Mass exodus looms as UK begins recruitment of Nigerian teachers

As Nigeria grapples with mass migration of medical personnel to Europe and North America, the same may soon be witnessed in the education sector as the United Kingdom begins employment of qualified Nigerian teachers from February this year; Benjamin Samson reports.


Eligible teachers in Nigeria can now apply to work in schools in the United Kingdom, courtesy of a programme by the UK Department of Education published in its website in December 2022.


To stand a chance, applicants will be required to have qualified teacher status (QTS), a qualification awarded by the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA), equivalent to certificates issued by Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).


The UK’s Department of Education listed Nigeria among the predominantly African and Asian countries that are now eligible to apply. Teachers in Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Singapore, South Africa, Ukraine and Zimbabwe as well as Nigeria are expected to start applying by February this year.


“From 1 February 2023, teachers from all eligible countries will have to show they meet a consistent set of criteria for the award of QTS. Over time, this route will be opened to qualified teachers from every country outside the UK.


“This will ensure all non-UK teachers awarded QTS meet the same high standards, while also increasing opportunities for highly qualified teachers wherever they trained,” the notice read.


Giving further details, the UK government said a minimum of two years of teaching experience is needed to be eligible for qualified teacher status.


“To apply for assessment only QTS, you do not need a formal teacher training qualification. However, you must have: a minimum of 2 years’ teaching experience; a first (bachelor’s) degree from a UK or non-UK university an English language qualification which is the same standard as a Grade 4 GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education); a maths qualification which is the same standard as a grade 4 GCSE to teach children aged 3 to 11 in primary school and a physics, chemistry or biology (science) qualification which is the same standard as a grade 4 GCSE,” the notice reads.


350,000 qualified


From data at Teacher’s Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) website, Blueprint weekend gathered that about 350,000 Nigerian teachers are qualified for such employment from a pool of 1.5 million.


Grave danger


In a chat with our reporter, the Executive Director, Education as a Vaccine (EVA) a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Mrs Oluwatoyin Chukwudozie, said the policy portend grave danger as it could rob Nigeria of her future.


She said: “Professionally certificated Nigerian teachers are likely to join the mass emigration train from February this year. The drain of teachers will be coming against the backdrop of the exodus of Nigerian medical personnel to Europe, North America and Middle East, among other regions of the world.


“No fewer than 7,256 Nigerian-trained nurses left this country for the UK between March 2021 and March 2022, according to figures issued last May by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the United Kingdom, which also reported that Nigeria had the third highest number of foreign trained nurses practising in that country, coming after India and The Philippines.


“Other reports, late last year, indicated that nearly 900 Nigerian doctors were licensed to practice in the UK within two months. According to the General Medical Council, which licenses and maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, 8,737 doctors trained in Nigeria were practising in the UK as at September 2021, a number certain to have risen much higher by now.


“Now, it will be teachers in the brain drain pipe. Mass emigration of teachers portends a more ruinous impact on Nigerian nationhood even than the emigration of doctors.


“Countries coming for Nigerian professionals are not to blame. After all, it is ancient wisdom that when you do not value what you have, others who do will come and take it off you. Just like the health system, the Nigerian education sector is so derelict today that the elite, most government officials inclusive, can’t entrust their wards to it and would rather take those wards abroad for foreign education. But the challenge has never been with teacher competency, as the new UK policy proves, but with systemic defects owing to inadequate funding and poor incentivisation.”


More teachers needed


Similarly, in a chat with our reporter, a Professor of Education Psychology, Eunice Udida Ochefu, said: “Teachers play essential roles in education, most especially in the lives of their students. Teachers don’t only teach, they act as alternative parents to students. They counsel, mentor and correct students when they need to. Their roles are so important that every profession must pass through them.


“Teachers are important because they change lives, inspire dreams, and push the limits of human potential. Little wonder the saying that no nation can develop above the quality of its teachers.


“If a brain drain happens in our education sector, it will do more than increase the ratio of educators to students. The quality of any education system depends on the quality of its intellectual pool. Last month, the registrar of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria noted that over 260 teachers migrated to Canada this year. If our number of qualified teachers continues to dwindle, it’ll eventually affect the quality of students produced.


“It’s important to remember that applicants for the UK teaching jobs don’t need formal teaching qualifications. However, they must have a Bachelor’s degree, meaning they’d be skilled in other areas. If we lose most of our skilled labour to migration, our economic and technological development will remain in the trenches.


“A good way for the country to manage this situation would be to increase the incentives for the academic staff across all public schools, provide more job opportunities with attractive salaries for graduates, and make the work environment and culture more conducive.”


Cheap labour driving brain drain


Similarly, the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nasarawa state, Abdullahi Mohammed, said Nigerian teachers have always discharged themselves creditably when it comes to professionalism.


His words: “Yes, the truth is that Nigerian teachers are good and great and they deserve commendation for performing under conditions that are not conducive. It is not that Nigerians are not good, the atmosphere is simply hostile.


“The British government recognises this and has listed our country among those whose services are needed in that sector.


“Unfortunately, what value do we place on teachers here? I see what the UK government wants to do as a business decision, as far as I am concerned, they just want to minimize cost and get cheap labour.


“Few days ago, nurses in that country went on strike because of poor remuneration. When they get new intakes for the job, they will start them at lower levels and pay them less.


“For those coming from Nigeria for instance, the situation will still be seen as better than what obtains here. We must note that the situation portends danger for Nigeria.


“The reason is that when countries such as Britain balance up regarding workforce, they will shut their doors. It is not that our own people are not good, are they appreciated and recognised?


TRCN reacts


Likewise, reacting to the development, TRCN Registrar, Professor Josiah Ajiboye, applauded the UK government for the policy.


Ajiboye said it illustrated the high quality of Nigerian teachers, stating: “When we started these innovations in the teaching profession, we stated that our qualifying examinations would be of global standards and the UK has confirmed that with this policy.


“It is not only there, even from Canada, the United States and many other countries; we get enquiries on a daily basis. I don’t see it as brain drain. The world has become a global village and people even work for firms in Europe while living here in Nigeria. Moreover, our people will gain insight there that could positively rub off on our society later.


“There is no question it is good for Nigerian teachers to have the opportunity to export their skills. But while it will be of personal benefit to the teachers, and we must be happy for them, we should also confront the fact that it will be at a great loss to Nigeria’s future and prospects of national growth.


“More than any other profession, teachers are the bedrock of development in any country because they are trustees of knowledge and spring well of human resource development. When you drain away a nation’s crop of professional teachers, you rob that nation of its very future.”


Negative fundamentals, parameters


Also, in a chat with our reporter, a Professor of Education Psychology, Eunice Udida Ochefu, expressed concern that Nigeria’s education system across all levels was not working.


She said the philosophy of education, the ownership and governance models, the funding structure and the outcome need tweaking in 2023.


“The UK government’s policy has brought to the fore, myriads of challenges confronting our education policy. The starting point for me in this review process will be the Education Committee Report of the 2014 National Conference, which addressed most of the current challenges. It can serve as a building block on which we can engage.


“All our fundamentals and parameters are in the negative. Education budget to GDP ratio, number of out-of-school children, teacher to student ratio, student to teaching and learning infrastructure ratio, research and innovation funding to budget ratio, training and retraining of teachers, quality assurance and evaluation and especially the low usage of learner analytics in our school system. Our governance models, especially in the tertiary sector, are different from the 21st models of running such institutions.”


Continuing, she said: “According to the statistics, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the highest figures for out-of-school children globally. The figures in Nigeria have oscillated between 10.5 million and around 15 million for more than a decade, with the situation growing worse due to the degenerating security situation in the country.”


Teachers speak


Some teachers who spoke with our reporter expressed willingness to relocate to the UK. They also lamented poor treatment by successive administrations over the years.


Doshima Tyoodda said: “The news that the UK government wants to start employing qualified Nigerian teachers from next year came as a relief to me. If I have the opportunity I will migrate to the UK. It will go a long way to teach Nigeria government sense.


“Over the years, Nigerian teachers have been relegated and treated like paupers. In the last national honour that was held in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari, how many teachers were honoured? This is the time God wants to honour Nigerian teachers through the offer by the UK government and nothing should stop it.


“We no longer want our rewards in heaven; we want to enjoy it on earth. Those who are qualified should go so that the Nigeria government can wake up from slumber and give teachers their accorded respect.”


Sharing a similar view, another teacher, Mrs Oluwatoyin Dada, said: “Teachers are human beings with needs and wants. In fact, being a repository of knowledge, they are special breeds who deserve not only respect, prestige and care but also a living wage and more.


“Teaching is not a curse, it is a noble profession. Teachers are dedicated citizens giving their best to the society. Reward-in-heaven as the opium of the teachers should be de-emphasized and care for our needs if teachers are to be encouraged.


“I foresee looming danger in the education sector if nothing is done by the Federal Government to prevent teachers migrating to the UK next year for greener pastures. Teachers should no longer be heard going on strike due to irregular payment of their salaries that is not even enough when compared to the service they render.


“The way society treats teachers is not encouraging. Most graduates take up teaching jobs. The government and the society look down on teachers who should be accorded due respect. Every scholar passes through a teacher, yet most teachers find it hard to meet basic needs of life.


“It is unacceptable that teachers have to resort to strikes to get what is due for them. Delay in the payment of teachers’ salaries is a demonstration that their efforts are not being appreciated.”





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