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End teacher shortage, save public education



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The massive teacher shortage is an indictment of the government’s strategic prowess and priority scheduling.

While all the segments of education are enjoying a learner enrolment boom, from primary school to the university level, all are in the grip of a severe staffing crisis that threatens quality.

Primary schools, which have about 10 million pupils, are short of 38,000 teachers while secondary schools, which are grappling with a huge enrolment surge, driven by the government’s campaign to achieve a 100 per cent transition from primary, require more than 58,000 teachers.

This means the basic education segment is beleaguered by a shortfall of 96,345, according to figures from the Teachers Service Commission.

Polytechnics and technical and vocational education training institutions, which hold more than 180,000 trainees, have a shortfall of 5,000 tutors, while universities are preparing to lose more than 4,000 lecturers if the government goes ahead to implement a policy outlawing master’s degree holders from lecturing.

Such a depressing scenario only begs the question: how did we get here? Obviously, the shortages did not occur overnight.

The numbers have risen gradually through natural attrition, but the government has looked on with complete insouciance to the disaster-in-waiting.

Granted, the government is trying to fill the gaps, but the effort is incremental and almost half-hearted.

Meanwhile, the learners are losing out as they are denied a chance to strike individual relationships with their teachers on the back of a healthy teacher-pupil ratio.

The teachers, on the other hand, are burdened with the extra workload, which, in addition to lowering their morale, makes the entire learning process a shambles.

Unless these shortages are plugged urgently, public schools will be turned into institutions of failure.

When that happens, confidence in the public education system will plummet and more elite parents will move their children to private schools, which are fewer and much more expensive, creating a class structure and worsening inequality.

The government cannot hide behind the excuse of budgetary constraints.

Its noble campaign to push more children into schools and colleges must be backed by well-thought out plans to ensure all the other elements of a sound learning system are in place.

The most critical component in the learning process is the teacher. They are the education chief agents, role models, surrogate parents and discipline enforcers.

Thousands of trained teachers are roaming the streets in search of jobs. The government must staff schools adequately and save public education from collapse.

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