Dearth of teachers hits Oyo schools

•We’re reviewing schools’ data on running grants, PTA teachers —Govt

PUBLIC schools in Oyo State are generally grappling with an acute shortage of teachers, much to the discomfort of parents, students and other stakeholders.

While the shortage of teachers itself is not really a new development, especially in key subjects like English language, mathematics and other science subjects, Tribune Education can reliably report that the situation got worse as an unintended consequence of the current administration’s free education policy.

Teachers in the state’s schools had had to be overworked to make up for the shortfall in subject teachers. Most schools depended on the services of PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) teachers and fresh graduates posted to the schools to observe their national youth service – who are almost in all cases not even trained to teach the subjects they are given.

However, when in his commitment to make education free in the state, Governor Seyi Makinde announced the abolition of all forms of fees in the state’s schools, that policy also took away the ability of the schools to pay these PTA teachers.

Use of PTA teachers was an internal arrangement by schools’ Parent Teacher Associations, and they were paid from the pool of fund generated through the N3,000 levy imposed on students.

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As if that was not enough, 2,000 primary and secondary school teachers were said to have been retired at the end of September and these have not been replaced yet.

So, due to overwork, the few government teachers (or Education Officers) are fatigued, while the youth corps members who were taken as adjunct teachers are not committed to the work.

For example, at the Oladipo Alayande School of Science, Oke-Bola, Ibadan (a flagship science school in the state), there were 29 PTA teachers engaged to teach, according to a ‘PTA Staff List’ obtained from the Ministry of Science and Technology; 18 Education Officers (four of them handle only administrative duties) and 12 youth corps members.

More specifically, in the whole school, there is only one Mathematics/Further Mathematics teacher; two English Language teachers (one has even now been transferred), one Physics teacher, one Biology teacher and one Chemistry teacher. There is currently no teacher for Geography, Computer Studies and Technical Drawing.

It is noteworthy to state that in SS1 and SS2 alone, the number of students is 820.

Understandably, parents have been lamenting, and in desperation, Tribune Education gathered, parents have started levying themselves again to pay PTA teachers.

But the situation is by no means peculiar to the Oladipo Alayande School of Science, and the Nigeria Union of Teachers in the state has weighed in by appealing to the governor to release running grants to schools so as to solve some of these problems.

The chairman of the union, Mr Samson Adedoyin, in an interaction with Tribune Education, noted that several schools currently rely on N-Power beneficiaries and corps members to teach, even as teachers employed by the PTAs are asking to be converted into government teachers.

While he acknowledged and commended Governor Makinde’s desire to give attention to the education sector, Adedoyin urged the government to consider engaging trained teachers to achieve desired results.

Adedoyin said: “We have shortage of teachers in our schools. By the end of last month, more than 2,000 teachers, both in primary and secondary schools, retired from active service. And that has been the occurrence every year, without replacement.

“Most of our schools don’t have trained teachers. Most of those you find there are N-Power and corps members who are not trained in the art of teaching.

“We have appealed to the governor to do something about it. Some schools don’t have more than six teachers where we should have a minimum of 18 teachers.”

The NUT chief also called for the quick release of running grants, noting that schools had been running on leftover funds from the immediate past administration.

Chairman, Parent-Teacher Association in Oyo State, Mr Oloruntoki Abayomi, expressed conviction that the state government would convert PTA teachers into government teachers.

“Government has promised to employ the PTA teachers. We have to wait on them. The government will not let us down. Some have been there for between seven and 10 years.

“Government has given pupils textbooks and writing materials; we also expect them to attend to the issue of teachers. Those PTA teachers are being paid by PTA of various schools, but we want government to employ them,” Oloruntoki said.

Addressing the issues, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr Taiwo Adisa, gave the assurance that the wait for the conversion of PTA teachers into government teachers and payment of running grant to schools would soon be over.

He told Tribune Education that the state government was conducting a review of the statistics submitted by schools before releasing funds or employing the PTA teachers.

Adisa said the state government was worried by the increase in the wage bill by N1 billion between March and May, and was checking its staff number before embarking on employment.

While calling for the cooperation of schools in the provision of accurate data, he said the state government would release running grants once it had finished crosschecking data submitted by schools.

Adisa said: “Statistics shows that between March 10 and May 28, that is, between the time Seyi Makinde was announced as governor-elect and before he was sworn in, the wage bill jumped by as much as N1 billion and government has to get to the root of it.

“Government will do the review, and when we get to the root of the matter, the civil service and TESCOM [Teaching Service Commission] can then declare vacancies. The wait of the PTA teachers will not be long, but we urge them to continue to do what they are doing well by ensuring they teach the students and achieve good results, especially in public examinations.

“The Makinde government increased the allocation to education from three per cent to 10 per cent, and has said that from 2020, it will be 12 per cent. The huge gap is to take care of the issue of funding schools and to make sure they are at par with their counterparts in other states.

“The state is committed to making sure that running grants to schools are made available, at the level of budgeting. What is needed is the cooperation of principals, heads of schools to supply relevant data and the government will no longer delay in releasing the running grants.”