Questions about youth service as graduates become ‘teachers’

Amid an acute shortage of teachers in both elementary and secondary schools across Nigeria, graduates – many of whom have no formal training in pedagogy – are being posted to schools to teach during the year-long National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. However, academics and other stakeholders say these ‘teachers’ will do more harm than good.

It is compulsory for Nigerians below 30 who graduate from higher education institutions within and outside Nigeria, to participate in the programme as a requirement for formal employment in the country.

In 2017, about 300,000 graduates were mobilised for the NYSC and, while the corps members (as the participating graduates are called) are posted to different sectors, about 60% of them are deployed in schools to fill the gap created by inadequately qualified teachers, Vanguard reported.

Reflecting on a national personnel audit conducted on public and private basic education schools in the country, the executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr Hamid Bobboyi, recently said Nigeria had a shortage of 277,537 teachers. He said that 10% of government-owned primary (elementary) schools in three states have only one teacher each, teaching all the pupils in each of the schools, the Nigerian Tribune reported on 25 February 2022.

Teachers or cheaters?

Isaac Ajayi, a professor of educational management at the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, criticised the idea of posting graduates not trained as teachers to elementary and secondary schools, which he described as critical stages in formal education.

“Only corps members who graduate from the faculty of education in the universities should be posted to teach in schools. Those without teaching qualifications lack the methodology of teaching. So, instead of being teachers, they will be cheaters,” he told University World News.

Ajayi said teaching requires knowledge of psychology, philosophy and sociology of education not known to many corps members. He stated that using such graduates as teachers would affect students’ performance.

He said: “Corps members without teaching education won’t be able to take cognisance of the individual differences of the learners. It is one thing to have knowledge of the subject; it is another thing to have the knowledge of how to teach the subject. When you are teaching, there are three domains of learning that must be considered: the cognitive domain [the knowledge itself], the affective domain [the value system], and the psychomotor domain which deals with skills acquisition.

“Whoever has not undergone teacher education at any level cannot effectively impart knowledge about the three domains of learning. The cognitive aspect is what non-professionals will rely on and it is not enough.”

Managing the crisis

Principal Anselm Izuagie, president of Africa Confederation of Principals, decried the lack of ability of many corps members to teach, saying that school administrators go the extra mile to manage the situation. “Many of them don’t know anything about teaching and it is a problem for those of us who are school managers to get them used to the system and be able to [make an] impact,” Izuagie told University World News.

He said schools that have good systems give the corps members some orientation in teaching, but this is not available in schools with few teachers and poor infrastructure. Izuagie noted that on many occasions, school administrators are helpless and find it difficult to combine administrative work with training the corps members, adding that, in the absence of competent teachers, they make do with what they have.

“The purpose of sending them [the corps members] to schools by the federal government to assist in teaching is defeated because they do not know the art of teaching. For the students, it is as good as if they are not taught. The corps members are deficient in teaching, so they attempt to lecture instead. And when students ask questions, they get angry. If you are a good teacher and knowledgeable, students will like you, but when you are not, you kill their interest.”

Abubakar Hamman-Tukur, a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, said that, as a stop-gap measure, a crash course in teaching should be organised for corps members before they are deployed in classrooms.

“If there are not enough teachers, then schools have to use what they have. We must learn how to manage them. They need to be trained in the rudiments of teaching, principles, and methods of teaching as well as assessment and evaluation.

“A short course on these basic principles of teaching can be put together for them. It is unfair to just post them to schools and leave them like that. If they are posted to schools without any training, they will be doing more harm than good.”