Without necessarily consulting the English Language Dictionary, empowerment can be said to mean the conferment of authority or ability on someone or group of people to meet certain demands and challenges in specific areas of human endeavour. It can also connote the training of an individual or group of persons in order for them to acquire the necessary skills required to produce some goods or offer given services efficiently. In other words, men and women can be empowered politically, economically, agriculturally, administratively, constitutionally and even religiously.
In a democratic society for example, no person is qualified to represent his or her people without being voted for in an election. That is, he or she has to be empowered with votes.
Other groups of people who are reasonably empowered are often given opportunities to showcase their abilities in their areas of empowerment. Though it may not be under compulsion, empowered fellows desiring to be self-employed can be given starter-packs by parents, governments, politicians, organizations or wealthy individuals. Job opportunities (not employment opportunities) are created for white-colar job seekers. This presupposes that empowerment comes before the gift of starter-packs or paid employments. In this regard therefore, the gift of motorcycles, motor cars, Christmas clothes, rice and few thousands of naira cannot be said to be empowerment. In the same vein, anyone who receives teaching employment into government school without having been empowered to teach can only be said to have received financial empowerment with little or no corresponding services to show for it.
In the light of the foregoing therefore, the Delta State government must do all that is professionally possible to ensure that the current teachers’ recruitment exercise it has commenced does not end up as “empowerment” for persons whose major qualification for teaching appointment is their relationships with politicians and government officials who perhaps do not know that the voting public has empowered them so that they can in turn bring positive changes to the society by their actions or inactions.
The government has done well by publicly advertising the teaching vacancy positions in post primary schools. It is also important to note that minimum requirements were attached to the vacant teaching positions.
Beyond the vacancy announcements in many platforms, including the social media, a more serious task of selecting the right candidates for the job lies ahead. The need for the proper execution of this task cannot be over emphasized.
Before now, there have been many complaints against the prevailing poor standard of our education at all levels. Recruiting the right caliber of teachers will serve as one of the steps aimed at shoring up the quality of education being impacted on our children, especially in public schools.
Even though the government has specified a maximum age of 35years for applicants, it will be unfair to disqualify sound ‘materials’ on grounds of age. Some of these graduates got out of school before 2009. They were not ‘wealthy’ enough to ‘purchase’ appointments as was the case in 2009 when the last recruitment was conducted. Many of these people have been doing menial jobs with the hope that government will someday do what they have decided to do now after ten years of teachers’ recruitment suspension.
The government must not fail to subject applicants to test on their chosen fields and practical knowledge of teaching. This can be done through micro-teaching as well as written examinations.
The consideration of competence over and above all other criteria is necessary because not all the people applying for these jobs are actually teachers. According to a one time Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Ibidayo Obe, “Our universities are concentrating more on “how to teach” than “what to teach.” Before this revelation, one never suspected that there is a difference between B.Ed (Maths) and B.Sc. Maths (E.d.). The syntax and semantics of this should adequately be looked into during this selection process.
The government should bear in mind that any teacher being recruited now is expected to serve for the next 35years with the exception of a few persons who may leave earlier due to age. It will not help our educational system if majority of these fellows who are not “empowered” to teach begin to migrate to other sectors of the economy after few years of employment.
Going through the vacancy advertisement, one can notice that Guidance and Counseling was not among the subject areas needed by government. This should be reconsidered. Our children need guidance and counseling now more than ever before due to the increasing cases of cultism and other vices in our schools of nowadays.
On the whole, one cannot rule out the granting of slots to politicians and top civil servants. But it will be a great disservice to the state for these privileged fellows to ‘sell’ the slots to the highest bidders or unqualified family members and friends. No nation can be truly developed without proper education of the citizenry.