THE Kaduna State government and its teachers are currently in a running battle over a competency test that has already thrown 25,000 teachers out of job. Totally dissatisfied with quality of teaching in government schools in the state, the government had felt that the best way forward was to examine teachers through a competency test to find out areas of deficiency. After the test, a large number of the teachers were found to be unqualified, with the state government threatening to do away with those who failed the test.
A few days ago, the state government made good its threat by releasing a memo seeking applications from qualified individuals, but the state branch of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) would have none of that while blaming government for creating the crisis in the first place.
The state NUT is also arguing that government reneged on the agreed 60 per cent pass mark by unilaterally jacking it up to 75 per cent. The NUT insisted that whatever shortcoming the government identified was self-inflicted as teachers did not employ themselves, blaming past governments for employing their cronies and favourites into teaching positions without merit, a situation that has now backfired.
“The so-called competency test was not a true test, because you can only test a teacher by supervising him while he teaches in class. These teachers did not employ themselves; they were employed by the state government only to turn around and declare them unqualified. They are our members and we have a duty to protect our members,” he said promising to support the state government to ensure professionalism among teachers in the state.
The NUT boss, Comrade Audu Amba, thereafter vowed that any attempt to sack the teachers would be met with a strike action, adding that the NUT would only recognise a test conducted by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN).
The current crisis started last month when the state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, told a World Bank delegation that 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers failed the test as an indication of the serious problem the state has in the education sector.
“We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers. We gave them primary four examination and required they must get at least 75 per cent, but I am sad to announce that 66 per cent of them failed to get the requirements,” the governor had told his guests. He consequently announced his intention to relieve the over 20,000 teachers who failed the test of their jobs and recruit another 25,000 in order to restore dignity and quality to the state’s education sector.
Sunday Tribune gathered that the first test was organised for the teachers in December 2016 by the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), but the results were set aside. Another test was organised in July 2017 by the state Universal Basic Education Board, whose results generated the current furore.
But mixed reactions have continued to trail the governor’s declaration and his intention to sack the teachers who failed. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state said the government’s action was worrisome, especially considering the unwholesome condition teachers in the state operate in. A prominent member of the party, Alhaji Ibrahim Wusono contended that teachers in the state are passing through hell, as most of them are currently owed nine to 11 months, adding: “And you subject them to a test? How do you expect them to pass when their stomachs are empty?”
Malam Yahaya Abbas, NUT chairman Zaria branch, told the Sunday Tribune that there was no way everybody (teachers) could have scored an A grade, adding that the government had violated the agreement reached with the union over the test. “So how do you expect them to perform well when some are yet to be paid three months salaries. Some, even 13 months?” he queried.
A teacher, who teaches at the Army Children School, Kakuri, Kaduna, but who pleaded for anonymity told the Sunday Tribune that apart from salary issue, primary school teachers in the state are grossly understaffed.
“I invite you to come and see for yourself how we are struggling to teach these pupils. Most of the classes have over 100 pupils. To me, government should recruit more teachers instead of sacking them,” he admonished.
Also speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former director in the Ministry of Education frowned on the competency test. He noted that the bizarre decision, even if it was right, utterly came at the wrong time. “Why should teachers receive this ill-treatment when their take home is not only meagre, but also irregular?”
A parent, Alhaji Abubakar Maru, blamed the government at all levels for the poor performance of the teachers. “How do you expect the teachers to perform when the government deliberately killed Grade 2 teachers’ certificate? The day we phased out grade 2 was the beginning of having quacks in the teaching profession. Therefore, the governor does not have the moral standing to sack the teachers,” Maru stated.
Defending the state government’s action, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Alhaji Adamu Mansur, said: “Honestly, as a government, we are aware of the fact that most of the primary school teachers cannot read or write.
“To continue to leave the situation like that will be a great disservice to the people.
Corroborating Mansur, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on media and publicity, Mr Samuel Aruwan, explained that the competency test was not a witch-hunt but rather an obligation on the part of government to put things in their right perspectives.
A parent, who pleaded for anonymity told the Sunday Tribune that she was in support of the governor’s decision to relieve the teachers of their jobs. “What kind of knowledge do you expect a quack to be teaching these children?” she queried.
A radio producer, Emmanuel Ado, also said education is so crucial for the development of any society. He contended that the desire to have qualified teachers is very critical. “The governor, I would say, has stated a revolution in the educational sector. One only prays other state governors will key in,” he said.
However, as controversies continued to rage over the state government’s action, the government is insisting that it is not sacking the teachers but only disengaging them, even as stakeholders continue to wonder how government was going to employ 25,000 new teachers without rocking the education sector.
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