On Thursday, September 29, 2011, female teachers in Rivers State under the umbrella of the National Association of Female Teachers (NAFET) in collaboration with the Generational Changers Foundation (GCF), organised a one day seminar in Port Harcourt with the theme: Services To Humanity And Rewards. The event which brought together over 100 female teachers from primary, post primary and post secondary schools in the 23 local government areas of Rivers State articulated the roles of teachers in the transformation agenda of government and the importance of value re-orientation among teachers in national development.
NAFET is an association of professional teachers in Nigeria from primary to tertiary levels. Founded in the year, 2006 by Lady Chikanele Asuru from Rivers State, the association was borne due to the poor level of learning and prevalent moral decadence in the society, especially among children, which has led to high level of examination mal-practices, high school drop-out, kidnapping, cultism, early teenage pregnancy, youth restiveness and other vices.
The role of teachers in the transformation agenda of the present administration can be viewed from the perspective of President Goodluck Jonathan’s vision for Nigeria. For instance, the government’s agenda targets a baseline Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 11.7 per cent per annum over the next four years. This, President Jonathan explains, is to achieve the macro economies indices in massive job creation and establishments of skills acquisitions centres, while at the same time encouraging greater local participation in all sectors of the economy.
As good as this vision might be, it is expected, that the drivers of government transformation agenda must pass through the teachers both in formal and informal settings.
Of course, central to the actualisation of the agenda are men and women whose skills, knowledge competence and commitment will lead to more visible development in all facets of national life.
This reality is not loss on NAFET. It forms the basis of its articulation at the one-day workshop.
One of the guest speakers, Dr Joy Agumagu, emphasised this in her paper titled “The Role of Teachers in the Transformation Agenda”. According to her, “the teacher whose primary responsibility is to help others learn something new through training and teaching, must be ready to stand up and be counted for Nigeria to get to the level envisaged,” adding that the teachers bear a great responsibility, a responsibility to produce the right kind of behavior, skills, not only to create jobs, but also to fill up positions so created.
Noting that teachers and education were inseparable, Dr Agumagu argues that “because teachers are the main tool that advance education, without the teachers, education has no meaning in human development. This is why teachers, as a community, are the primary tools for the actualisation of the transformation agenda of government as they impart knowledge that develop the human resources.”
While identifying the need for greater partnership between the teachers and government, Dr Agumagu said greater collaboration and corporation, as well as understanding was also necessary. She urged government to take the issue of welfare and working conditions of teachers as priority, through better incentives, training and retraining, as well as upgrading education infrastructure across the country.
Similar sentiment was expressed by the National President of NAFET, Lady Chikanele Asuru who said, as key players and agents of change in human development, the gathering was aimed at deliberating on services to humanity with specific focus on value inculcation and re-orientation as platform for the achievement of Jonathan’s transformation agenda and social development.
She charged the female teachers to look critically at the issues and challenges hindering societal progress, such as the orgy of kidnapping, bombing, cultism, child abuse, armed robbery, unemployment, poverty. She stated that the seminar could not have come at a better time than now as it offered them a rare opportunity to brain storm, pray for peace and stability in Nigeria and to re-strategise for a better tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Archt. Oluwagbenga Bamgboye in his own paper presentation: ‘Value Re-Orientation,’ said that value was a principal standard or quality considered worth-while or desirable in an individual. According to him, it was regrettable that Nigerians have focused over the years on negative value systems that promote get-rich-quick syndrome, greed and favouritism.
He suggested approaches to re-orientating these negative value systems, which he said should include emphasis on honesty, respect, good neighbourliness and above all, patriotism. Taking a holistic look at the entire value system, he said Nigerians owe it as a responsibility to think and act positively in order to bring about change in the country.
The charged atmosphere triggered positive reactions from participants. Majority of the female teachers expressed reservations that some of them were still faced with the problem of unemployment. Others lamented that the only way teachers could be heard and counted was for them to come out en mass to put it clear to the government that it is high time they were carried along. They also demanded the amendment of some of the clauses in the 1999 Constitution that compel aspirants to elective positions to resign before contesting elections.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the success of the transformation agenda depends to a very large extent on the total involvement of teachers at the level of manpower training, policy formulation and implementation. With what transpired at the seminar, it is obvious that any attempt to undermine the teachers in the entire scheme portends failure for the implementation of Jonathan’s transformation agenda.
With the synergy of the resources of female teachers as home builders, peace builders, and nation builders, many people believe the achievement of the transformation agenda is achievable in Nigeria while Nigeria’s path to recovery and development in all sectors is assured. And going by the unanimity of opinions that government owes its success of its programmes and policies to teachers, it is expected that government at all levels will consider the place of female teachers in national development by formulating programmes and policies that will address their needs.