Akwa Ibom: Tackling teachers’ deficit in public schools: A Samuel Ufuo’s proposal

Akwa Ibom: Tackling teachers’ deficit in public schools: A Samuel Ufuo’s proposal

Abasifreke Effiong

Student-teacher ratio in public schools in Akwa Ibom State will grow wider towards the left, leaving more students to a teacher by the next academic session.

Enrolment in public schools “will definitely increase” due to the closure of illegal private schools by the State government, Samuel Ufuo, Chairman Committee on Education in the State House of Assembly said.

854 private schools have been marked “illegal” by the government. Some of these schools were shutdown by the State Ministry of Education in the last quarter of 2017.

However, student’s population in the 242 public secondary schools in the state stands at 318,196 to 6879 teachers. This represents a ratio of 46:1 (46 students to one [1] teacher). This outlook is not even across schools. In some cases, mostly in rural-urban centres, student’s population mount upward between 60 -100 per teacher.

A few of such cases will suffice here. Student- teacher population at Comprehensive Secondary School, Ndiya, Nsit Ubium stands at 1200 to 14, representing 85:1. At Adiaha Obong Girls School, Ikot Imo, Nsit Ubium, it is 762 to 11, representing 70:1. At Secondary Commercial School, Ibekwe, Ikot Abasi, the population is 2850 students to 26 teachers, that is, 101:1. Secondary School, Ukam, Mkpat Enin has seven teachers to 700 students.

However, in other schools, the ratio is towards the right. For instance, at Saint Theresa’s Secondary School, Edem Ekpat, Etinan, the population is 525 to 21, representing 25:1. Comprehensive Secondary School, Edeobom 1, Nsit Ibom, has a population of 763 students to 21 teachers, representing 37:1. (Source: Data obtained from schools during monitoring conducted in March 2017 by S.As [Education Monitoring] to the Governor).

Worried by this indices, Samuel Ufuo, member representing Mbo state constituency, last week laid a motion before the House of Assembly seeking a resolution to deploy corps members posted to the state to public schools.

In the motion entitled, “Bridging teaching staff gap in secondary school system of Akwa Ibom State”, Ufuo posited that the state government may have difficulties to immediately tackle teacher’s shortfall in schools owing to “current economic reality”. Therefore, to bridge the gap, “youth corps members serving in the State should be posted to schools to complement manpower shortage”, Ufuo advocated.

Ufuo also prayed the House of Assembly to “direct inter-ministerial direct labour committee to include renovation and building of teacher’s quarters in their programmes to assists in teachers accommodation”. Stakeholders in the education sector say lack of accommodation for teachers within or close to campuses has been a great instigator of absenteeism and lateness.

Every quarter, 2000 plus corps members are posted to the State . A number of them end up in ministries and parastatals where they are hardly given jobs to do, or opportunity to make substantial contribution to the State throughout the service year, albeit the State pays them allowances. Nevertheless, a few corps members are often posted to schools, but reports from head teachers say a few of them have been bad influence on students. This is a concern.

Notwithstanding this concern, it’s commendable that Samuel Ufuo’s motion has roused government’s attention to the impact the closure of illegal nursery/primary and secondary schools will have on the already over-stretched teaching force in the State education sector. Can the Samuel Ufuo’s template cushion the impact of the projected increase in student’s population in public schools in the state and the existing deficits?

Before 2011, there was a dearth of teachers in schools in Enugu State. Frequently, heads of private and public schools wrote to the NYSC requesting corps members in specific disciplines be posted to them. By December 2011, the frequency of such requests prompted Elder Joshua Olowokere, who was then the State Coordinator of NYSC in Enugu to introduce a policy that made it compulsory to post all corps members, except very few to schools, primary schools included.

To motivate performance, Olowokere’s management re-directed the focus of consideration for State and zonal awards on community development projects under the NYSC scheme to projects done in schools.

Akwa Ibom: Tackling teachers' deficit in public schools: A Samuel Ufuo's proposal

That decision stirred healthy competition in community development projects efforts among corps members. It gave them impetus to undertake big projects including construction and renovation of classroom blocks and latrines, re-stocking of libraries, donation of desks and teaching aids to schools. That also gave rise to the formation of many useful social clubs in schools.

As add-on to Olowokere’s initiative, the Enugu State government instituted enticing cash awards for corps members who undertook most outstanding community development projects in schools. The new reward system helped to jumpstart an altogether positive work attitude amongst corps members posted to schools in the State.

Drawing from the Enugu State’s experience, it is safe to encourage the Akwa Ibom State government in line with Samuel Ufuo’s motion to consider deploying corps members posted to the State to schools to complement teachers’ deficit. However, training and monitoring of the corps members must be major considerations on the template.

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