Celebrating the Nigerian teacher

During the recent launch of a book titled My Teacher, My Hero, authored by Mrs Claris Ujam, the Nigerian teacher was highly celebrated as a strong metaphor for the nation’s transformation. AUGUSTINE OKEZIE takes a look at the heroic efforts of the classroom teacher as well as the challenges he always faces

At the book launch the Education Minister Ibrahim Shekarau described My Teacher! My Hero, as a welcome addition to today’s educational resource materials and credible reflection of the author’s commitment to the read Campaign project of the Federal Ministry of Education
He said ‘the book is written in a language that makes it easy to read. The large prints also help to promote and sustain appetite in reading the interesting work. This addition to the reading library is likely to be a boost to the Federal Governments “Read Campaign” and the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’’.
The minister further lauded the priority attached to teacher education as reflected in the book, arguing that it ensures a new strategy for the development of the education sector under the four-year development strategy for the sector and in line with the transformation Agenda.
Shekarau further insisted that the ability of our present Education system to meet the transformation agenda’s objectives depends largely on the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers. Adding that the Ministry in collaboration with relevant agencies like the National Teachers Institute (NTI), National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), and National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) have jointly developed a roadmap approach to the training and retraining of Teachers at various levels.
A renowned teacher, Mrs. Caroline Udenyi described the book as a voice of admiration and an acceptance coming out of the reflective minds of those whose lives have been touched by teachers.
She further argued that Most of the stories told have secondary schools settings and thus betrayed the discipline and passion of the writer. The use of first person singular also shows that some of the experiences narrated were born from her dealing with her students and observations of other teachers in action.
She said “MY TEACHER!, MY HERO” is penned down in story form to vividly present practical ways teachers help to build and mold lives. It exposes the attributes, virtues and the influence of teachers in the lives of their students and it contains exciting quotes, poems and letters to teachers’’.
“Reading through may help you recall some of your experiences going through secondary schools and the teachers that have made great and  life changing impact in your lives.’’
“It also tells how experience with students help to shape teachers into whom they ought to be’’.
The executive secretary of national commission for colleges of Education, Profe. Muhammed Junaidu, who himself was a retired teacher said the book reminds Nigerians not to take the good acts of teachers for granted and that it shows the fact that teachers have life transforming stories to tell.
He said ’’The author made a great attempt to educate the reader on whom a teacher really is. The book brings out the nobility and dignity of the teaching profession. It also zooms in on the challenges faced by the profession and how they affect our national development. The roles of teachers as life molders who polish and position the young minds to better handle and tackle the challenges of life were equally echoed in the book’’
The book is indeed about the many facets of teachers’ lives and how their behavior has inspired hope, peace, and given a bright future to our children.
Several dignitaries who attended the launching said it will encourage upcoming teachers to value the teaching profession, and that It will also assist in building the trust of parents in teachers in a way that will make them leave their children in their hands.
“For the students it will help them open up to teachers for help, encouragement and also see them as role models and mentors.
The book will also help the government officials to appreciate other valuable contributions by teachers to the development of the nation through their sacrifices, and the quality of their products’’
The general impression especially amongst the students’ population is that Nigerian teachers are the most dedicated bloc in the nations’ work force. They don’t sit around in air conditioned offices to gossip nor do they sign out billions with the stroke of the pen. They are always there every day at 8.00am at the school. They take their classes and prepare lesson notes. Periodically they play hosts to inspectors who come to nose around to make sure they are doing their jobs. They mark and grade heaps of notes and test scripts and see to the all- round development of the children. Most times, parents hand over impossible kids to them and they bear the cross diligently.
In addition to all these, their offices hardly have decent furniture, the number of students per teacher is just too much and of course they live constantly in the danger of all forms of attacks by their students.
What  an average Nigerian teacher demand today demand is a modest pay rise and an improved condition of services. We’ve witnessed the Doctors, nurses, petroleum workers, University lecturers, etc demand for various obnoxious allowances on several occasions in the past. Now that our humble long suffering teachers are asking, why should they be so ignored?
The way government has treat teachers’ demand so far tells the tale of a government that does not in any way care about the future of her youths and by extension not sensitive in any to the needs of her people. The situation in Benue state where we have witnessed protracted teachers’ strike caused by the insensitivity of governor Suswam presents a glaring example of how not to treat teachers. The governments appear unperturbed because they are not affected as their children are in choice school within and outside the country. Little wonder the first thing they often do rather than addressing issues raised by the teachers was to issue a warning to the NUT [Nigeria Union of Teachers] not to carry out her threat of picketing private schools. But should we leave our teachers to go through this alone?
if we all keep quiet and the teachers lose their battle, we shall turn out partakers in the pains administered to teachers by the governments and thus shall have a share in the responsibility of a continuously regressive Nigeria that cannot produce man power, skilled enough to keep up with the dynamics of a changing world, because an angry teacher surely cannot teach.