There is a general consensus on the urgent need to tackle problems bedeviling the education sector to enable it serve society the way it should in the emergent digital global village. This belief is rooted in the role education plays as a critical tool of social control which informed the insistence by governments the world over that all children of school age must benefit from free primary education. In fact the wife of the Rivers State governor, Dame Judith Amaechi, even went a step further by taking early child education to the rural areas where the majority of the vulnerable kids are.
The goals of primary education are two fold, to lay a solid academic foundation in the pupils and to imbue them with the virtues of honesty, discipline, hardwork and uprightness which are grossly lacking in our students today. Hence the low level of self-confidence among our students which manifests in all manner of examination malpractice.
Thus, to retool primary education, the first step would consist in rebranding the primary school teachers whose responsibility it is to teach the children during their crucial formative years. Besides, the seeds of the evils currently eroding public confidence in our education system could be tackled through a revamped primary school system which benefits are sure to lead the pupils all through their student days.
As such the need to carry primary school teachers along in the scheme of things becomes very imperative. The poor motivation of primary school teachers is a major setback to the education system because of their role in giving the children the much needed moral and academic foundation for their social and academic development.
The recent threat by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) that its members in some states may be forced to go on strike following the non-implementation of their new salary structure should be given the deserved attention, if primary education is to be restored to its past glory.
It is in this context that the recent inauguration of the Schools Monitoring and Supervision Project by the Oyo State government in Ibadan in collaboration with the University of Ibadan, is to be viewed. The project seeks to improve the standard of primary education in Oyo State. Speaking at the event, Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajumobi who described education as the soul of any society, also decried its deteriorating standard which he rightly observed had impacted negatively on the performance of pupils at public examinations. Though the governor blamed the development partly on teachers whom he said adopted lackadaisical attitude toward their work as some indulged in trading to make ends meet, he also acknowledged the role the work environment and other factors play on the responsibility of teachers to their wards.
Therefore, towards tackling the problems facing the primary education sector, the welfare of the teachers in all ramification, timely payment of salaries and other emoluments, promotion, training courses, accommodation and other welfare packages that make the calling worth their while should be taken care of.
This is why, the interest of the Senate in the welfare of teachers is heartwarming as it could ginger slumbering state governments to rise to their full responsibilities to primary school teachers. Lamenting the state of teachers recently, the Senate concluded that they were poorly paid. In his comments at the conclusion of debate on a bill for an Act to establish the Federal Capital Territory College of Education, Buba, Senate President, David Mark said that it was obvious that teachers in the country were poorly remunerated, adding that the problems cut across teachers in primary schools and tertiary institutions. “But the fact remains that I don’t think we are satisfied with the quality of graduates that come out of our institutions. We have to do something about these’ let my people go’ kind of graduates we are producing”, David Mark declared. Nigeria obviously habours a plethora of seemingly of intractable problems some of which require strong political will to tackle. But among them, one that we should not allow to sink to the abyss, though it’s fast going there is the education sector of which Nigeria has the men and materials to turn around. One way of doing this, is by tackling the root cause of the decadence in the education system which has been traced to academic hollowness from primary school years. That primary education is very important informed past government administrations in the country to inaugurate schemes like the Universal Primary Education UPE, the Universal Free Basic Education system with the objective of providing free and compulsory education at the primary school level for Nigerian children. But events which have culminated in the well known falling standard of education in the country could be corrected if primary education is given attention both in infrastructural development and welfare of primary school teachers to make them more committed to their jobs.