• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Music, IT teachers ditch schools, embrace contract arrangements

Schools reopen as teachers suspend strike in Akwa Ibom

Many schools in Nigeria, particularly in the cities, are losing teachers in many key subjects. Such teachers now prefer to go on contract to accepting full-time employment. They move from school to school rendering their services and collecting bigger pay than what fulltime engagement would fetch them.

Many of the teachers, especially those teaching critical subjects like Mathematics, Music, Physical Education, and Computer Science, among others suddenly found out that they were more productive at home, so they continued to work remotely.
This gold mine as it were, was discovered following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which forced people to work in a more flexible way on the back of the lock-down.

Because of the pandemic, both private and public schools took some initiatives to bridge the gap created by the pandemic by designing different kinds of strategies to ensure students and pupils do not lose track of their academic work.

While the pandemic forced employers of labour, in this case school owners, to fast-track their experiment on remote work initiatives; teachers on their own also took some initiatives to ‘think outside the box.’

And while there is plenty of evidence in favour of the benefits of having returned to in-person learning when it was safe to do so, many teachers continued to crave, at least, some of the flexibility that they had grown accustomed to during the pandemic.

Hence, it was not surprising to see that more and more teachers are beginning to embrace a more flexible approach to teaching post-covid. This approach has made the contract and part-time teaching practice gain more traction especially among younger teachers who handle some of the critical subjects in high demands.

For many of the younger teachers, the traditional teaching practice no longer look attractive because the pandemic has taught them better strategies of engagement outside the usually school hours which in some cases might commit them to a particular location between 7am when they were expected to resume in school and 4pm when the school is expected to close in some cases.

For this group of new generation teachers, the part-time approach to teaching offers a more flexible working arrangement between the schools and the teachers on the one hand, and teachers-pupils on the other hand.
The part-time teaching for most schools includes both reading and mathematics intervention, where each teacher engages with small groups of children to supplement their learning and skills in that subject. Additionally, some parents also engage part-time teachers to help their children to better improve their English Language lessons and other special subjects considered critical to the child’s academic development.
“Most teachers handling compulsory subjects like English Studies, Maths, F/Maths, Account, Physics and Chemistry now opt for part-time (PT) because it fetches them more income than being permanent teachers,” Badru Saleh, proprietor, The Source Schools, Lagos, told BusinessDay Sunday.

According to him, part-time teaching practice is not new to the education sector. He said that the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic made more teachers think outside the box.

However, Saleh also disclosed that while the initiative may appear attractive to those who have embraced it, there are implications for the schools and students who might have to deal with the challenges associated with losing sound personnel, and more cost to the schools in terms of salaries.

Another Lagos-based teacher told BusinessDay Sunday that in many schools around Lagos, especially in the area where his school is located, many teachers in charge of music, Yoruba, Igbo, Photography are on part time basis.

“One major negativity in this is that the students do not enjoy the teacher-student relationship because these people do not have enough time with the students.

“A full timer is always on ground to handle any issue brought to him/her but a part timer meets with the students on selected days and per hour period of teaching and learning.

“And the reason people prefer the part time jobs is because you could easily make more than salary earners within a short time and still have very good time for yourself to pursue many other things,” Maxwell Audu, teaching staff, Radiance High School, Festac Town, said.

However, some argued that some schools, especially those in highbrow areas of the cities, usually engage teachers on contract basis for a start to see if the teacher has what it takes and ascertain what such teacher can deliver, as a means of measuring their performance level before engaging them on a permanent basis.

“Most people who go into teaching these days in Nigeria go because they are not able to get their dream jobs; so, they take up teaching to keep body and soul together. As soon as a better offer comes up they just abandon teaching,” Blessing Akhaine, faculty, Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, said.

According to her, some may also opt for part-time teaching or consultancy just to have more teaching jobs or opportunities to travel to other places to teach.

She further said that having part-time teachers in the secondary school or high school will not be beneficial to the pupils or students as the case may be.

She said that having more teachers on part-time basis in a particular school might work against the overall settings of the schools because it may cause some distractions for the pupils and students of the schools.

According to her, having different faces coming into the school environment to teach on a part-time basis may create some level of instability for the schools.

“Now, if teachers work part-time; so, who will be with the students in school? Who will coordinate their activities? Who will correct them and prompt them to do the various school routines?” she asked.

Chukwumelu Otito Nwunye, headteacher, Margaret Moradeyo Memorial Schools, Lagos, told BusinessDay Sunday that some specialised subject teachers prefer to work on part-time basis to being engaged as classroom teachers.

“They prefer it that way to classroom teachers that you will be seated from morning till evening, and there is more money there. Because it’s their area of specialty they don’t allow schools to retain them as full-time teachers because they go to different schools to teach,” she said.

According to her, it is more economical for some schools to engage part-time teachers because of the low fees they charge. However, she said that some specialised subject teachers like Further Maths, Computer Science, French and Yoruba charge higher because of their specialisation.

“Like ICT is taking our school in the morning on Wednesdays, Yoruba comes in the afternoon. Before the Yoruba teacher comes to our school in the afternoon, she must have gone to other schools in the morning. Then she has other schools she teaches other days. From Monday to Friday, they have schools that they go to teach and that is why they are called part-time teachers.

“French teacher recently asked for a huge increase, which we have managed to ask her to bring it down. Some come in and ask you to pay per head – they charge per child N2000, N1500, N3000 depending on the school and its location,” she disclosed.

She however, does not see any negative implication on the overall educational system, as long as the schools are able to strictly put in place a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process to ensure the teachers deliver on their contractual agreements to the schools.

“Like me, who has a male ICT teacher, I make sure that everywhere he is meeting the children; there is a teacher around in the ICT room because of what is happening now. Other teachers don’t have special rooms – they come to their class to teach them; it’s only ICT that teaches in a room and that is why whenever they want to do practical; I make sure a teacher is always there to check on them,” she said.

However, Oluwatetisiremide Odole, another Lagos-based school teacher in Festac Town, told BusinessDay Sunday that some schools see it as an avenue to exploit teachers, because the schools believe the part-time teachers already have plenty of school they are engaged with. Hence, they negotiate to pay them peanuts.

According to him, part-time/contract teachers sometimes do not put in their best because of the low contract fee they receive from the schools. However, he said that some of the part-time teachers also find it hard to meet their pre-agreed target with the schools.

He further said that some schools may end up not giving them a complete salary when they fail to meet their pre-agreed target with their students or pupils depending on the school.

“But they become used and over-labour themselves. Most of the time, many of them find it difficult to meet up with their target. It will be deducted, if they miss classes.”

He however, disclosed that there are several benefits to being a staff member of an organisation, rather than working on contract basis as a part-time teacher in a school. For one, you will have access to the school’s internal resources, including promotions, pay rises, and decision-making roles.

“You will also be able to learn the inner workings of the organisation, which can be useful if you decide to start your own school or business in the future. In addition, staff members are often rewarded for their hard work, including through performance-based bonuses. Plus, they often have more control over the number of students they work with,” Odole said

Flexibility at work is a well-documented, pre-pandemic advantage. A 2005 Report by the U.S. Department of Labour found that nearly 4 out of 5 working Americans; regardless of age or income level, reported wanted more flexibility on the job.

While the desire for change in workplace policies tends to start from employees, actual policy shifts must come from the top.
The Ministry of Education must think outside the box on flexible working arrangements for teachers, which will accommodate a win-win situation for everybody involved in the teaching-learning process.

According to UNESCO, quality education for sustainable development is about what people learn, its relevance to today’s world and global challenges, and how learners develop the skills and attitudes to respond to such challenges and prosper, now and for future generations.