The request by the Liberian government for Nigeria to provide the country with 6,000 teachers under the Technical Assistance Corps agreement has generated mixed feelings among experts, some of who view it as a welcome development, while others think there is need for Nigeria to take adequate care of its teachers and tackle the myriad of problems bedevilling the education sector instead of sending teachers abroad to teach.
Last month, the Liberian government requested for 6,000 teachers from Nigeria as part of the Technical Assistance agreement between the two countries. During a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the President of Liberia, George Weah said his government inherited many problems which could only be tackled with assistance from countries like Nigeria.
Weah, who was inaugurated into office on January 22, identified some of the urgent problems facing his country to include youth unemployment and the need to revive the education, agriculture, mining and health sectors.
According to him, "your sustained technical assistance for capacity building in these sectors is most welcome. For example, Nigerian teachers and medical volunteers to Liberia, under the Technical Assistance Corps (TAC) Agreement with Liberia, have been very crucial in boosting capacity development in Liberia, and it is my hope that this assistance can be considerably increased to address with urgency our most pressing socio-economic needs at this time.
"More specifically, under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange programme, we are seeking 6,000 plus teachers to make up for the shortage of good teachers in our educational system."
Nevertheless, the Nigerian government up till now is yet to yield to the request, as the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) said the country does not have enough teachers to go round and that the union is still at loggerhead with the government over the issue of salary.
The Chairman of the Bayelsa State chapter of the union, Mr. Kalaama Toinpre said the country is still battling with the sack of 25,000 Kaduna teachers that couldn't pass primary the four examination given to them, adding that this is not a good development.
He said the Nigerian government should employ good teachers to schools that are lacking rather than sending the ones on ground to teach abroad.
"Our schools are suffering; even some subjects don't have teachers. The country cannot take adequate care of its teachers and they are talking about sending them abroad to teach."
The Head of the 16Plus School (sixth form), Lagos, Mrs. Anne Bessong argued that with the current state of education in the country, Nigeria itself needs help.
"I understand that there is a bilateral teacher exchange programme between Nigeria and Liberia, but what is the guarantee that it is the good teachers that will be sent to do the required job and make a success of it? Liberia is looking up to Nigeria but does Nigeria really have what it takes? Have we bothered to take a closer look at our education system? Have we ever interacted with recent graduates from our universities? Have we checked the quality of education we are churning out as a nation?"
She added that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.
The Director of De Beautiful Beginning (DBB) Private School, Magodo, Lagos, Mrs. Olubukola Ogunleye argued that if Nigerian teachers are happy in the country and are being recognised and treated very well, they will not want to go to Liberia.
She stressed the need for the government to encourage the public school teachers so that the country would not have to lose its human resources to brain drain.
"The public school teachers are not well paid. When you talk of good private schools, they pay their teachers very well, so the government should encourage the teachers and they in turn should know their worth. If we don't have teachers, we will not have lawyers and doctors. By the time the teachers travel out, we will be losing our assets so we should discourage that; we have assets in Nigeria and so we should not allow them go out."
Some sections of the society see the request as an opportunity for Nigeria to culturally influence other countries in this area since Liberia believes that solution to its challenges could be found from its next door neighbour.
The Zonal Coordinator, North Central, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Ilorin, Mr. Ohi Ojo said the request by the Liberian government shows the realisation by Liberia that human capital development is key to national development with its foundation on education.
"That of course shows that Nigeria is recognised as having enough manpower in that regard. That is a good point for Nigeria."
He argued that in the past, the country was known for many bad things, many of which were not really true, adding that it is an opportunity to redeem the country's image and let the world know that Nigeria is full of many good things and people.
He appealed to the Nigerian government to ensure that it is only professional teachers, not those selected on quota basis are sent to Liberia to avoid giving the country a bad name.
"Nigerian teachers that will be sent to Liberia and many other places should attend Nigerian cultural administration course in order to appreciate people and culture so that they can be good ambassadors and represent Nigeria well abroad," Ojo stressed.
The Assistant Chief Communications Officer, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Abuja, Mr. Dayo Jagun commended the sincerity and farsightedness of the elected president of Liberia for realising the importance of education to development, saying that it is a step in the right direction for a country with a chequered history.
He added that the request for 6,000 teachers from Nigeria will hasten the educational development thereby putting Liberia back to the path of human capital development which is crucial to national development.
"Weah's request reaffirms the leadership role of Nigeria in the sub-region. It would be recalled that Nigeria played a role in Liberia's civil war where we contributed both human and material resources for almost 20 years.
"The first civilian to civilian handover from Johnson Sirleaf to Weah is an indication that Liberia is on the path of development and focusing on education will surely bring sustainable development."
A lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, Lagos State University (LASU), Dr. Tunde Akanni said he believes that Nigeria is in a position to help through such schemes like the TAC, adding that it should not be delayed.
"Liberia's request is not misdirected. We should appreciate the speed of diagnosis of the problem by the new Liberian leader and the seriousness attached to finding solution. The Afrocentric focus of the government is also commendable. With this request, it is obvious that Liberia believes that solutions to its challenges could be found from next doors neighbour," he said.
The Director, Centre for Planning Studies, LASU, Professor Ayo Omobayo said it is a welcome development as long as they would be paid a decent wage as expatriates, adding that such earnings would add to the country's fix earning under NI accounting.
"Nigeria may actually be a labour surplus in terms of qualified teachers, there is no need to worry over those going to Liberia. Surplus labour should move by natural course of things from areas of surplus to areas of need."