What is in a qualification? Probably we all heard that right! All teachers must have a degree in order to teach. Degrees are awarded by Universities or other degree awarding institutions on the fulfillment of a set of requirements. These requirements mainly consist of sitting in a set of class lectures and doing exams. If you are lucky there may be project work and an internship to boot. After that you will be invited on a specific day and the chancellor will ‘award’ you a degree.

More like if there is no bread, let them have cake. So going forward, all teachers, whether primary or secondary teachers will be required to go through this process of obtaining a degree in order to qualify to teach our children. But who wants to be a teacher and how do we end up getting our teachers in this country?

First there is a kind of pecking order in the education system that has created a bias against the teaching profession. Most of us start out wanting to be an accountant, a lawyer, doctor or engineer. That is like what one would consider a top tier profession. Therefore the competition to get into a university program for those ‘traditional’ programs is most intense. The ones who pass with the highest marks (not necessarily the most intelligent) will get into those kinds of programs. These types of students are probably from elite (urban) schools. If you fail to get into these ‘top tier’ programs then you can get into economics, statistics, geology, forestry and chemistry. These days there is also information and communications technology and things like ‘library science’. And ‘social studies’.

If you can’t get into those programs still, then you get a ‘flat’ bachelor’s degree in the arts. Here you study things like history, literature, or geography. The foresighted ones may throw in a diploma in education eventually. Or if things really don’t work out then you opt for the ‘dry’ bachelor’s in education. In essence the person who ends up here does so because it is a ‘dead end’ way to get into the university at the expense of the taxpayer. In our thinking, if you did not get into a university, you never made it. Woe betide you if you ended up as one of those ‘grade something’ teachers from a teacher training college.

After the ‘pecking order problem’, we then have the ‘incentive system problem’. Teachers are so poorly paid (unless they are university professors) that no one wants to do the job. Indeed, there are lots of university graduates pounding the street who have opted for unemployment rather than upgrading to teacher status. The irony then is that those with the poorest grades are more likely to end up as teachers. That is because they are perceived to be ‘weak’ and best suited for ‘teaching’.

They could not have accounting or engineering (bread) so let them be teachers (cake). A kind of Marie Antionette situation. Now these fellows are being asked to get themselves a degree or begone. According to National Teachers’ Policy that was introduced in 2017, a teacher will be required to have a Bachelor degree of Education in order to teach in either primary or a secondary school (sic). This policy was arrived at with the aid of technical assistance from UNESCO, International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) under the Capacity Development for Education Program.

As usual, when decisions are made by those who are not penalized by them, they are loaded with moral hazard. Is the degree (piece of paper) the problem? Definitely not. The problem is who gets into teaching and why they end up there. It is a bias and pay problem. Will a degree resolve those problems? Definitely no. As is always the case with these ‘fly by night’ consultant driven decisions, let’s get out the popcorn and await the drama of the unintended consequences.

Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at MAT ABACUS BUSINESS SCHOOL. Twitter @samuelsejjaaka