I always wanted to teach before I entered into my ‘proper’ career track. Before I moved to Nigeria, I applied to Teach For America. Teach for America is a programme that leverages the youth enthusiasm to contribute to society by placing them in schools serving predominantly underprivileged groups in
America. Teach for America hopes to create equal educational opportunity for children growing up in poverty.
The Teach For America initiative has a British version with the Teach First programme. I believe Nigeria is ripe for such an initiative. The Teach for America initiative is attractive because it is not designed to channel graduates into teaching careers. Undeniably many graduates of the Teach for America programme end up favouring their roles as teachers and staying in classrooms for their careers. A majority, after serving their two years commitment, go on to other careers that are not related to teaching. The attraction is that teaching as profession instils in graduates many transferable skills that come into play in other careers.
Why? I believe Nigeria is ready for such an initiative is because apart from the obvious poverty that exists in many parts of the country, there is a second glaring factor that can be leveraged. That factor is the high rate of unemployment among young graduates. The high unemployment rate has created a cadre of young graduates that are hungry for opportunities that utilize their skills and help them start on the path towards a professional career.
Also, a lot of public schools are understaffed. By channeling more teachers into school via a public-private initiative, the students are spared the trauma of missing out on instruction.
How? I am certainly not thinking that National Youth Service Corps should be scrapped and replaced with this initiative. Many corps member are currently posted to schools to serve and this is boosting the number of educators available to the students. I would suggest that the initiative be run as a completely voluntary corps.
There should be two ways to enter into the corps; before the service corps year begins or during the service corps year. In the first option, graduates should be able to express interest to the initiative before they are posted. During the corps year, serving corps members in schools should be able to indicate that they wish to continue teaching after the mandatory one-year period.
Personally, I believe this initiative would work best as a public-private partnership. During the formal NYSC year, the government should be responsible for paying the normal allowance. However, the initiative should get funding to supplement the allowance being paid to the teachers. After the formal NYSC, the initiative should pay the participants at rate that is at least on par with government civil service rate.
I would suggest approaching private companies for funding. This is a way to be involved in community development. Also, the companies can help by providing incentives to participants such as priority during recruitment or even internships.