How can teachers improve their lot? By using information and communication technology (ICT), they can become better and make it big, say some experts, who argue that teaching should not be synonymous with poverty
When will teachers begin to live much comfortably like other professionals?
While teachers in public schools have improved, the lot of same cannot be said of their counterparts in private schools. Beyond some high flying schools in high brow neighbourhoods, only a few of other private schools are doing well. Welfare packages in most schools in poor neighbourhoods are nothing to write home about, with the teachers struggling for survival.
In the past, tales abound of some landlords rejecting potential tenants because they were teachers. Some parents also declined giving their daughters out in marriage to teachers.
But while the society is still living with this phenomenon, many teachers are breaking out of the mould Why can they not compete with their counterparts in the banking or oil and gas industry? They wondered. They have found a way out in Information and communication technology (ICT) which is provoking new thinking these teachers are latching on to broaden their horizon.
To experts, 21st Century teachers can make it big if they can make themselves more marketable.
Mrs Yinka Ogunde, who manages Edumark, an education marketing firm, noted that the word ‘marketable’ transcends teachers’ aspiration to adding values to themselves, but also includes being very competent in their chosen field.
She said: “I know what you are saying by the use of the word ‘marketability” is how teachers can acquire more values, but I dare say that the most important thing is that teachers must see their work first as a calling and then be the best in their subjects.
“Today, the world is dealing with knowledge economy. Knowledge is what we cannot see, but can feel and can be demonstrated to us and when the teachers do that well, he or she becomes a gold fish.”
After this basic prerequisite, according to Ogunde, other pecks such as training and retraining can follow and they can be initiated either by the employer or the employee.
Mrs Ogunde continued: “It goes both ways. First, it’s nobody’s responsibility if I choose to make myself more valuable (through more training) because the benefit is directly to the owner and not the school’s. In other words, some schools consider training as key because management priortises the interest of parents and their wards. Therefore, they believe developing their members of staff will impact on overall values of their school.”
Corroborating Ogunde, another teacher Mr Chucks Nwabuike, who pleaded not to mention where he teaches, admitted that mastery of subject with a measure of charisma can stimulate school patronage while improving the teacher’s assets.
“”I can describe the salary in the school I teach as average, but a few of us have been enjoying some preferential treatment above our peers because of our charisma,” he began.
“For instance, management at some point realised that some parents leave their children here not because the school is good, but because some of the children have developed emotional attachment with some of us because of the way we handle our subjects.
“One of the parents whose two children I teach bankrolled a private ICT training programme I underwent late last year. Another family, whose wards are here, single-handed paid half my tuition when I was doing my masters two years ago.
“It is the way you handle the subject that matters and this determines how a child falls in love with, or detests a subject,” said Mr Emiloju Ikuejawa, who is also a teacher ata private school, Rockville School.
“These children tell their parents how good or bad their teachers are and this tells on parents’ perception of such teacher. Once a teacher makes his teaching easier and very interesting, there is no way he would not be appealing to both parents and the school management. I have seen instances where excited parents send teachers on vacation or training abroad. It’s because of the manner the teacher packages himself,” Ikuejawa added.
An educationist and co-ordinator Mabysgold Coaching Network, Muyiwa Ashimolowo, believes poverty among teachers is all about perception of the mind, adding that his colleagues must be determined to break away from stereotypes. Mabysgold Coaching Network is a human capacity enhancements outfit for teachers
Ashimolowo said: “Many teachers in our country are no doubt trapped in the dungeon of poverty. Since children cannot outthink their teachers, emergency must be declared on the poverty among teachers.”
He continued: “However as the emergency is declared, teachers must also come to realise that their thoughts and minds are more powerful than the government and their private employers. Teachers must grow bigger minds by investing on mind renewal and work hard to get their childhood creativity.“
In addition, Ashimolowo is seeking a paradigm shift by bringing on board teachers whose success stories can inspire the younger ones into taking their destinies in their hands.
“There is the need to raise a new model among teachers, who have been able to innovate new stories with their lives, this will check the dangerous trend of brilliant and male teachers that are exiting the classroom on a daily basis. These new models must become mentors, who will share their stories in such a way that other teachers can learn from and then adopt or adapt into their lives.”
Kareem Olanrewaju who teaches Mathematics and Economics at RockVile Schools, Ojo, Lagos, noted that fate made him a teacher, and having realised that, he has overtime improved himself.
“I recall years ago, when I was seeking admission into the university, my late father wanted me to study Business Administration, but I was offered Mathematics Education. My father was not happy at all and he had to use his influence to ensure that my programme was changed to Business Administration. But as fate would have it, I couldn’t find job relating to my field years after graduation. I eventually considered going into teaching. Today, aside that I found joy in imparting knowledge, I have also done my PGD, Masters and about to start my PhD. This has enhanced my promotion, given me more respect among my colleagues and made me more marketable in the labour market”
If it paid well for Olanrewaju because his school’s management allowed him to flourish, it may not be so with others. A source in a private school in Festac Town area shared a horrible experience with our reporter.
“Once you step into my school, you will be happy to want to bring your wards there because the environment is quite inviting and conducive for learning. But, we teachers, are often afraid to share with parents the internal politics and back-biting going on.
“For instance you dare not tell management that you are running a programme otherwise, you will be fired the following day. So, when I started my master’s programme, I would leap over the fence to attend lectures. I only had a confidant whom I shared my secrets with because you don’t know who would leak your secrets to others.”
“After a while, some of those who had been watching me secretly informed the management and I was caught. At that time, I was a level to becoming the principal but, the management decided to punish me by demoting me. That punishment demoralised me. Luckily for me, I was about finishing the masters programme at the time and shortly after my graduation, I secured another job with a bigger salary and more attractive welfare packages. So, what would have happened if I’d not make that sacrifice by improving myself?”
Another source, a teacher in another private school in Agbara, noted that regardless of how poor or fat a teacher’s salary is, workers, who often chose the path of self development, are hardly found engaging in frivolities in the system.
“Don’t be surprised that some of our colleagues, who have refused to improve on themselves are actually the ones that made themselves informants in any system. They are the ones, who tried to curry management favour with their eye service.
The source continued: “Come to think of it, I have a colleague, who joined the school where I teach with his NCE certificates about seven year ago. She soon became the darling of the owner of the school because she always briefed ‘Oga everything about us, workers. This colleague also enjoyed promotions and at a point she was working as secretary in the proprietor’s office. Most of us hated what she was doing; yet no one could talk for fear of being fired.
“As God would have it, the proprietor died two years ago, and her only son, who had lived many years in United Kingdom returned home to take over the school. As an outsider, who knew little or nothing about the school, he held a meeting with us where he appointed one of the oldest hands as a new principal and decided to upgrade our salaries according to our credentials. Many of us, who had acquired one certificate or the other were upgraded while this same lady hadn’t acquired anything. This son of madam was so angry that he considered sacking her. He was surprised that nearly 10 years in the system, this lady had not done anything to improve herself.”
A public school teacher in Lagos praised the Lagos State government for prompt payment of teachers’ salaries as well as all expenses paid for training them and other support staff. Nonetheless, the source noted that that is not enough for his colleagues to rest on their oars.
“Whatever the training government is giving us is not enough due to financial constraints; we also need to improve on ourselves,” added the source.
“We are simply lucky because we are located in Lagos where government accords importance to their teachers. Just imagine what our colleagues in other states have been going through since last year, owing to poor state of the economy. I simply imagine what those, who have not learned new skills are going through. I am a teacher, I am also into fashion designing and I serve as resource persons for a number of training organisations. That simply translates to extra income for me. While it is good as teachers to be on top of our game, we should not just limit our knowledge to the classroom alone.”