions like strikes and mass protests to draw attention to the death agony situation of education in Lagos state and demand the recruitment of nothing less than 20,000 full-time teachers as starting point for repositioning education in Lagos state.
This is entirely possible! We can all recall the massive investment and injection of public funds into public education by former Lagos State governor, Lateef Jakande, during the second Republic in the early 1980s. It was this that laid the foundation for the height and glory that public education was able to attain in Lagos state. Need we be reminded also that private schools were taken over by the state; school complexes were built in places like Ajegunle and Oshodi, resulting into the largest ever expansion of educational facilities hitherto unattained. Teachers were recruited and trainee teachers even in the college of educations were paid allowances as an incentive so they could take up teaching appointments in Lagos.
However this took place during years of high oil prices and when there was a vibrant movement demanding change. Today we are in a different situation. Just to recruit more teachers or replace teachers leaving the job and to fill up all the available vacancies will require a mighty movement of teachers, parents, students and the entire community. At the same time for mass recruitment to have any meaningful impact on the overall education sector, it must be combined with improvement in the pay and working conditions of teachers and increase in funding of public education and democratic control and management of schools. But to ensure this during the current economic crisis will require a movement determined to ensure that working people and the poor do not pay for this dire economic situation capitalism has produced.