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Nigeria: Our Teachers need to get more training, Says Educationist

Dr Aminu Ladan Sharehu Director General of National Teachers Institute (NTI) in Nigeria. In this interview with Daily Trust, he spoke on the institute’s degree programme .:

The NTI has been in existence for more than three decades. What has it contributed to the education sector and what would you say are the challenges facing the institute?

The contributions of NTI to the education sector of the country are enormous. The institute has done pretty well in producing teachers at primary and secondary school levels.

One of the major challenges facing the NTI is the need to ensure quality of our activities. That was what has made me to come up with what I called five-point agenda when I assumed duty as the Director General of the institute.

The purpose of the agenda is to look at the problems facing the institute and see how we can address them, especially the issue of quality of our training programmes. We are addressing them now and we are really seeing positive results.

How is the institute addressing the issue of quality of its training programmes?

The first item on our five-point agenda is enhancement of the quality of programmes in the institute. We have actually put a number of measures to improve the quality of these programmes.

For instance, we instituted a number of additional monitoring and assessment measures. We now engaged the services of what we called Quality Assurance Assessors. This is a group of people who are highly experienced in the area of education who are engaged to go round to assess the quality of what we do and write report and bring to us. And we use these reports to improve on the quality of the programme that we will implement in the future.

We also introduced a system whereby the Governing Council of the institute and the Ministry of Education are involved in monitoring the programme we conduct in the institute. That is also another way of ensuring quality of our programmes so that people will practically see what we are doing and tell us where we are doing well so that we can improve on them and where we are lacking so that we can address the problem areas.

We also looked at the areas where we were lacking in our manuals which we distribute to the students. We have addressed a number of areas where we noticed some problems. The institute has also gone into the areas of assessing the needs of the teachers and carried out evaluation exercise on how our training programmes impacted on the teachers.

NTI’s primary responsibility is to train teachers for the country. Recently the Education Minister said that half of Nigerian teachers are not qualified. Don’t you see that as an indictment?

The NTI has taken bold measures to address this problem. First is the step taken to improve on what we called the Continuing Professional Development of teachers across the country. This is one area that is aimed at improving the quality of our teachers. It is the kind of programme that is being conducted in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and we often seize this opportunity at all times to call on state governments to partner with us so that we can improve the quality of our teachers.

If all state governments cooperate with us in the Continuing Professional Development of teachers exercise, I believe in the next few years to come you will notice some dramatic positive changes in our teachers. Their cooperation is necessary in this regard because once teachers’ knowledge is not updated on the modern skills of teaching, there is no way you will ensure quality.

Another area we are looking into is to upgrade the qualification of teachers. Teachers’ qualification needs to be upgraded from one level of education to another. Just like a worker stagnates in an office so also a teacher stagnates once his or her knowledge is not improved.

For instance, if our teachers remain with Grade II or NCE certificates, certainly there is no way you can ensure quality. There should be a way in which to support those that have Grade II to update their knowledge to have NCE certificate. In fact, not just for them to have the certificates but for the education to go through them and not them to go through the education.

Again, those who have the NCE certificates should be encouraged to have Bachelor of Education degrees and even Masters and PhD degrees. There is nothing wrong in having a number of our teachers in primary and secondary schools with Masters and PhD degrees. In fact, these are the kind of qualifications Nigeria need for its teachers in primary and post-primary schools to ensure sound and quality education for the citizenry.

Therefore, the National Teachers Institute needs to be supported by governments and all stakeholders in the education sector so that we can have quality teachers with Masters and PhD degrees in primary and secondary schools in the country.

The institute was asked to halt its degree programme by the Education Minister and reposition for efficiency. Was it a sign of failure or that the institute is not living to its mandate?

I think what motivated the Education Minister to say we should halt the introduction of our degree programmes is for us to improve the quality of what we are doing, especially the NCE certificates we are awarding.

She didn’t say we should abandon it completely, but that we should halt the degree programme until when we go a little bit further on the repositioning exercise we are currently doing. Later on we can look into the introduction of the degree programme. That is what she said and I quite agree with her.

How many teachers has the NTI produced since its establishment and how many are you looking at in the next two to three years?

The National Teachers Institute actually started producing teachers in 1976, when it was established. Since that time, the institute has been producing a number of teachers in different levels. That is certification of teachers at Grade II level when it started and later on the introduction of National Certificate in Education and certification of Post-graduate Diploma students in education.

Some of the students currently doing this programme have Masters and even PhD and professors who are teachers in universities, polytechnics and other tertiary institutions but do not have the professional teaching skills or good teaching certificate. They enrolled into our programme so that they can be drilled to acquire the basic professional teaching qualification.

We also have Advanced Diploma in Education, which produces teachers in specialized areas like Guidance and Counselling, School Supervision and a number of specialized areas in education. The qualification for you to be admitted into the Post-graduate Diploma is first degree and above.

There is a specialized programme that we are about to commence and it is tagged “Strengthening Mathematics and Science Education Teachers in Nigeria.” It is a specialized programme that is intended to train all mathematics and science education teachers in the country. It is a big programme for the institute.

The institute is also collaborating with a number of international organizations like National Open University of UK, the Commonwealth of Learning and so on. We collaborate with them to produce our academic programmes, especially the training manuals which are unique.

Our training manuals are unique in the sense that it is a collection of experiences of a number of African countries. There is no university, polytechnic or any tertiary institutions in this country that you can find this kind of rich manuals.