There is high demand for mathematics and science teachers in public schools in Abia State and the authorities are trying to find qualified candidates to fill the gap.
A source said the shortage of teachers had been there for long and is particularly chronic in the rural areas where in some cases there are reportedly only two to three teachers to take care of an entire school.
The source said shortage of science and mathematics teachers and the rampant cases of teacher absenteeism in rural schools have reached crisis level.
Parents and educationists, including the Commissioner for Education, Professor Ikechi Ngboji, since last year, had called on the state government to immediately declare a state of emergency in the educational sector due to dearth of teachers in public schools.
The last group of teachers was employed in 2006. Since then principals could only hire auxiliary teachers to handle mathematics and other science subjects.
Prof Ngboji noted that acute shortage of teachers in key subject areas such as mathematics and science was partly responsible for the math phobia and poor academic performance of students in public examinations.
“As a teacher and commissioner for education, I know the government is not satisfied with the performance of students in public examinations especially in mathematics and science-related subjects in the state.
“Out of all the teachers we have both in public and private schools a sizable number of them teach English language and other subjects but with very few teaching mathematics, physics and chemistry,” he said.
The commissioners noted that universities produced more arts and humanities graduates and advised governments to encourage students to study math and sciences.
Ngboji stated that the state government recently converted Abia Girls Secondary School into a Teacher Training Institute in collaboration with the National Mathematics centre, Abuja.
However, the state governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, recently announced government’s plan to employ 90 science teachers before the end of the year.
The governor made this known during an interactive session with students at the Michael Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia.
He said the move was part of the state government’s efforts to boost science education.
He said: “The issue of dearth of science teachers in secondary schools has been of great concern and the state government has approved a waiver to facilitate the employment of 90 science teachers.
“We are also going to set up three mobile laboratories and assign one laboratory to each federal constituency in the state. This is a measure to encourage science-based students.
“Education is nothing if it cannot illuminate your mind, thoughts and thinking process and the state government is poised to encourage productivity in the education sector.”
The governor said the state government would work with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to provide tablet computers for students to enhance Information Communication Technology learning.
He explained that the curriculum would be uploaded for each student on the device to encourage efficiency.
The governor announced that the state government had instituted fiscal measures in resources management, and urged students to make positive contributions toward the growth of the state.
Chinememma Umeseaka, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Teenage Matters, expressed delight over the opportunity granted the students to interact with the governor and other policy makers.
Meanwhile, the principal of Ibeku High school, Mr Kalu Ojike Kalu, has said the employment pronouncement by the governor was a big relief and long overdue, as most schools didn’t have science teachers.
“We have a good lab without lab attendant. The recruitment will be beneficial. The 90 science teachers that will be recruited, schools will fight over them because each school needs four science teachers, and we have over 250 secondary schools badly in need of science teachers,” the school head said.
A physics teacher, Abum Nwakanma, said the workload and teaching time were enormous and “sometimes you will be the only teacher teaching a subject in the whole school. At marking centre, we are less than 12 teachers marking external exams. There is need for replacement because many science teachers have retired from the system.”
The state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Chizobam Akparanta, said the announcement was a welcome development. “The world is going scientific and digital and we need more of technological advancement in our society which can only be achieved through science and technology.”
“The recruitment of 90 more science teachers will make our kids more science inclined; it will also serve as job opportunity for the unemployed young graduates. But 90 more teachers are not enough,” the unionist said.