Akwa Ibom’s one-teacher-one-subject policy: Will it be the first of many?

Last week, the Akwa Ibom state governor, Udom Emmanuel, announced his plans to start a one-teacher-one-subject policy in every primary school across the state. He made this declaration through the State Commissioner for Education, Aniekan Akpan, at the inauguration of some classroom blocks in a school within the state, mentioning that the policy was set in place to improve the quality of education in the state. If and when implemented, this policy will be the first of its kind in Nigeria.

In Nigeria’s educational sector there are many challenges, especially at the grassroots public primary schools. A teacher called the “class teacher”, sits in front of the classroom and teaches his/her students every subject in the curriculum except for subjects like Music, or Arts which require a specialist in the field. This places a strain on them, especially when they have no specialty knowledge in most of the subjects they are required to teach and have to read up on them. It also affects the ability of students to understand their studies later in life as this sets a poor foundation.

According to a school teacher who chose to remain anonymous, the one-teacher-one-subject policy would take a load off her work if it gets to the rest of the states in Nigeria. “Sometimes, we write lesson notes for a week for these children; lesson notes for all subjects. We rush them and ourselves, not giving them the opportunity to understand and actually enjoy what they’re being taught, because the teacher is already worn out.” Akwa Ibom’s Commissioner for Education, in a way, corroborated this fact at the inauguration. “From studies, we have discovered that it (the current policy) is not really helping and preparing the children for further education…Rather than keeping one teacher to be a master of all or to be teaching all subjects, we better create professionalism and division of labour in teaching…But they can still go round other classes to teach, we want to fully utilize the capacity of the teachers that we have in the primary school, for now they are not fully utilized,’’ he said.

One of the reasons why this policy has not been implemented before now is due to the fact that most states cannot afford to hire a teacher for every subject. A state like Akwa Ibom, which has one of the highest internally generated revenue, and does not owe its workers salaries, can afford to hire more teachers in order to achieve this aim. The state government announced last week that it generates N3bn internal revenue monthly, a high figure compared to other states in Nigeria.

Akwa Ibom, which gets most of its revenue from oil will surely be affected by the falling global oil prices. Therefore, in these trying times, it may not be wise to embark on a project like this which it may be unable to see through. For instance, not all projects involving different educational policies in some Nigerian states have been successful. In Osun state, despite all the educational policies put in place by Governor Aregbesola, he seems to have led his state’s public schools down the wrong path as Osun state was one of the worst performing in last year’s West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

Furthermore, some states in Nigeria cannot afford to pay salaries to its workers right now. With the fact that global oil prices are not in favour of Nigeria, most of these states would find it hard to adopt this policy, no matter how good the idea is. This could create a dearth in quality education and the kind of foundation these children could have. Subsequently, this may lead to a gap between the level of education in states that can afford more teachers in line with the one teacher one subject policy, and the states that cannot. However, these are all just conjectures, will Akwa Ibom see the policy through to the end?

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