Recently, an education consulting outfit, Brainford Educational Consult staged a Professional Master Class for teachers and school owners in Lagos. The training which featured several facilitators was aimed at emphasising best practices in the education sector. The organisation’s Head of recruitment and learning development, Mrs. Esther Deji-Irawo at the event shed lights on sundry issues players in the education industry must observe in order to ensure international best practices. According to her, the education sector is dynamic therefore training and re-training must be a regular exercise. DAYO EMMANUEL here reports.
Can you recap your Professional Master Class; why the training and what was the focus?
Brainford Educational Consult decided to have the school Professional Master Class looking at school teachers growing into school leaders. We are looking at the people in the education sector, taking it beyond the classrooms. Classrooms are important, the children are important but to have a holistic view of education, making sure the impart is there, making sure they can make a difference in the society, making sure that their work counts now and the future. So we want to train teachers and those working in the schools, we want to mentor them. We are looking at people in the education sector, taking it to the next level beyond the classrooms.
So, going forward we want to say it is more than a day thing. We are going to have online schools where we would continue coaching and mentoring twice a year. We are looking at having this kind of training on extended level and we also want to engage schools, NGOs that are education focused and we want to see the possibilities beyond Lagos and Nigeria.
Have you identified that some of the teachers today don’t really have business being in the classrooms?
The unemployment in the country in making everybody feel that teaching is the easiest job to get. That is the impression that has been going round over the years. They feel once you a graduate of physics, you can teach physics, it is not necessarily true. It is wrong for those not called to be in the classrooms to be there, they can be administrators but not classroom teachers. The power of teachers in the life of the children is very strong. A teacher can teach a child negative things, it is wrong for someone not trained in education line to be teacher in the classrooms.
Yesteryears we had teacher training colleges where people were trained to be teachers, today those are gone and even Colleges of Education are being relegated. Have you seen the gap this has created?
Yes the gaps are there in the quality of teachers though education is also a university course and people still have the training. We have a lot of teachers in the classrooms who don’t have the attitude, knowledge and passion required for the job. The teacher training institutions were tailored to impart knowledge. People who are not called to be teachers are teaching because there is no employment and they just go for classroom employments. But I can say in the last five years things are getting better. It started from Lagos and it is beginning to spread from Lagos to other states because of programs like this. In the last two or three years, there has been this revolution and it is spreading. More and more teachers are getting out of the classrooms to start consulting and they are reaching out to public schools, private schools, missionary schools, even some teachers have started going to IDP camps. NGO are now involved as well and we are trying to work together.
How do you intend to scale through the hurdles of bureaucracy in the government sectors in reaching out to public schools?
The good news is that recently most policy makers and government officials are embracing this new move; many of them are now more opened. I heard that in Lagos State for instance, policy makers are going for Montesory method. They are copying the good examples. Lagos State for instance is doing well and setting examples.
Policy makers are now going for Montesory training. Trainers are coming to train them we are having in-house training on Montesory and new 21st century methods of education. So there is this open mindedness; different states like Osun, Ekiti, Ogun States are beginning to challenge others to make sure that what is done in states that are getting it are being replicated in other states.
What do you see in the ratio of male to female teachers generally?
It is a thing of individual preferences. Nobody goes for female teachers or male teachers but you find out that over the time men have been seeing teaching as female job, that is why we have more female teachers. Some jobs are regarded as female jobs but now men are coming fast especially in administrative capacity and in secondary schools teaching spaces.
Must the males always be administrators?
No, they are also into classroom teachings now. I think it also depends on strength and abilities. Men want to function where they can function well. If a man feels I don’t know how to take care of a baby but I can talk to a teenager, that man will want to teach the teenagers and leave the babies, that is another factor.
Don’t you think that in some stages especially in primary schools you need a male teacher to assert some things…
Like in the public sector there is a good balance of the male and female teachers compared to the private schools. Private schools employ more of female teachers based on certain considerations like I said the nurturing issues. Parental demand for instance is also a factor. Parents are paying and they (parents) can say they don’t want a man to teach their girls. It may be for many reasons like emulation and role modeling, to avoid sexual molestation. There is a way a man thinks, there is a way a woman thinks, so a school owner may want a female teacher to guide/mentor the girls rather than a man doing that.
What do you think is responsible for child abuse, sexual molestation and sexual harassment in schools today?
That’s a very dicey and tactful issue because issue of sexual harassment is an intrinsic issue. Sexual molestation is not always external. It has to do with emotional issues either with the teachers and the child. It has to do with things that are root causes and foundational challenges. It may be experiences from childhood that have not been solved, for instance weaknesses for sexual appétit. Some time it has to do with values and sometimes it is cultural. When you have a culture where the man feels women are like objects rather than fellow human beings. Perspective, cultural orientation, upbringing is one of the things. Trauma is also a factor. There may be cases of mental situation that have not been noticed that may create problem but because a proprietor may see that a teacher is good on the job and decide to leave him on the job but socially such teacher may be having unresolved challenges. It takes a school going deeper to look into roots, that is why Brainford is involved in recruitment because in the recruitment process we can notice that personality trait, it can be discovered and addressed instead of looking away because someone looks good for the job and that may create future problem.
Sometimes female children that have suffered abuse in the past may also become teachers in future. Like you mentioned ‘unresolved challenges,’ how do you detect some of these things to help teachers in this category who may have some resentment against male colleagues and even male pupils?
That is why school is a holistic sector. We don’t only look at the academic performance; we look at the social aspect, upbringing and so on. We look at value system, discipline, tradition, culture and how they shape people. These are some of the issues we face and deal with during recruitment exercise. Some people have this global view and liberal outlook about life they are of the opinion we should be more liberal. They would say, don’t flog a child, there are other ways, children have rights and all that, while there are others who have the perspective that discipline means I must punish you, break you, you must be obedient. So there are perspectives and it can cause a lot of physiological challenges and cultural orientation. It can make people have certain positive or negative mindset and they can have impact on children eventually.
You recruit for schools, at what point can you say this applicant is not good to teach?
We have a process; we send out adverts, we bring people in for interviews, we conduct tests, micro teaching observations before we advice the schools or recommend on employment.
At what point do you recommend that this applicant is not good for teaching employment?
Based on the qualities and value required, if the teacher’s beliefs and personality do not align with the vision of that school, we may not recommend him or her irrespective of competence and qualifications. If the values, goals and personalities of the applicant do not align with the vision of the school he or she is applying to, we’ll say sorry, you cannot fit in there, may be you can fit into another school.
Are teachers well remunerated in Nigeria?
Generally speaking, teachers in Nigeria are not well remunerated if you want to do a comparison or measurement with their counterparts around the world. Most times teachers are not well remunerated if you want to compare with their counterparts in other countries and that is why we encourage teacher to develop themselves. If they do, they‘ll be highly sought after. Any well sought after teacher can say she wants to be paid N1m. There are teachers in Nigeria that demand that because they are very good.
What is expected of the teacher demanding such huge amount?
The program we had also addressed that. The school that wants to pay you very well has high expectation from you in your knowledge, competence, mental skills, attitude, conduct, composure, etc. Are you socially, emotionally matured? How visionary are you? Do you have the leadership skills? These are some of the factors. How exposed, intelligent, emotionally stable are you? How skillful are you? How accommodating are you? Parents will come with difficult issues, how will you explore them? Are you a problem solver or problem bringer? So these are the issues.