The threat by Kaduna State teachers under the aegis of the state’s 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 unfortunate to say the least. The teachers, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, embarked on a selfish protest in the state capital last week to oppose the planned sack. They also issued a two-week ultimatum to Governor Nasir el-Rufai to rescind the plan to sack the 21,000 primary school teachers who scored below 75 per cent in the test set for them by the state government who are their employers.
Trouble began when the state’s authorities through the state’s Universal Education Board decided to administer a competency test on some 33,000 primary school teachers to determine their suitability for the job. This was after repeated poor performance by school children in the state. 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 demoralising that so many teachers could not do well in a test designed for Primary 4 pupils. Thus, 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 and indeed that of Nigeria that is at stake. 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 and an assured future. 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 posture is discouraging to the resolution of the conflict. 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 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 resorting to threats, the affected teachers and their selfish unions should rather seek ways of saving themselves from this serious charge of unfitness. This 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 very important and strategic 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.
What has happened 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 happened in Ekiti and Edo States under the respective administrations of their former governors, Kayode Fayemi and Adams Oshiomhole. Delicate national issues such as teachers’ qualification and competence should not become chess on the altar of politics. This is what the Kaduna NUT is attempting to do in this matter and it should be advised otherwise.
Because of the sensitive nature of the matter, we call on the government in Kaduna to sit with the unions and teachers to find better ways of easing the incompetent or unteachable teachers out of the system. They could function in other capacities. So that their disengagement will not adversely affect their families who depend on them. We recommend this staff audit for all states federal government teaching staff. Teaching is the life wire of education, which is too important to be left in the hands of jokers.