As Nigeria`s situation has continued to deteriorate rapidly, necessarily dragging down with it the state of education, the country has been left too many times to rue how horribly wrong things have gone and reflect on just what might have been were things not so bleak. To ponder on the systemic demise of a country that once promised so much prosperity and progress not just for itself but Africa as a whole has been Nigerians of all classes and different walks of life.
One would think that all those who are educated in Nigeria have had time to reflect on the state of the country and think of solutions. But that has not always been the case. The sobering experience in Nigeria has been that many intellectuals have found their way into the corridors of power, soiled their hands and proceeded to further complicate Nigeria`s delicate situation instead of contributing to finding solutions.
To reflect firsthand on the depth of Nigeria`s bottomless difficulties have been teachers, those humble, poorly remunerated but invaluable men and women who have been saddled with the precious responsibility of teaching generation after generation of Nigerians, forming and shaping Nigeria`s youngest and hoping to stop the cancer eating up the Giant of Africa from the source.
Wherever people are found, teachers who work in schools are also to be found. As education in Nigeria has known abandonment for many years, teachers have borne unblinking witness.
When broken chairs and desks have been taken one after the other out of classrooms leaving haunting spaces behind, teachers have been there to take count. When windows and doors have been torn of classrooms by age and poor maintenance, teachers have been there to see it all. When school buildings have fallen into disrepair, teachers have been at hand to take their students out, to the shades of trees where with the defiance that only education can forge, they have insisted that learning must continue.
Even when they go for months without their salaries, bearing the brunt of hunger and hardship to continue their works, it has been with the resilience and dignity that only education can forge.
Tombs for teachers.
Since the deadly terrorist group Boko Haram mustered its feet and marched against Nigeria`s northeast in 2009, that region has become a war zone. Talking up a grudge against western education, the group immediately showed that its venom was deadliest when its fangs were sunk into teachers, students and schools.
Indeed, for many years, its business of death and destruction was especially brisk and brusque when it involved teachers students and schools. Because it was striking with deadly ferocity at the heart of families, the education of many children was soon disrupted. But it remained insatiable.
Even when many schools were burnt to the ground to prevent any normalcy from immediately returning, the criminals were not done. Thus, when in 2014, hundreds of girls who were taking their final examinations were abducted from a Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, the message rang out clearly that the terrorist sect was more than ever determined to see to the demise of western education.
Teachers have not been spared in these attacks. Many of them have been killed. The number is simply numbing. According to the Registrar/ Chief Executive of Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria(TRCN),Professor Josiah Ajiboye, attacks on schools by insurgents in he North-east of the country between 2009 and 2022 claimed about 2,295 teachers.
According to him, in that time, about 19,000 other teachers were displaced while over 910 schools were destroyed. 1,500 schools were also forced to close with about 600,000 children losing access to education.
It is clear that going forward, the protection of teachers must take preeminence in Nigeria. They are national treasures and unlike many other professionals in Nigeria, teachers are no treasure hunters. What they contribute to development of the country can never be properly quantified. They deserve to protected by all means.
Protecting teachers must be considered a national priority because without them, education will be ground to a halt and Nigeria will stand no chance of facing a future that is better than its present.