By Erasmus Ikhide
“Your Excellency Sir, we are not sacking teachers in Kaduna. Rather, we are replacing unqualified people who are unfit to be called teachers to save the future of the next generation.” That was Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s response to his Ekiti State counterpart, Governor Ayodele Fayose who chastised him that the sacking of 22,000 teachers in Kaduna State could ignite climatic upsurge in crime wave and other ancillary social vices.
The teachers and the labor unions have been up in arms, protesting against the governor for daring to protest the rottenness in the educational system of the State and his attempt to arrest the drift from total collapse. It’s a case of two protesters: the first is insisting on force-feeding poor contents into students’ minds, while the latter is resisting that giving the best education to the students is the responsibility of trainable teachers. It’s like saying, ‘you can’t very well explain to your students how Newton accounted for planetary motion if you hadn’t boned up your Newtonian mechanics first.
The governor stubborn stand is hinged on the latest poor showing in the WASSCE performance. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report has it that in September 2016 158,035 students from Kaduna State took the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE, between 2011 and 2015. Only 12.8 percent obtained credit passes in five subjects or more, including in English Language and Mathematics. Also, the Kaduna State Educational Resource Centre reported that over the same four-year period, out of 135,957 results released, only 19,137 or 14 percent passed with the required number of credits for admission to any tertiary institution.
The illiterate teachers should have known that Governor El-Rufai who has the penchant for troubleshooting wouldn’t take the poor output of Kaduna State pupils kindly. Early in 2016, the governor embarked on a suicide mission by instigating a legislation that stipulates prison terms for parents who refused to send their wards to schools. The injuries that resulted from it has not been fully healed to date.
As if that was not enough, he further went for the jugular by banning street begging, a tradition that is in sick and soaks with Islamic foundation of giving to the less privilege, a trade that has made thousands powerful political power brokers billionaire in the state! The illiterate teachers’ fracas with the governor is long expected, given his style of unfriendliness or his usual inability to always convince his people on policy issues since becoming governor.
Governor El-Rufai’s problem is his selfsame believes that his people would always understand his policy and passion for altruistic leadership towards a liberated state through the development of the people’s mind and the ethical restructuring of their mindset. He has been governing in an abstract, believing that a “state or nation cannot be greater than her own teacher”! He probably wanted to do justice to humanity, in a clime that views and receives education with contempt.
Poor El-Rufai expected this gesture to be applauded for his decision to replaced these illiterate teachers in a state or country that wishes to be ‘greater than her own teacher’ without clinical educational standards for the development of the human’s mind. Governor El-Rufai is not the only governor to face this tribulation. Those who made such efforts at righting the wrongs in the educational sectors, including his predecessors in their various states were either intimidated out of the policy or voted out office.
In 2012 the late Governor Patrick Yakowa shocked Nigerians when he said a verification exercise carried out in the state revealed that no fewer than 2,000 teachers secured their appointments with fake certificates. However, he failed to deal with the issue, forthwith. The backlash is the continued poor grades and by extension poor leader at every level of our national development.
In 2013, a report in the state’s ministry of education revealed that of a total of 1,599 teachers selected from across the state who were given primary four tests in Mathematics and Basic literacy; only one of them scored 75 percent, 251 scored between 50 to 75 percent and 1,300 scored below 25 percent. When the same examination was conducted for 1,800 primary school pupils, virtually all the pupils failed the exam! Surprisingly, no action was taken against the functional illiterate teachers by governor Mukhtar Yaro!
Prior to Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s re-election in 2011, he paid an unscheduled visit to a primary school in the state capital where he encountered an illiterate teacher who could not read her own name in an affidavit she deposed to. That prompted him to organized aptitude text for all the teachers across the state. Painfully, Oshiomhole could not implement the outcome of the aptitude text and his threat to weed off the illiterate teachers from the system turned out to be a mere threat. He caved in because of his second term ambition.
He later gave vent to that frustration at a town hall meeting held in July 2013, disclosing that from the audit carried out in the state, “We found that of all our primary school teachers, only 1,287, representing 9% out of 14,484 teachers have proper records in our system. 91% have various forms of discrepancies in their records. About 1,379 teachers, representing 11.5% claim that they obtained their Primary School Certificates after they had been employed as teachers. In fact, some obtained their Primary School Certificates not more than two years ago, from the school in which they were employed as teachers.”
Oshiomhole was like his counterparts across the country. They lack the balls to step up to the rot in the educational system and ride it off the plague for political reasons. That is even when the figures of Nigerian out of school number has increased to 13.2, yet States and federal governments budgetary allocations to education are far below UNESCO benchmark.
With the poor population of more than 90% in the country, it will be fair to say that Nigeria has not been able to provide effective education to almost 75% of the children roaming the streets. This is an extremely depressing figure knowing that education is the bedrock of nation-building or great nations. The time is now to awake ourselves and start to work towards improving our education system.
Part of our drawback as a nation, unfortunately, is the fact that Nigeria has been plagued with poor leadership over time, whose education or lack of it cannot develop or move the country forward. They are probably too blinded to know that education plays a critical role in deciding both political and economic growth of any nation. They are too bereaved of common sense to be aware that once citizens are educated, they bring fame, wealth, and prosperity to the country which help to galvanize the development of any country.
They have no idea that an educated populace is less aggressive, as such, the society remains in peace, stable in the long run. Education serves as a unifying tool because educated minds work in similar ways, united by the unique sense of reasoning and almost the same sense of right and wrong.
The illiterates teachers have to be flushed out of the system to pave the way for a trainable new set of teachers who will impact actual and true knowledge on Kaduna State students. If Governor El-Rufai pulls through, the upcoming generation would forever be grateful to him for his statesmanship. He would be remembered as the governor who sacrificed his political ambition for the future generation. The retention of the illiterate teachers in the educational system in Kaduna State, as it is the case with other states of the federation can only bring damnation to Nigeria now and in the future.
Erasmus, A Public Affairs Analysis writes from Lagos.
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