Adekunle Solomon Olorundare is a Professor of Science and two-term Dean of at the University of Ilorin. Among other leadership responsibilities, he is the current National Chairman of the Committee of Deans of in Nigerian Universities. His academic and professional accomplishments are an eloquent testimony to his erudition.

If Nigerians are worried about the parlous state of our education with complaints that our schools are bad and our institutions produce half-baked or quarter-baked graduates, it is clear that this situation would bother a foremost educationist of Prof. Olorundare’s caliber. His recommendations should therefore be taken seriously, if we are a serious country.

In his well-received inaugural lecture, “Theory into Practice: Beyond Surface Curriculum in Science Education” delivered on Thursday, May 22, 2014, Professor Olorundare dwelled on many issues that appertain to revamping science education specifically, and education at large, in Nigeria.

According to the don, “our teachers are still poorly remunerated and are generally not given a place of respect/ honour by the society. These are obvious reasons behind the poor motivation among the teaching force.” In the light of the quoted observation, a component of Professor Olorundare’s recipe for Nigeria’s ailing education sector is what I deem three R’s for the teachers: remuneration, respect and recognition.

Today, our teachers are poorly remunerated and disrespected; they are accorded no recognition by the society. A parent went to the school of his child the other day in Ilorin and beat up the teacher for “disciplining” his son. For having the guts to intervene, the Principal himself received a thunderous slap. Nothing happened. That’s the type of humiliation the poor teachers of tomorrow’s leaders are subjected to routinely by an unappreciative society.

To turn-around the education sector, first, serious attention has to be given to teacher-remuneration. Professor Olorundare’s recommendation of a special Teachers Salary Scale is therefore urgent for all schools in Nigeria regardless of ownership. A situation where the previous slogan of the Academic Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), “My Take Home Pay Can’t Take Me Home” is the actual condition of our various school teachers does not bode well for our education.

It is now a fad for some entrepreneurial charlatans to establish schools without thinking of how to maintain them. To worsen the situation, there is a large pool of unemployed youth to be exploited. They inflict the frustrated lot on the starry-eyed pupils and offer them beggarly salaries. Many of them are trapped in such schools wasting the lives of the pupils away while parents are deceived with grades.

This partly explains why high failure rates are recorded yearly in our public examinations. There is even a lot of corruption in the system of administering such examinations. Hungry teachers do not always have academic integrity. They are vulnerable to inducement by desperate candidates and their conniving parents.

If teachers are well paid, the pupils will be well taught. But if they are poorly paid as things stand today, the sorry situation will remain the same.

The second R is respect and it is obvious to the blind that teachers are not respected in Nigeria. Everyone makes reference to the achievements of the Chinese but one secret of their greatness appeared last year when Professor Peter Dolton and Dr Oscar Marcenaro-Gutierrez developed the Global Teacher Status Index, a first comprehensive attempt to compare the status of teachers across the world.

According to the Index, as reported in The Guardian of the United Kingdom on October 3, 2013, teachers in China have the greatest respect from their people and it is the only country where people compared teachers closely to doctors. South Korea, Turkey, Egypt and Greece all value their teachers more than other European and Anglo-Saxon countries.

Besides, in the UK, the status of head-teachers is rated highest while Singapore, South Korea, USA, Germany and Japan pay the highest salaries to their teachers. Nigeria did not feature at all!

Closely tied to remuneration and respect is recognition. When are we going to be like China, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt where parents are “most likely to give encouragement to children to become teachers” because of the recognition they enjoy in such countries?

I do not remember attending an occasion where someone is accorded recognition as a school teacher. Yet, you have Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Architects, and so on taught by the same teachers given recognition. Being a teacher is a blessing, Nigerians should not turn it to a crime!

As a result of little or no recognition in the society, some of the best materials for the classroom are not teaching because they cannot live with the ridicule the society directly and indirectly subjects teachers to.

The way out, therefore, out of the crisis bedeviling our education sector is to mind our three R’s for teachers, in the light of Olorundare’s lecture: real remuneration, respect and recognition.

FEEDBACK

Re: Apathy of duty

Good day, Sir. I always enjoy reading your writeups in the New Telegraph because they are always an intellectual masterpiece. I was a typical Igbo trader in the street of Lagos before I decided to go back to school. I was called to the bar in 2009 and I’m presently doing my LLM in UNILAG. I aspire to be a lecturer like you and possibly get my doctorate. Thanks for the inspiration through your writings. Barrister Maduka, Lagos.

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