Teacher shortage hits Enugu public schools

Despite the noble roles that teachers play in shaping the future of generations and serving as the bedrock of any modern society, public schools in Enugu State find themselves grappling with a dire need for more educators. This pressing issue, which has far-reaching implications for the quality of education and the academic prospects of countless students, underscores the urgent need for intervention and support within the state’s education system. DAMIAN DURUIHEOMA reports.

Enugu State’s public schools are facing a dire crisis: a severe shortage of teachers.

This pressing issue stems from a combination of factors, including the non-recruitment of new teachers and the retirement of a significant number of educators across the state. 

Compounding the problem is the dwindling availability of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, who traditionally helped bridge the gap in staffing.

A critical contributing factor to the scarcity of NYSC corps members is the lack of suitable accommodation for those serving in urban areas. 

As a result, many corps members are unwilling or unable to accept placements in Enugu State’s rural regions, exacerbating the staffing shortage in these areas. 

Furthermore, the prevailing insecurity in rural communities dissuades many corps members from accepting postings to these locations, further exacerbating the issue.

This confluence of challenges has left Enugu State’s public schools grappling with a significant shortfall in teaching staff, jeopardising the quality of education and the academic prospects of countless students.

Amid the backdrop of soaring expenses associated with private or mission schools in Enugu State, a notable trend has emerged: a resurgence of faith in public education, particularly among parents in urban areas. 

Our correspondent has discovered that this newfound trust in public schools is reflected in the remarkable enrollment figures witnessed across various government-run primary and secondary institutions in the state. 

In areas like Ogui New Layout, where six government secondary schools and numerous primary schools are situated, each educational institution accommodates a substantial student body ranging from 800 to 1200 pupils. 

This surge in enrollment underscores the growing preference for public education, as parents seek viable alternatives to costly private or mission schools.

The phenomenon is even more pronounced in rural communities, where public schools serve as the primary source of education for the majority of children within each locality.

Despite the challenges facing the public education system, including staffing shortages and infrastructural deficits, parents are placing their trust in government-run schools, recognising them as accessible and inclusive institutions capable of providing quality education for their children. 

This shift in perception highlights the resilience of public education in Enugu State and underscores the vital role it plays in shaping the academic future of countless students across the region.

The heart of the problem

During our correspondent’s visit to several schools in Enugu, a concerning observation was made regarding the shortage of teachers in critical subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Agricultural Science, Biology, Computer Studies, Igbo Language, and Home Economics, among others. 

While students acknowledged the quality of teaching provided by the available educators, it was evident that many schools struggled to fill vacancies in these core subject areas. 

In instances where schools managed to secure teachers for these subjects, the workload proved overwhelming, with a single educator tasked with teaching multiple classes ranging from six to eight.

Consequently, the teacher-student ratio soared to alarming levels, far surpassing the capacity for effective monitoring and instruction due to the acute shortage of qualified teachers within the system.

This concerning trend not only highlights the persistent challenges facing Enugu State’s public education sector but also underscores the urgent need for intervention to address staffing deficiencies in critical subject areas. 

Without adequate support and resources, the educational experience of students remains compromised, jeopardising their academic outcomes and future prospects.

Efforts must be intensified to recruit and retain qualified teachers in key subject areas, ensuring equitable access to quality education for all students across the state, analysts advised. 

“Yes. That’s what we are facing right now,” a teacher at City Girls Secondary School Ogui New Layout, Enugu, told our correspondent. 

“We are suffering this too much in our school here in terms of shortage of teachers. It is one of the challenges we have. 

“We don’t have enough teachers. We are lacking teachers mostly in all the subjects, especially the core subjects.

“Any child that is going to do science now is in trouble because we are lacking Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Agriculture, Basic Science, Basic Technology. 

“I teach at least seven classes because I’m the only teacher in my subject. This is a school that has about 1200 students. 

“Each level has between four to six classes of 40 students each. But with few teachers. The teachers we have in those areas have all retired and the government does not seem concerned about it,” she lamented.

A principal in another school in the state, who preferred anonymity, corroborated the information, saying: “The truth is that they (teachers) are nowhere to be found. Like in my school here. I have just one science teacher and a resource teacher. 

“Igbo teachers are nowhere to be found. Even the corps members that came, none of them studied Igbo. This lack of teachers is a general problem, not just in this school. 

“My appeal to the government is to help and start recruiting teachers, especially in English, Mathematics, Sciences and Igbo language. 

“Our students here no longer write Igbo exams because we don’t have Igbo teachers. It is as bad as that but it’s happening here in a core Igbo-speaking state.”

Our correspondent noted a proactive response from some institutions, particularly primary schools, which have taken matters into their own hands by hiring temporary educators. 

This grassroots initiative has seen schools levy parents and guardians fees ranging from N500 to N1000, enabling them to recruit willing teachers who assist in alleviating the workload burden. 

These temporary teachers, though not formally trained or certified, play a crucial role in addressing staffing gaps and ensuring that students receive adequate instruction in core subjects. 

While this approach underscores the resilience and resourcefulness of school administrators in the face of adversity, it also highlights the desperate measures taken to mitigate the effects of teacher shortages on the quality of education provided. 

However, while this interim solution may provide temporary relief, it is imperative that long-term strategies be implemented to address the systemic challenges facing Enugu’s education system.

“It’s been over two years since we started complaining about the shortage of teachers. When help was not forthcoming, we discussed it with parents and guardians, and they agreed to pay N500 per term. 

“In my school here, we hired four temporary teachers to assist us and we pay each teacher N30,000 because we have about 600 pupils from nursery to primary six. 

“So, each term we raise over 200,000 because not all parents pay the money. With this, we have been able to fill the gap,” a headmistress of one of the primary schools in the state told our correspondent.

She, however, lamented that some of the ad hoc teachers usually leave the school without notice in search of greener pastures elsewhere.

“This usually hampers teaching and learning in the school here because, by the time you get a new ad hoc teacher, it would be more than two weeks. That means that the pupils in most cases, would remain without teachers. 

“So, I implore the government to help us to help our future leaders. 

“One thing I have noticed is that a lot of our graduates are willing to take up teaching jobs. 

“But the fact that the government does not want to employ new teachers makes our case more pathetic,” she said. 

A teacher in Obiagu Primary School, Ogui, Enugu, who wished to be anonymous lamented that the situation had led to them having Nursery 1, 2, 3 and Primary 1 in one classroom, primary 2 and 3 in the same classroom while primaries 4, 5 and 6 have different classrooms. 

“We used to have ad hoc teachers. But because what is paid to them is hardly enough, most of them leave us to take up some other jobs. 

“So, what we do when we don’t have ad-hoc teachers is to combine the classes. But, it’s really frustrating. 

“It doesn’t give anyone joy to teach because of the way the government treats teachers, particularly, primary school teachers. 

“They don’t pay us well and refused to acknowledge us as workers due for the N30,000 minimum wage. It’s really frustrating,” she said.

NUT Chairman speaks

The chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nweke Theophilus, neither corroborated nor denied the existence of the problem. 

He told our correspondent in a chat: “I must have to observe that the topic you are dealing with is not a general one but with particular reference to Enugu State public or government schools. 

“Therefore, you need to visit at least three (3) sample schools in the state, see by yourself and interact directly with the teachers. 

“Moreover, there are both primary and secondary or post-primary schools in the state. Again, some schools are rural, some are semi-urban and some are urban.

“Your visit to a few schools will help you ascertain whether there is a shortage of teachers in Enugu government/public schools. It is only after this that you can start talking about their effects on teaching and learning. 

“I suggest we should not imagine as the topic is a practical one. 

“However, it is good to let you know that if there is a shortage of teachers and poor infrastructure in our schools, (1) if such is obtained, teaching will be difficult and ineffective because the few teachers will have a greater workload; (2) if there is such, the students/pupils will not learn effectively because there is not enough teachers to help them learn.”

Enugu’s 2024 budget on education

Governor Peter Mbah had budgeted N134.5 billion for the education sector in the 2024 budget, titled, “Budget of Disruptive Economic Growth.” 

This represents about 33 per cent of the N521.5bn total budget for the year 2024.

The governor had explained that the educational sector received increased budgeting as a result of his administration’s plan to revive education in the state. 

“In line with our commitment to reinventing our education system in Enugu State, we are constructing 260 smart modern schools across the 260 wards in the state which will be among the best in the country,” he stated during the presentation of the budget estimate at the floor if the state house of assembly in December 2023.

“This is why we have designed and are implementing a most revolutionary strategy to revamp the current educational system. 

“This revamp will be extensive and exhaustive, ranging from the basic schools through secondary to tertiary institutions like ESUT. 

“There will be changes not only in the curricula but also in the models for delivering knowledge in our educational institutions. 

“The most radical change will take place in our basic schools where our children spend the first nine years schooling,” he had said.

However, efforts to know the position of the state government on the situation were unsuccessful as the Commissioner for Education, Mr. Ndubueze Mbah, refused to respond to inquiries from our correspondent.

Mbah had, in a telephone chat, told our correspondent to send him questions via WhatsApp to respond to. 

But more than 24 hours after the inquiries were sent to him, he did not respond.

Credit: The Nation


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