WHAT would the world be without teachers? October 5, World Teachers Day passed quietly. Nigerians agree on the importance of teachers, except that the importance is addressed with words. It is sad.
Education is a major factor in the human development index. Countries that invest well in education are at the top bracket of human development. They reap bountifully from the cross-cutting benefits of education.
Our low position in the human development index is not a full picture of the depth of the decay in various spheres of our society. In education, for example, there is hardly any investment to improve the teaching environment or the education of our teachers.
While many of us admit that teaching is a thankless job, we have added to the burden of those who over the years made this humanitarian gesture to our society. They are poorly paid and live in ruinous poverty after retirement. They form a huge part of the pension queues, society's final signature on those it has rejected.
There is very little in the life of the Nigerian teacher to recommend the profession to others. The country is expectedly running on the last string of its teachers. Many of those in service are not trained, and society is not bothered about unqualified teachers promoting literacy. In 2010, there were media reports of fake teachers, thousands of them, on governments' pay rolls.
As the profession becomes less attractive because of its appalling conditions of service, younger people who should take over from the retiring teachers seek fulfillment elsewhere. Many of those who teach today use the profession as a stopgap to their aspirations.
How will this society survive without teachers?
Our education has problems with facilities and curriculum, resulting from government's unwillingness to consider the sector a priority. The sustenance of education this far has been on the dedication of teachers, who still relish seeing their efforts turning young men and women into the country's leaders.
No serious country can sustain itself on such lean passions, which would die with the generation that espouses it. Already, plunging examination results are being blamed on growing illiteracy among teachers and poor teaching standards.
Governments should institute major initiatives on education to reduce its bureaucracies, and save funds for the training and welfare of teachers, and improved facilities in schools.
Special attention needs to be paid to attracting younger people to teaching. At all levels, they are unwilling to subject themselves to a life of penury, which is what society has prescribed for teaching.
Enduring improvements of society are no longer feasible with the minimal investments we make in the welfare of teachers and provision of teaching aids.