Gov El-Rufai is being attacked for firing 22,000 teachers who couldn't pass a primary 4 test. He doesn't deserve the hate here.
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has declared war on the very obstinate El-Rufai; threatening to down tools if the 22,000 teachers aren’t reinstated.
However, El-Rufai isn’t flustered by the threats from the teachers’ union.
“We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers, we gave them primary four examinations 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”, El-Rufai said without flinching.
Locating the problem, the Governor added that; “the hiring of teachers in the past was politicized and we intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to restore the dignity of education in the State.”
El-Rufai doesn’t get a lot of things right, he's not that much of a diplomat and his politics could really suck, but on this course of action, he should have the support of the majority.
In any case, the Governor has announced that 25,000 competent teachers will be hired to replace the 22,000 who flunked a basic kindergarten test. This therefore isn't a case of racking up the unemployment numbers in the country as has been painted in some quarters, because new hands will be drafted in to replace the poor hands.
Any teacher who can’t be trusted with spelling his own name correctly, let alone passing a primary school test, doesn’t deserve to remain in the school system a day longer.
The Governor was therefore right on the money when he asked the NUT to be ashamed of itself instead of embarking on an industrial action.
In El-Rufai’s words; “Everybody knows that we will not be deterred in doing what is right for the future of our children. The NUT thinks this is about politics, making a public show of opposing what they know to be right. Shouldn’t everybody be embarrassed by the test results? Where is the sense of shame?
“I hear some people say the pass mark for a primary 4 exam should be 60 percent; the same people say the state government has no right to test the competence of its employees.
“There is no bigger evidence of the crisis in our society than that a union whose members failed a Primary 4 examination thinks it can create problems over the issue rather than be a part of the solution.
“We are not people that bow to threats. We will respond appropriately. What will be point of that strike? To force us to violate our oath of office and knowingly retain as teachers those that are not qualified? That will not happen.”
El-Rufai also said the teaching system was used as an avenue for political IOUs by corrupt politicians.
“Unqualified teachers entered the system because the recruitment of teachers was politicized. The local government council chairmen and other senior politicians and bureaucrats saw teaching as a dumping ground for their thugs, supporters and other unqualified persons.
“Teachers were employed at local government level without adherence to standards. In many instances, no examinations or interviews were conducted to assess the quality of recruits. Political patronage, nepotism and corruption became the yardstick, thus giving unqualified persons a way in. Teaching jobs were given as patronage to those connected to politicians and bureaucrats”.
He’s got a point. It’s also shameful that teachers pushed starry-eyed pupils who are still in their diapers, into a protest in Kaduna this week. It was also reported that aggrieved teachers took to vandalism at the Kaduna House of Assembly.
Yes, the sacked teachers need to be retrained, but asking the government to foot the bills of that retraining exercise is asking for too much.
It’s sad to purge 22,000 people from the payroll in very hard economic times. But there are times when tough, unpopular decisions have to be taken by leadership in order to sanitize a rotten system. If we want to get it right as a nation, we have to ensure that emotions do not always get the better of us. If we are serious about fixing our education, we’ve got to hire the most qualified personnel to oversee the process.
Reforms can rub some folks the wrong way, but that doesn't mean reforms are bad and should be ditched.
The civil service at state and federal levels is laden with people who assumed their positions without the basic rudiments required to undertake their jobs. The standard of education in Nigeria has fallen so drastically because unqualified and incompetent tutors have been saddled with the responsibility of educating our children, nieces and nephews. Worse, incompetent teachers get promoted through the ranks and end up as senior lecturers, principals and head teachers.
It is little wonder that our graduates emerge from university unprepared for life and society. These days, graduates are retrained by employers before they are handed jobs because our education system keeps churning unbaked graduates annually; graduates who are as prepared for the labour market as Arsenal are for the major titles in world soccer each season.
The rot starts from primary education. If we can get the foundation right, we may well be on our way to reforming and overhauling a collapsed education sector.
Instead of the umbrage he’s received, El-Rufai should be encouraged and other State Governors should borrow a leaf from him and go about the task of fixing education at that tier, as transparently and honestly as possible.
All the sacked teachers in Kaduna were probably not made for classrooms. Our society could require their skills in informal areas of the economy, who knows? And everyone could be the happier for it.