Kaduna teachers as a metaphor of fallen education system

Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna state Governor

Against the backdrop of the face-off between Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Kaduna State’s primary and secondary school teachers following a competency test which many of them failed, Head, Education Desk, Iyabo Lawal, examines the implication of their training and capacity on pupils.

The placard was unmistakable in its message as one of the protesting primary and secondary school teachers held it up in Kaduna State recently.

The message has since been described as the shame of a nation and the impunity often displayed in every aspect of Nigeria.

“Examination is not the true position of one’s knowledge!” the placard had read. This has since led to subject of debates across the social and mainstream media.

In October, the Kaduna State Government made it public that about 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers failed the Primary Four examination administered to test their competence and owing to the mass failure, Governor Nasir El-Rufai declared that the state is now shopping for 25,000 new teachers as one of the plans to restore sanity to the sector.

Expressing his dismay over the result, El-Rufai said, “We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers. We gave them Primary Four examinations and required that they must get at least 75 per cent. But I am sad to announce that 66 per cent of them failed to meet the requirement. The hiring of teachers in the past was politicized.

“We intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to restore the dignity of education in the state. We have a challenge with the teacher-pupil ratio in urban schools. There is a concentration of teachers that are not needed. In some local government areas, it’s a teacher-pupil ratio of 1-9 while in some places it’s 1-100.”

The governor also claimed that in a bid to improve the education sector, school directors decided to enrol their children in public schools starting from the current academic session.

The state’s Parents-Teachers Association in the state has curiously kept mute in the face of this crisis, However, public school pupils in the state did not seem to welcome the idea of their under-performing teachers being sacked as schoolchildren in some local government areas of the state in early November took to the streets, protesting the government’s intention to terminate the appointment of the teachers.

Some pupils from Chikun, Sabon Gari, and Zaria local government areas took to the streets in their hundreds with leaves in their hands, chanting, “Ba maso.”

Also painting the El-Rufai administration as a villain are members of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, the Nigeria Labour Congress, and the National Union of Local Government Employees, as they also took to the streets to show their displeasure over the government’s policy.

Leading the groups, the NLC National President, Ayuba Wabba, said the competency test used as an excuse to sack the teachers lacked credibility and was unacceptable.

“It was a smokescreen to sack workers. Legitimate institutions mandated to organise such examinations were ignored by the government. Teaching is a profession in Nigeria. We have teacher training institutions and Teachers Registration Council – why are they not the ones conducting the test?

“This is because they have sinister motives. They are doing this just to sack and reduce workers and we will not accept that. By putting all together and their families, up to one million people will be affected by the sack. We will not accept that. Therefore, we will stand against this exercise until justice is done. Any exercise built on faulty ground cannot stand – this is our position,” Wabba pointed out.

Over the years, education experts said there has been frantic search for solutions to the poor standard of teaching in Nigerian schools.

Some stakeholders have continued to blame teachers for the appalling performance of students in examinations. In states where education summits were organised, experts have recommended re-training programmes for both public and private school teachers.

It is for this reason that the Federal Government has directed the National Teachers Institute (NTI) to re-train teachers in Nigeria. It is not known how much of that has been done in Kaduna.

Ajiboye

The NTI is mandated by Act No 7 of 1978 to organise programmes for upgrading and updating practising teachers at all levels, a task, which it has been engaged in since its establishment. In Nigeria, unlike other countries, the re-training of teachers has not received the desired attention from local, state and Federal Governments.

According education sector’s analysts, there has not been any systematic attention to update regularly the knowledge and skills of teachers in the light of the changes in curriculum and the wider society. This neglect has in turn affected the quality of teaching in schools.

Little wonder, the Federal Government, has under the Millennium Development Goals Project, directed the institute to re-train teachers in Nigeria. But how much has been accomplished?

In the mean time, not a few people have continued to criticise the state for its “knee-jerk” attempt to sanitise the state’s education sector. Also condemning the exercise and planned sack, is the Northern Coordinator, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Bulama Abisu.

Abisu said, “Teachers get the least salary in most states in the North – even the meagre salary is not paid promptly. The governors are moving from owing salaries to sacking teachers on the claim of incompetency when it is the same government that employed the teachers.”

The NUT leader, therefore, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the crisis.

But if the unions were seeking any reprieve from Buhari, they failed to get that as the president recently threw his weight behind El-Rufai to sanitise the education sector.

Immediately following the rash of protests, the state said it is not going back on its “resolve to upgrade the quality of education in the state” as it claims that the long-term interests of two million pupils in public primary schools in the northern state is more important than the teachers about to lose their jobs.

Apart from Buhari, not many people and organisations appear to be backing the government of El-Rufai in its efforts to rid public schools of its rot.

Perhaps, the governor’s harshest antagonist, Senator Shehu Sani, believes El-Rufai’s planned action is unreasonable, adding that it is a plot to employ political loyalists of the governor.

“The sacking of over 21,000 primary school teachers by the Kaduna State governor stands condemned. It’s inhuman and the height of lunacy by a man who derives pleasure by inflicting hardship on others. How can the governor who blew over N10bn feeding schoolchildren only to realise that the teachers are incompetent. El-Rufai’s action has brought nothing but chaos and confusion to public schools in Kaduna.

“He promised the people of the state that he will enrol his children in public schools if he became governor. He has not only failed to do that but he is destroying the educational future of those who chose to send their wards to public schools. Incompetence is not a reason but an excuse to sack thousands of teachers owed many months’ salaries,” Sani claimed.

As the hoopla continues over the competency test and plan to sack thousands of Kaduna primary school teachers, the state chapter of the NUT, has given El-Rufai a two-week notice to rescind its decision or face an indefinite strike.

In an open letter written to the governor over the matter, the teachers accused him of acting in bad faith.

The open letter which was read by the state chairman of the NUT, Audu Amba, noted that contrary to the agreement reached between the government and the NUT, that the pass mark for the competency test would be pegged at 60 per cent, it was unilaterally decided otherwise by the government.

“Your Excellency, while hosting a delegation of World Bank officials, you announced to the whole world that 21,780 teachers will be disengaged in Kaduna State primary and secondary schools for not scoring up to 75 per cent in the competency test, while 25,000 will be recruited in their stead. The NUT Kaduna State wing wrote a letter to you, appealing to your conscience to rescind the decision but as usual, you ignored the letter and went ahead with your avowed determination to impose your will against the consensus of bona fide stakeholders in the educational sector.

“The NUT subsequently as a last resort and in the spirit of constitutional democracy, rule of law, and due process decided to approach the National Industrial Court, Kaduna division, to adjudicate on the issue of whether the Kaduna State government has the statutory power to conduct the competency test and which court processes have been served on you and the office of the Attorney General,” the letter said.

If the Kaduna government goes ahead with its threat, the state may face a protracted strike leaving schoolchildren to rue their future.
According to Dorcas Fareo, a Nigerian scholar, there is now a serious public outcry concerning the crisis in Nigerian education. She noted that national conferences, seminars and workshops have bemoaned the multifaceted cause of the nation’s falling standards of education.
Fareo said, “In this era of globalization, it is imperative that teachers are adequately prepared to function effectively in a challenging global environment. The challenges of globalisation demand teachers who are competent, effective, and dynamic in their orientation.”
She added that the NTI is fully committed to capacity building for primary and secondary school teachers.

“Apart from the upgrading courses that the institute has been implementing for many years (TCII, NCE and PTTP), the institute introduced proficiency Diploma Courses in Early Childhood Education, Guidance and Counselling, School Supervision and Inspection, and the Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Indeed, the institute believes that an effective implementation of the Universal Basic Education Curriculum must begin with strengthening the capacity of existing teaching force through in-service training and re-training,” Fareo said.
Despite the activities embarked upon by the government at various levels to expose teachers to frequent training and re-training, there is a sizeable number of teachers who are resistant to change due to their negative attitudes to introduce new innovations and techniques to teach their students, which could lead to students failure, the scholar noted.

“The weak correlation between school enrolments and the number of teachers employed in each school is the most obvious indicator of poor deployment. Variations in pupil–teacher ratio between schools are typically very large in Nigeria. Teachers rarely enjoy the same work environment as other professions.

“ The government schools are with poor furniture for students and teachers, dilapidated staff rooms and classrooms; and these could inhibit teaching-learning process. Nigerian teachers do not receive good salaries as other professionals do. As a result, commitment to the growth of the profession is affected,” Fareo submitted.

Will El-Rufai succumb to the threat of a statewide strike? Will he reach a compromise with the teachers?

Whatever he does will to a large extent, determine how much premium the Kaduna State Government, the NUT, the PTAs, and people of the state place on the future of youths.



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