The Federal Ministry of Education in March, had organized a zonal stakeholder’s critique meeting in Enugu State to revise the 14-year-old National Policy on Gender in Education.
Among others, the zero draft of the policy listed the lack of male teacher models as one of the emerging issues hampering the successful implementation of the policy in the South-East.
According to open data on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education, Enugu State has 10,415 teachers in public primary schools as at 2015/2016 session.
Of this number, 8,340 were females and 2,075 were males, representing a gender ratio of 80 : 20.
Furthermore, at the senior secondary school level, the total number of female teachers in public and private schools was 20,552 swallowing the 6,512 figure for males.
This represents a gender spread of 76 per cent to a paltry 24 per cent female-to-male gender ratio, according to analysis by NAN.
Speaking with NAN, the Head Mistress of Ekulu Nursery and Primary School – 4, Enugu State, Mrs. Chinwe Ifeyinwa, revealed that Ekulu’s four autonomous schools had only one male teacher!
Ifeyinwa, who blamed this deficit on the “poor pay packet” of teachers, nevertheless affirmed that male teachers were important in proper planning and school administration.
“The lack of male teachers also has an effect on the physical education of students; for example, in organizing sports such as football.
“It is the duty of the male teachers to teach them these things. However, some of the female teachers have learned how to coach the boys,” she added.
According to the Vice-Principal (Academics), Government Secondary School, Enugu, Mr. Donald Ndubuisi, male teachers play important roles in enforcing discipline in schools.
“There is a need for a balance in the proportion of male to female teachers in schools.
“In some of the big schools where students exhibit some forms of juvenile exuberances, you will discover that male teachers are not there.
“Ordinarily, male teachers would have helped to bridge this gap,” Ndubuisi noted.
In her contribution, the Principal of Urban Girls Secondary School, Enugu, Dame Jacinta Ebue, described the shortage as a current and future problem.
Ebue noted that while the all-female secondary school boasted of 83 female teachers, it only had nine male teachers.
She also said that most male teachers tended not to be fully committed to the profession because they were on the lookout for another job or an additional source of income.
“The current situation is giving the younger ones the idea that the profession is gender-based. They start thinking that the teaching profession, especially at this level, is meant for females,” Ebue added.
Also speaking, teachers at an all-male school, Union Secondary School in Akwunanaw, Enugu, announced that the school had over 50 female teachers but just five male teachers.
The Vice-Principal (Administration) of the school, Mrs. Ijeoma Jideofor, cited the many financial responsibilities men faced, as a factor discouraging males from teaching.
In his contribution, Mr Ikechukwu Nvene, a Biology teacher at the school, noted that most male teachers were in the profession because they could not get better alternatives.
“The implication of this is here with us, even now. Most of us are here in the schools because we could not get what we wanted elsewhere.
“And when you are here because you don’t have any other place to go, you cannot give your best as there would be no passion for the job.
“Most people are not here because they want to teach,” Nvene asserted.
However, while most of the school administrators see this gender imbalance as a problem, the Principal of Prime Rose School, one of Enugu’s elite private schools; Mr. Ubaka Onwuegbuna, differs.
“For the education of the male child, I don’t think the shortage of male teachers has any negative impact.
“This is because the few teachers can also serve as models if they have positive values and work hard. The male students can imitate and look up to them as role models,” Onwuegbuna said.
Mr Calistus Nwankwo, a teacher with over 25 years experience, believed other factors also contributed to the gender imbalance.
Nwankwo, who taught Economics at Urban Girls Secondary School, noted that some men who were interested in the profession could not get in.
“Apart from remuneration, there is the issue of godfatherism. Some men are interested in teaching, but they don’t have somebody to put them there.
“For example, during the N-Power recruitment exercise, I know somebody that scored a high grade but could not get in because he did not have anybody to push him through.
“So, it is not that males totally hate the teaching profession. Some don’t just have people to fight for them. Most women have ‘long legs’ to get the jobs, compared to the males,” he said.
Most of the male teachers who spoke with NAN observed that their passion for the noble profession was what kept them going despite the odds.
For Levi Orjinweke, a teacher of over 15 years and a French tutor at Urban Girls Secondary School, his love for the subject he taught made him enjoy the job.
“It is the passion I have for the subject I teach, not just any other thing. The language I teach is a very important language to me because I love it. I need to stay in form. If you don’t teach it, you forget it,” Orjinweke said.
He also observed that “both genders are needed to produce balanced youths” .
On his part, Nwankwo noted further that apart from limited financial resources, the loss of the prestige the profession of teaching used to have was a problem.
“You find it difficult to behave like others, especially financially. Also, people no longer respect the intellect of the teachers. Rather, everybody respects worldly things like money,” he noted.
Nwankwo said that another challenge was the arrogance and showing – off by female teachers who had wealthy spouses.
“The way they show off will tell you that you are in danger. If you are not a full man, you may begin to find another way out, especially when you are not called to the profession,” he said.
Nwankwo however, observed that this situation should spur the male teachers to maximize their performance by doing more to help their students achieve excellence.
In order to address the deficit, the educationists who spoke with NAN called on the government to increase the salaries and other financial allowances of teachers.
Ndubuisi called on the government to grant automatic employment to male graduates who studied education in tertiary institutions.
Ebue on his part called on male professionals to place less emphasis on materialism.
Jideofor called on the government to restore the education industry to its former glory.
“In the past, the government gave senior civil servants car loans which they deducted in installments from their salaries.
“They also used to provide teachers and their families with accommodation. These days, there are no car loans, no incentives, no staff quarters.
“You see teachers struggling to survive. Outside the school, you find landlords cutting their throats.
“These teachers need to make ends meet. They have their own children in schools and want to train them properly,” Ebue added, in his own contribution. (NAN)