In most parts of Nigeria, despite the efforts made by the government and education stakeholders before now, there remains the problem of the shortage of teachers. In fact, even in the few parts of the country where we tend to have enough teachers, most of them are untrained, unskilled and lack professionalism.
But, on the other hand, and luckily, too, the nation is witnessing a huge boost in the number of pupils attending schools.
So, there is a need for institutionalizing a Teacher Professional Development Agency charged with the sole aim of training and re-training of teachers in the country, continuously, to be able to meet the demands of the nation’s education and the global practice and standard of teacher training.
This necessity, therefore, led to the establishment of the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), Kaduna.
Since the establishment of the NTI in 1976 as a Distance Education Institute, mainly dedicated to teacher training and retraining, in order to arrest the problem of insufficient and unqualified teachers in the country, via Distance Education Techniques, it has been facing criticisms, mainly due to widespread lack of awareness about the functions of the institute.
Perhaps, the critics were expecting to see, as it obtains in conventional learning institutions, an array of gigantic school buildings such as theatre halls, classes and hostels in the NTI outfits.
This, of course, is a case of clear misconception about the nature and functions of the NTI. Thus, there is the need to continue to enlighten Nigerians about open and distance education delivery systems and the role played by the NTI in achieving that objective.
Distance education simply refers to the approaches of learning that focus on freeing learners from the constraints of time and place, while offering them flexible learning opportunities. For many students, it is a way of combining work and family responsibilities with educational opportunities.
With this mode of education, learning is made available from a distance and, in a way, making education available for all.
The merits of Open and Distance Education (ODE) cannot be over emphasized, especially in a country like Nigeria with an estimated population of about 167 million people and very few conventional learning institutions. No doubt, the few conventional institutions in the country cannot meet up with the increasing demand for education and the number of people seeking for admission to study due to their limited carrying capacities.
According to a report in the Punch newspaper, this year, 1,048,314, out of the 1,503,931 candidates that wrote the UTME have scored the requisite number of points for admission into universities but the existing universities can only admit about 250,000 students. Meaning, therefore, that approximately 800,000 students who did not fail their examinations must waste a full year due to universities limited carrying capacities.
Thus, there is the need for great advocacy of the learning opportunities provided by Open and Distance Learning Institutions as alternatives to the conventional system of providing education. It may be of interest for Nigerians to know that a single Open and Distance Learning Institute can admit up to 100, 000 students per session, compared to 9,000 students, which is the highest number that the largest universities in Nigeria can admit.
Beside, the ODE Technique is economical to both the Institute and the students. It is convenient as it affords one an opportunity to work, learn and still remain with his family. It breaks geographical barrier. NTI ODE takes education to the door-step of its students at affordable cost and so helps in achieving the Federal Government’s Education For All (EFA) policy which is in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
The National Teachers’ Institute, a teacher professional development agency is shouldered with the responsibility of upgrading teachers through continuous training and re-training of teachers, using the open and distance learning techniques.
The Institute, under the leadership of Dr Aminu Ladan Sharehu, has within 4 years came up with a 5-Point target, anchored on Strengthening Quality Assurance Mechanism of Teacher Training Programmes of the Institute, Expansion of NTI Programme and Application of ICT in the Programme Delivery to Staff sourcing, Welfare, Development, Response mobilisation and optimal utilisation of financial resources and Repositioning of the Institute for efficient and quality service delivery.
Sharehu and the members of his Management team are working and moving round the clock, collaborating with World leading Open and Distance Education (ODE) Institutions for the development of the Nigerian teachers.
The Institute’s detailed and user-friendly ODE course materials are manifestations of such collaborations. The Institute’s weekend classes handled by professional educationists, sourced from across the entire nation guiding students, no doubt, places the ODE graduates at vantage positions to compete favourably with products from the conventional education system.
Recently, the NTI in collaboration with the UNESCO-NOKIA and British Council came up with another laudable and surprising pilot project – Mobile Technologies and Teacher Development- to improve the capacity of English Language teachers, using the mobile phone. This laudable teaching method would, consequently, help to improve the English Language skills of the pupils who are being taught by the NTI beneficiaries of the mobile phone teaching technique.
Therefore, with these ground breaking achievements recorded by the National Teachers’ Institute, all in its bid to revive and restore the lost glory of teacher education through Open and Distance Education Techniques, in line with best global practice, under the leadership of Dr. Aminu Ladan Sharehu, there is no doubt in my mind that, indeed, Nigeria will soon begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.