COMMENTARY: Teacher Development Needs Assessment: A Path To A Glorious Future

June 15, 2012

In 2008, I attended the christening of a baby in a church owned by the husband of my secondary school English teacher. I was happy to see her again! Very intelligent woman! The time came for her to deliver the sermon and she mounted the pulpit. I checked my ears time and time again to be sure the words I was hearing were actually coming from her. How could my cherished English teacher sound like this? Then I realised that she had been like that all along. I also discovered that that was why many of my friends from the same secondary school still battle to get the Ekiti accent out of their spoken English. This woman is responsible for it all! The heavily accented English language and the uncoordinated English sentences that had become the trademark of most of the students who attended the same secondary school as I.

Being our English teacher, not knowing any better, we looked up to her as the shining example who spoke the perfect Queen’s English. Her words became our words. Her pronunciation became our pronunciation. Years later, it turned out we were wrong and that she had only succeeded in handing down to us a blighted English language. My saving grace was because I went on to the University to study English and Literary Studies and I also gave myself to serious self-education. Not many of my friends had this chance, more reason some of them still consider our teacher a shining example today.

Would I put my child under the tutelage of such a teacher today? No! Do I consider her competent enough to impart meaningfully the lives of the students under her? No! Unfortunately, what I think does not matter in this case because our schools are populated by teachers like this and for some time now they have been ingraining the brains of students with behind-the-times and non-existent English words, probably coined out of their imagination. If ‘stood’ is what one’s teacher calls ‘stool’, unlike a child who has educated parents who could instruct him otherwise, who instructs the child of un-lettered parents?

This is where government should come in as the hope of such kids, ensuring that teachers are exposed to up-to-date teaching methods and the teachers should be made to write tests which would let the appropriate regulatory body discern their professional fitness and areas to be  improved upon. Only this way would the future of the Nigerian child and the future of Nigeria be salvaged.

It beats me, however, why teachers in the employ of Ekiti State Government have done all in their power to resist efforts by the government to conduct this kind of test, the Teacher Development Needs Assessment. I have watched how the whole process has been distastefully reduced to politics. Some have even tagged the Governor ‘General Fayemi’ who rules by decrees. My question is, what is the decree in this situation? Perhaps the issues should be straightened out.

Under the labour law, the employee has his rights just as the employer has his own rights. An employer may decide to conduct interview or test to ascertain the competence of his employees; that is still within his province and rights. Should the employee abstain from such tests, it is another way of saying he is tired of the job and should he be fired, not even the Industrial Court would save him. In this case, Ekiti State Government is the employer and it is not outside of its rights to conduct tests for the teachers which are its employees. It is not outside its rights to seek to improve the quality of education by making the teachers, most of whom have lost sight of their calling, more productive. If their intentions are good, if the teachers do not see the lives of the kids who are entrusted to them as a poker game, if they do not want a Nigeria peopled by mediocres and lettered incompetents, then I feel they should support this noble idea to take our kids away from the pedestrian education currently being doled out to them to a glorious future where education is a weapon of liberation.

A situation where teachers know next to nothing about computer and the internet in this 21st century cannot take us to that glorious future. As the drivers of this dream, the teachers must be armed with the necessary driving skills to ensure that our train of development does not crash mid-way. We have crashed severally in this country. Ekiti, as the home of education, cannot afford to crash again.

It is true that some of these teachers have been doing the job for years, but times have changed and are still changing. We cannot afford to keep recycling ignorance. If the children of the poor must measure up to their rich counterparts who are put in good schools, those who impart knowledge to them must be effective, competent and up-to-date. No sane person would let an incompent surgeon perform surgery on him, but our society has for a long time looked away while a lot of incompetent teachers do almost the same on the brains of our youngsters. In a way, whatever these teachers teach them shape their lives and future. If it is crass, then these kids have crass to deal with all their lives. Most disheartening of all, most parents no longer bother about what their kids are taught or how they are taught. Everyone seems to be chasing money, leaving to suffer the most important of all achievements – thourough-bred kids!

As for the politicians who have lashed on to the TDNA to run down the Kayode Fayemi administration, we all know that in Nigerian politics, most times good reasoning gives in to pedestrian arguments because of the insatiable thirst for power, the power that has for years not been used to benefit their people. Kayode Fayemi is the Governor of Ekiti State now; if it is part of his agenda to restore sanity and efficiency to the education sector, the teachers just have to fall in line. As long as they are in the employ of the State Government, they have to work in tandem with the focus and target of the government, as long as it does not in any way harm their well-being.

Fears in the teachers’ camp are that they would be sacked if they fail the Teacher Development Needs Assessment (TDNA) test. Well, if the Fayemi administration is sincere about repositioning the education sector, it shouldn’t be about the sack of teachers because in the first instance the teachers didn’t bring themselves to this present situation. It is as a result of many years of neglect of the education sector and lack of due attention to teachers’ training. The government has assured the Ekiti teachers that no one would lose his job; it should live up to this promise. Rather than sack any teacher deemed incompetent after the TDNA test, the Fayemi government, as it has promised, should embark on massive training and re-training of the teachers. It should expose them to modern trends. Should any teacher afterwards prove un-trainable, the government can then redeploy such to other sectors where they could prove useful. As is commonly believed by some, teachers are born. Not everyone can be a teacher. There is a need to separate the ones who became teachers out of frustration due to the prevailing unemployment situation in the country from those who really have passion for the job. Failing to do so, our children, rather than being given sound education, would be taught how to peel melon and sell buns for such teachers who have turned the schools into a market-place.


‘Dimeji Daniels writes from Ado in Ekiti State

Thia article was first published in Sahara Reporters on June 3, 2012.

Last modified: June 15, 2012

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