Posted on November 13, 2017
We cannot really ascertain the type of kangaroo test he did. The only body competent to test teachers is the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria. So, I don’t know the body that Governor El-Rufai used to test the teachers and discovered that they were incompetent. As far as we are concerned, we are not in support of that purported retrenchment that the governor is trying to do. There was a protest by the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Nigeria Labour Congress and the National Union of Local Government Employees to kick against the action of the government. They also asked him to retrace his steps.
When you want to administer an examination for teachers, there is a body responsible for that. The TRCN is the only competent body that can test the credibility of teachers. It is not the state governor. What parameters did he (governor) use? Did he retrain any of them before conducting a test? His action is unacceptable to the union. Setting exams is not the issue. That is not the way to revive the education system. There has to be training and retraining. The condition of work for the teachers should be okay so that there would be job satisfaction. It is when the heart is happy that we expect good things from it. •Loggle Iyalomhe (Edo State Chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers)
I want to appeal to all Nigerians to prevail on Governor El-Rufai to change his approach. His plan to send over 21,000 people into the labour market in one fell swoop is not the best solution to the alleged problems he claims to have in Kaduna. Let us follow the legal way. That he is a governor doesn’t mean he knows how to conduct tests. Conducting tests is not under his legal power as the governor. The law makes it clear that the body known as Teachers Registration Council is the only statutory body that can administer tests to teachers. It is very clear. I always feel embarrassed when I hear that teachers cannot pass Primary 4 examinations.
The question you should ask is: what was the nature of the questions that were set for the teachers? We have gone through the questions he was asking our teachers. There were so many irrelevant questions like, ‘who is the Commissioner of Police in Bayelsa State?’ ‘Who is the Bayelsa State Chairman of SUBEB?’ All these questions are irrelevant. Another thing that you should ask is how did these teachers secure employment in Kaduna State? We are not surprised by El-Rufai’s conduct. This was how he did when he was the FCT Minister a few years ago. People are still suffering from his maladministration.
So, my candid advice is that if it is true that he is an advocate of positive change, he should know that sacking en masse for whatever reason is wrong. I think he needs to set up an education committee made up of elders, technocrats and see education as a problem in his state rather than making an unnecessary noise. The civil service rules are very clear. He claims he will pay them off and recruit new teachers, but is this payment in the budget? Is he paying regular salaries? Are the local governments in Kaduna paying? So, for us, this is nothing but a witch-hunt. •Michael Olukoya (National President, NUT)
It is not justified. These teachers have gone through schools: colleges of education, universities, and they have gone through all the rudiments of such schools. In Nigeria, the minimum qualification for teaching is the National Certificate Examination or a university degree, which of course guarantees them to be in class. Secondly, we have a professional body called the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria that has the sole right to regulate teaching as a profession. So, El-Rufai conducting a competence test or whatever is an aberration.
Whatever that has come out from that test cannot stand the test of time. It is only TRCN that has the competence and right to conduct regulatory examinations for our teachers in this country. It is unlawful and illegal for El-Rufai to sack any teacher on the pretext that those teachers have failed a competence test. Most of the governors or chief executives, because of the challenges they have, and their inability to pay salaries, use one policy or the other to create confusion and this is what is happening in Kwara State.
Let El-Rufai go back and see how he can develop those teachers even if they have challenges. Let them look at themselves on the part of the government: what are those areas that they are lacking in? Have they provided the teachers with the right environment to work? Are the classrooms adequate? Are they paying them salaries up to date? These are things that should be considered. Even at the time of giving them the test, what is the psychological makeup of the teachers? What do you expect from somebody who has not been paid three or four months’ salaries? Somebody, who has been in agony for many years without promotion; what do you expect from that teacher? The plan of El-Rufai to sack the teachers is not justified. The teachers should be united and unanimous in their position. They should fight for their rights. •Alhaji Musa Abubakar (Kwara State Chairman, NUT)
To me, you cannot rob Peter to pay Paul. Yes, you can say they failed that examination, but we all know that examination is not true test of knowledge. In this particular case, the governor can give them the option of offering to retrain them. Let him send them to a special training college for 12 months and if they fail after that, then he can ask them to leave. He may think that if he sacks them and employs people to replace them, it will not affect anything, but that is wrong. My position is that he should leave them, but offer them the option of retraining and then those who refuse that opportunity should be retired.
If he wants to create jobs for new teachers, let him expand the school system and put new teachers there. Those who are already there cannot just be sent away. Another question is whether the governor has the power to sack teachers who are civil servants. If they are civil servants and are pensionable, they have to go through the appropriate commission which I think is SUBEB. If they are local government employees, then the Local Government Service Commission must be involved. I don’t think the governor can sack 21,000 people by fiat in a democracy. It is the military that does that because they usually suspend processes. But if it is a democracy, he cannot do that.
The NUT should stand for their rights. First, he has no right to sack them and if he must, he should follow due process. These are human beings and we must be sensitive to their plight. •Olorunfunmi Basorun (Ex-Commissioner for Education, Lagos State)
Education is in a big crisis in Nigeria and this is severely understated at all levels. Sadly, some experts have argued that there is no fall in the standard of education, but this is a most unfortunate statement because when you talk to examination bodies and employers of labour in all sectors, they will affirm that the standard of education in our country today is abysmal. I commend the governor of Kaduna State for being intent on a serious education reform.
However, the approach of mass sacking of teachers is not advisable. Education reform should be considered in terms of its impact in four areas. First is the impact on children’s achievement, then impact on teachers’ work life, then effect on the school system/community and finally impact on the society as a whole. In theory, the intended action should massively improve the attainment of children through the hiring of more competent teachers. This is the strongest point in favour. However, in reality, it is likely to kill morale, spread fear, whip up sentiments, become politicised and summarily erode any gains from the action even if the governor finds enough better teachers to employ – which he may not find because they are already hired.
On the second and third points, the governor’s action is likely to have negative impact, while on the last consideration – its effect on society – may be catastrophic even if we never obtain empirical evidence in support. Simply, the distress levels are much worse and more dehumanising than our leaders imagine. Twenty-one thousand or so teachers, losing their jobs may spell doom for hundreds of thousands. The reform has a moral and humanitarian responsibility to moderate the process. The problem of incompetence is deep in the country – in every profession – medical, accountancy, law, banking, engineering, etc and not just in teaching.
It is the whirlwind of neglect, corruption, politicking sown over the years. People who are not well-taught cannot teach well or practise well. It is a vicious cycle. Let’s not visit it all on teachers alone, overnight. So, he means well in boldly confronting the needful reform in education, but he needs a more balanced, softer, more-inclusive long-term approach that can provide the desired solution. •Pastor Samuel Olatunji (Chairman, Board, Trinity International College, Ofada)