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Teaching Should Not Be Last Resort In Job Search
The Director General, National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, Professor Adewale Solarin, said that as far as teachers’ salaries and allowances remain poor, Nigeria may never have the best brains in the teaching profession.

He opined that if the Nigerian teachers were continually relegated socially and economically, the nation would continue to witness brain drain in the academics.

How would you appraise students’ attitude to mathematics?

Definitely, there is an improvement, though as far as I am concerned, this is still not significant. The basic problem with the teaching of mathematics is fund.

We discovered that at the end of our two-year programme in the states, we collaborated with one Mathematics Improvement Project, the percentage of those that passed the subject jumped from three or six per cent to about 70 per cent. Unfortunately, the fund did not go round all the schools.

How can the teaching of mathematics be made more attractive?

To encourage best brains in sciences to remain in the classroom, there is need for special incentives for them. But far beyond that, there should be something more for mathematics teachers.

In developed countries, only the best brains are allowed to teach and they get a lot of privileges to the extent that people are struggling to be teachers.

Over there, for instance, engineers do not get better pay than teachers. Even in some parts of Africa, mathematics teachers are better paid than engineers.

It was like that before in Nigeria also and many of us settled for single subjects in education during our time because there was scholarship. If you are taking education or a single subject, there was full scholarship from the federal government then in the 1970’s and that encouraged the best brains to go for education courses.

Such incentives encourage individuals to bring out their best. It is very unfortunate that we do not understand that it is the future of the country we are actually compromising, because teaching is neither an issue of curriculum nor that of content. Rather, it is the totality of the person standing in front of the class.

The person must be totally motivated to be able to influence and impact on the children. Education is the totality of the child. So, the totality of the teacher is key. These days, however, education courses are for those who could not meet up with cut-off marks for medicine or engineering courses.

To mark my 60th birthday, I chose to give back to my community by donating N1m for the renovation of the primary school I attended, because I know very well that the school contributed immensely to what I am today. I wish I could still locate some of the teachers.

I would have done something really nice to appreciate them because they were like giants and they communicated knowledge when they taught us. Teaching should not be a last resort job or to mark time because if it continues that way, then our future is compromised.

What are your dreams for mathematics education in Nigeria?

It’s unfortunate that Mathematics is where it is today in the country. But I believe that in the next few years, if we get the right environment, the issue of mathematics phobia would be a thing of the past. I still believe that a day is coming when Nigeria will be like Japan.

In Japan and some other Asian countries, if you ask little children what their best subject is, they tell you it is mathematics.

What are your achievements during one year in office?

It is amazing that one year is over and we are grateful to God for seeing us through it. We have recorded a number of successes. At the beginning of last year, we invited 56 unemployed mathematics graduates and trained them for three months. Every two weeks, they had examinations and at the end of it all, the best 20 were selected based on their performance for further training.

The first three months was to try and refurbish their background on core areas we knew various universities had problems based on manpower problem. The top 20 were later introduced to topics on foundation post-graduate programme and at the end; we were able to secure scholarship for the 20 students. Right now, 12 of them are in Pakistan. One of them is on his way to Canada, while the rest are still processing their papers for the United States of America.

We will keep doing it every year and that is one of our contributions in rejuvenating mathematics in the universities.

Also, last year, we were able to organise the first knowledge-based activities, which put Nigeria in the Guinness World Record for organising the largest Mathematics class in the world.

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19/05/2014
 
 
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