"The role of teachers in nation building and national development cannot be wished away" said Prof. Chike Anibeze, Deputy Provost, College of Medicine, Abia State University, Uturu.
According to the don, the future of the Nigerian child and the society at large can only be secured if the welfare of teachers is given top priority by government and other concerned authorities.
Presenting a paper titled: 'Take a Stand for Teachers' to mark the World Teachers Day organized by the Nigerian Union of Teachers, Enugu State Chapter, Prof. Anibeze xrayed the history and roles of teachers in national development, noting that as teachers play an extraordinary role in the lives of children, their welfare, quality, development and the general condition of learning must not be toyed with in the country.
The humble beginning
According to Anibeze,teaching occupies an enviable position in Nigeria. The origin and development of teacher education can be traced to the beginning of western education in the country, the various church Missions such as the Wesleyan Methodist, the Church Missionary Society, the Baptist, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) and the Roman Catholic were very active in Nigeria between 1842 and 1860. They contributed in no small measure to the development of teacher education.
The Missionaries devoted their time to the development of elementary education in the country due to the little stipend they got from their overseas headquarters. The missionaries trained their teachers through the pupil-teacher system. In such a setting, the missionary teacher kept the school in his premises and his pupils lived with him as part of his family, and the duration of the course was two years after which they would sit for the pupil-teacher examination. The result of this is that teachers became the central focus for the development of emerging societies and their authorities transcended beyond the classroom.
"Teachers play an extraordinary role in the lives of children, especially in their formative years. The importance of teachers in the development of society cannot be understated as their influence can and will stretch on long after the final bell rings beyond the walls of the school. The role of the teacher is complex, far beyond what people can assume as just someone who teaches what has been programmed in the curriculum."
The bad eggs
Reiterating that teaching is a noble profession, the former Permanent Board Member 1, Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB-ENUGU), however, decried the situation where unqualified teachers are still allowed to remain in the system.
"If good teachers are treasures beyond price, then the bad ones are equally a formidable curse which we should spare no effort to evict from the system as they have tended to diminish the contributions of the good ones. Though teachers, students, administrators and parents know who the bad ones are, but we have allowed them remain in the system.
In his emotion-laden voice, the don surmised that "bad teachers thrive in the system because teachers, management, teachers' union and parents somehow provide the pedestal under which they thrive, lending credence to Albert Einstein's statement that: 'the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
A stand for teachers
On the way forward to improving the standards of Nigeria's education which currently see parents send their wards abroad for studies, the Deputy Provost, Anibeze, affirmed that issues bordering on teachers' welfare and professional development, incentives for teachers, retirement age for teachers, improved teaching facilities, regular promotion of qualified teachers and strengthened monitoring system and pragmatic teachers union must be revisited.
He also tasked the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) to work tirelessly to ensure an improved Nigerian education sector.
"The NUT must become full partners in the education reform systems that will ensure that competent teachers receive their worthy benefits here on earth while the bad ones are eliminated from the system. Our union must endeavour not to be such obstacles while fighting for their rights."