Abuja — Eleven years ago, the National Teachers Registration Council (NTRCN), was established. It was an attempt at giving teachers a chance to register as a professional body. Chika Mefor wrote that many Nigerian teachers do not patronise the council, while the council has also blanketed itself from reaching out to its target audience.
"Have you been registered with the Teachers Registration Council? This was the question posed to certain teachers I came across. Gladly, many knew what I was talking about but some had never heard of it. "What is that?," some of them asked. Even some who paraded themselves as the headmaster/headmistresses and also principals of schools had nothing to say, or rather, knew nothing about the council. They claimed they had no power to say anything because they do not own the school.
"You really have to come back when my director or the proprietor of the school is around. He alone can comment on this issue," was the usual reply.
Surprising, one would say. But interestingly all these answers were gotten from the private schools. The response gotten from the government schools were different. "Oh we know about it. It is a 'must' for everybody to register."
Comrade Abdul- Kareem Abubakar Aboki is the headmaster of Madalla Primary School, a suburb of Abuja. He said, "In my school, we have degree and NCE holders.We encourage them to go to school. We have timely workshops and in-house workshops to keep them abreast of what is happening in education. We encourage them to go for more training. Presently, most of my teachers have registered. The few that are remaining are still on course until the result is out, which is when they can be registered. We are even happy to register. It will help us be organised. Everyone wants to be a part of it."
Also speaking, the vice principal (Academic) of the Junior Secondary School, Gwarimpa, Sikiru Akeem said, " it is like all those professional bodies such as pharmacists, medical doctors, journalists and others. We are trying to phase out non-professionals in our midst. Non- professionals are like people who administer injections to people when they are not doctors and are not trained to administer these injections. In the government schools , the teachers that are employed have to be registered but even if they were not registered when they were employed, we make sure that before they finish the process and are absorbed fully in the school, they become registered.
Akeem said he believed that there were no longer non- professionals in the government schools. "We do not have them any longer. It is in some private schools, not even all private schools but those 'mushroom' schools, that cannot pay the professionals."
Akeem added that it was very important to rid the nation's schools of non- professionals who, according to him, do not know the methodology of teaching. "The professionals have these effective ways of teaching that will make the children learn and understand."
Who then are the professionals, one may ask? According to the Teachers Handbook, they are those who have undergone training in the various institutions in Nigeria, offering professional training in education like the National Teachers Institute (NTI), colleges and universities of education, institutes of education in the universities, faculties of education in the universities, schools or department of education in the polytechnics, and every other institutions that might be approved from time to time by the government.
The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), which was formed to restore the glory of teaching, became operational with the appointment of a registrar in 2000. The quick spread of the Council across the country was overwhelming that by 2005, over 500,000 teachers had been registered and more were still registering. According to documents provided by the NTRCN, Introducing Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, the registration covered over 90 per cent of teachers in the public primary and secondary schools in the country. Some teachers in the private schools, some teachers in polytechnics, many lecturers and professors from the universities, and many teachers in administrative positions in the education system including directors of education, permanent secretaries, commissioners and ministers of education, vice chancellors and veteran teachers.
The Council also registered a significant number of Nigerians abroad who applied for registration because the foreign countries like Britain, Australia, Canada , and the United States of America required evidence of such registration before registering them as teachers.
What then is the benefit of registering? According to the Teachers Handbook, professionalism is the most primary and fundamental need of any vocation that wishes to deliver qualitative services to society and have its members well respected and remunerated. It ensures only those who are appropriately trained and inducted perform the jobs. The pamphlet added job security, higher public status, public recognition and the ethical rejuvenation as other benefits of the registration.
It is now a known fact that the registration is no new thing in the nation. But how many teachers know about it and how many who know about it have attempted to register? Granted, most teachers in the government schools do try and register but what about those in the private schools? How important do they take the registration?
Geoffrey Ahamefula is a teacher in one of the private schools in the nation's capital. He said, "I have heard about it but since my school did not ask about it I did not think it is important to do that."
It is fair enough to say that the message of the registration has gotten to the government schools. What about the private owned schools, one would ask, are they not part of this exercise? Efforts should be made to ensure the registration of everyone, is carried out both in private and in the government establishments.
Apart from the registration of teachers, some people have suggested that National Union of Teachers (NUT), be partners with TRCN with a view to establishing the Licensure and Credentialing Board that shall conduct professional examinations for all prospective teachers because it is only through this process Nigerians will appreciate the uniqueness and relevance of teachers in the school system.
It would be pertinent to note that the council itself has not made itself known just like other parastatals in the sector. If the management of the agency is vibrant enough, it would have made registration attractive for teachers both in private and public schools.
Since other countries are taking registration of teachers with the seriousness it deserves, the NTRCN should wake up from the slumber and tell Nigerians what the council stands for by making its presence known. For instance, this reporter had made several attempts to have an audience with the executive secretary of NTRCN, Wokocha but all entreaties were turned down. Could it be for lack knowledge of what to tell Nigerians, or the gross inactivity that had blanketed the council from public view?
At least they should be in a position to say, for instance, how many teachers are in their databank, what efforts they have made to encourage more registration, and how poorly or robustly they are funded and other information like that.