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Opinions of Monday, 18 June 2018

Columnist: Okota-Wilson Nicholas

Motivating and retaining teachers in the public basic school

As the government rolled out its flagship Free Senior High School Program, provision was made for teachers’ motivation for the senior high school teachers. The government saw the need to pay attention to the motivational needs of teachers who will be handling senior high school students.

Can this be said of their colleagues in the basic schools where there is also ‘free education’? Most teachers in the basic schools are finding it unsatisfactory (not necessarily of their professional target) to teach there because they are not motivated enough.

Few years after the college of education, young and brainy teachers quickly start programs to get themselves out of the basic schools. Something must be done to retain most of the intelligent teachers at the basic schools in order to enhance and promote quality basic education.

The situation in most public basic schools in the country must be looked at again. Conditions should be created at the public basic school that a teacher will be highly motivated to stay there.

Facilities and materials to enhance teaching and learning are highly inadequate if not provided. Teachers handling subjects like Integrated Science, Basic Design and Technology, Information and Communication Technology find it difficult during practical lessons because there are no labs and workshops for them.

It is only when education is limited to ‘read and reproduce’ that attention will not be given to these facilities. Adequate textbooks are also not provided for most of the subjects. When proper data is collected on the distribution of textbooks in the public basic schools, it will be realised that about six(6) pupils will be using a textbook in a class. It makes the teacher’s work very frustrating.

In such cases, parents are also reluctant to help in getting books to supplement the effort of government because there is free basic education. Teachers will be highly motivated to work if the necessary resources are in place to make the work interesting.

Teachers must be made to enjoy some allowances which will go a long way to relieve them of some financial burdens. For the first five years in the professional life of the newly trained teacher, it should not be something strange for such a teacher to enjoy rent allowance.

Being new in the system, it will help propel the newly trained teacher to be financially sound in order to have the peace of mind to deliver in the classroom. At least it will also cushion the teacher in starting life independently.

Teachers must also enjoy some form of clothing allowance as the work demands they must appear good since students will look up to them as role models. Though one may think without such allowances the teacher suffers no loss, but remember what drops of water will end up to be.

In this age and era where professional development has become very necessary the employer must also take a keen interest in developing and upgrading the competencies of the teachers. It should not be left to teachers alone to take their professional development serious; the one who employed must also add to the effort of the employee.

At least for every vacation, an educational conference can be organized for teachers in a circuit (which should not be a selected few but all) to discuss the term’s work, challenges and ways of handling them, achievements and also update them on new methodologies in place.

The government can facilitate exchange programs where a significant number of teachers from the basic schools will be taken abroad to look at how the system is running there. This can be done yearly for at least a teacher in every circuit.

Administratively, district and regional education directorate must embrace technology in their work. Every district education directorate must use technology in getting, storing and updating records of teachers.

Every sector is going paperless and reducing face to face human encounter; why can’t the educational directorate do same. The public basic school teacher will have to submit their professional document/records to district educational directorate not less than twice in a term.

Sometimes the teacher has to leave the classroom to submit these documents. The stress and financial burden accompanying such movement and exercise sometimes reduce the teacher’s output. Technology will help minimize such exercise and modernize the work of the directorates.

Who should be pushing such agenda? Most teacher unions do not seriously have teachers welfare as their main goal. Most of these leaders of such organizations do not even know what actually happens in the classroom where the teacher is actually working so when such concerns are raised they see it to be strange. Most of them are not proactive.

They wait for government to take an action which has something to do with teachers before they react. Even their divided fronts is a cause to worry. Teacher unions must seek avenues to get the teacher in the classroom motivated. Teacher unions are of teachers so must work for teachers.

The work of the public basic school teacher is not easy looking at the conditions there. This is why the State must do something to motivate and retain teachers there otherwise, the good ones will be leaving the basic school.

Okota-Wilson Nicholas

Centre for Relevant Curriculum Development