By Olusola Adeoye
President Muhammadu Buhari disclosed on Tuesday that the Federal Government is ready to engage more qualified teachers to increase the teacher-to-pupil ratio in the country.
He disclosed this when he held an audience with the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) at the presidential villa, Abuja.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President acknowledged that Nigeria had a deficit of teachers, a problem he said his administration was addressing through the N-Power Teach Volunteers scheme under National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).
“We have created a dedicated platform under the National Social Investment Programme called N-Power Teach, which engages qualified graduates to man the gaps of basic education delivery in Nigeria,” he stated.
“These N-Power Teach Volunteers are deployed as teacher assistants in primary schools across Nigeria to support existing teachers.
“The aim of this, and many other Government programmes, is to increase the teacher-student ratio at the primary school level thereby enhancing the quality of students moving to secondary schools.
“I want to take this opportunity to ask all members of Nigeria Union of Teachers to support these programmes and encourage as many qualified and willing graduates to enrol in the teaching profession.”
The President, who described teaching as one of the noblest of professions, told the delegation led by the union’s National President, Nasir Idris, that: “It shapes the character, calibre and future of individuals and nations. You and I were all taught by teachers who moulded our persons and influenced our future. No price is too high for good rewards.”
The President used the occasion to pay tribute to teachers, noting that they have been at the forefront of cultivating young minds to be innovative and inventive.
“Today, we live in a dynamic world where science and technology drives innovations that virtually touch every aspect of our lives.
“The foundations of today’s changes can be attributed to teachers who, decades ago, in one way or another, shaped the minds of young men and women who eventually grew to become global innovators and inventors from whose works we are benefiting today.
“Nigerians, both at home and abroad, are part of this global breed of impactful change agents.
“Almost everyday, Nigerians are inventing new products or improving existing ones. It is, therefore, our collective duty to continue to encourage and cultivate these minds, by increasing resources available for research and development and improving work environment,” he said.
In his remarks, Dr Idris commended the Buhari administration’s strides in the education sector.
He said teachers in the country’s primary and post-primary schools identify with the giant strides of the Buhari administration, including;
“Gigantic gains in the anti-corruption crusade, technical defeat of Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, restoration of teaching and learning in the schools of the North-East geo-political zone that were affected by insurgency, securing the release of Dapchi schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents.”
The union leader also praised the Buhari government for sustaining the National School Feeding Programme, establishing the National Secondary Schools Commission to regulate secondary education and the proposed establishment of six federal colleges of education across the geo-political zones of the country.
Presenting some pressing challenges of the teachers to the President, the NUT leader appealed for presidential assent to the Bill on Teachers Retirement Age, and the Teachers Special Salary Structure (TSSS), among others.
According to Idris, the Teachers Retirement Age, when signed into law, will improve teacher-to-pupil ratio in the country, improve teachers retention rate in public primary and secondary schools and “revolutionise and strengthen the profession for the wellbeing of the nation’s schools.”