The threat by the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) to embark on a strike if the state government goes ahead to sack some of its members is unnecessary. The teachers, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, poured into the streets of Kaduna on Wednesday to protest the planned sack. They also issued a two-week ultimatum to Governor el-Rufai to rescind the plan to sack the 25,000 primary school teachers who scored below 75 percent in the test set for them by the state government. The trouble in Kaduna started when the state’s authorities decided to administer a competency test on some 33,000 primary school teachers to determine their suitability for the job. The result was shocking as only 11,220 passed while the remaining 21,780 failed to reach the cut-off mark of 75 per cent. The government said the test given to the teachers was for Primary 4 pupils.
It is worrisome that so many teachers could not perform well in a test designed for Primary 4 pupils. So, both the NUT and the NLC have to be very careful in their handling of this issue. This is because it is the future of the children in that state that is on the line. We think the two organisations, beyond the interest of their members, should be mindful of their responsibility to give the children in the state a fair chance to have a good education. This threat to go on indefinite strike is an attempt to blackmail the government into acquiescence, instead of addressing the deficiencies of their members.
This attitude is unhelpful to the resolution of the issue at hand. It is also the type of attitude that is responsible for the falling standard of education nationwide. In fact, if the Kaduna test were to be replicated in some other states in the country, the results would hardly be different. All stakeholders in the education sector know that the poor standard of education in many parts of the country, especially in many of the northern states, requires drastic action to reverse the trend. Many teachers in different parts of the country lack basic teaching qualifications, and probably entered service with questionable documents. Some cannot speak good English Language, let alone write correct sentences in their medium of instruction. So, what can they teach the children entrusted in their care?
Instead of strike threats, we expect the affected teachers and their unions to seek ways of redeeming themselves from this serious charge of incompetence. This would seem to be the best option for them as the poor performance of many of their pupils in public examinations is hardly a good advertisement of their competence. We are sure there are enough teacher training institutions in the state and everywhere else in the country where they can seek the assistance of the state government to improve themselves.
The job of moulding future generations of Nigerians is a very important and strategic one which must not be politicized, because it is the future of the children, the state and the country that is at stake, whenever the education of children is trifled with. It has become necessary to restore integrity and credibility to education, and we expect all well-meaning persons in the state to encourage the state governor in this quest.
The scenario playing out in Kaduna is not new. Anytime the authorities find the courage to audit their staff, mostly teaching staff, they resort to blackmail and threats to either go on strike or vote out the crusading state governors. It has played out in Ekiti and Edo States under the respective administrations of their former governors, Kayode Fayemi and Adams Oshiomhole. Sensitive national matters like the qualifications and competence of teachers should never be reduced to politicking. This is what the Kaduna NUT is attempting to do in this matter and it should be advised to desist from it.
We, however, join in the appeal to the Kaduna State government to tender justice with mercy and seek avenues for a rapprochement. Those amongst the affected teachers who can be retrained and are willingly to be retrained should be helped into training schools so that they can be properly certified to carry out the very important assignment of educating children. Those who lack the basic teaching qualifications and performed most woefully should be helped into other professions or vocations. A nation which places less than the highest premium on the education of its children is certainly not ready for development and progress.
Everything that is necessary should be done to reverse the declining standard of education in the country. The NUT in Kaduna, its national body and the NLC should consider the poor academic performance of schoolchildren in many northern states and partner with the state government on the difficult assignment of changing the narrative. The overall objective should be to raise academic standards and the performance of the schoolchildren in public examinations.