I was not surprised when over 21,000 Primary School Teachers (approximately 64% of the teaching population) in Kaduna could not score beyond 75% in a competency test designed for Primary 4 Pupils. About 33,000 Teachers sat for the test based on conditions agreed upon by the State Government and relevant stakeholders like the Nigeria Union of Teachers.
Now, The State Government has announced that those Teachers who failed the competency test would be sent out of the system, and therefore has issued 3 months’ of notice before their disengagement. Those who have spent over 5 years will be retired but those below 5 years would be disengaged.
The Kaduna State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers has threatened to go on strike if the State Government goes ahead with the sack of any of its Members. In their Opinion, only the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) has the power to test the competency of Teachers. The Nigeria Labour Congress has also threatened to shut down Kaduna State if Governor Nasir El-Rufai does not reverse his decision to disengage those who failed the competency test.
I will break down the making of these Teachers and why we are where we are. The First School Leaving Certificate is one of the easiest certificates to get in Nigeria, there is no standardized Examination to take before earning the certificate. The only requirement is be in Primary 5 or 6, pay some money and you are issued with the certificate. The Federal Government through the National Examination Council (NECO) organizes the National Common Entrance Examination (NCEE) into Federal Unity schools, all other Secondary Schools are left without any form of assessment or criteria for picking students.
Imagine a scenario where a student comes from a deficient elementary system that has provided a loophole for him to get the Primary School Leaving certificate, and therefore provided easier access into the secondary school system. The same student goes through the secondary system seamlessly and fails the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, and then proceeds to a special center in rural areas, all he does is register as a student, pay extra fees and the answers to examination questions are provided, all you have to do is copy and paste. Results are out, and someone that can barely read is applying to get into a college of Education or Polytechnic.
The only Institution that enforces the use of the United Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) organized by Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) is the University. Polytechnics and Colleges of Education throw out admissions without any recourse to the suitability of the candidates applying, so long as you possess 5 credits including Mathematics and English, some even give conditional admissions, in the absence of the required credits. These students get into the system and at this point, pass their examinations by dubious means. I once helped a friend mark scripts of students in a College of Education somewhere up North and the results were really disheartening, it was so bad that some students could not spell their names. More than 95% of those students could not make more than 20% in an elementary Physics examination.
This is the sad reality. Even worse is Kaduna state NUT coming out to disgrace itself by threatening strike action. NUT, NLC and other Unions have consistently contributed to the decline of every system in Nigeria and they would rather have things continue as usual. To the Nigerians asking for El-Rufai’s head, at what point are we going to set emotions aside and think with the facts? Everything is quite glaring in the public sphere but Nigerians would rather drag El-Rufai over his perceived sins rather than see the nobility in what he is doing. This is an issue that we must accord high priority because the education of innocent children is at stake, if Medical Doctors failed a competency test woefully, the outcry would have been different. No one of us would give out their cars to a bad Mechanic, why give out our Children to bad Teachers?
It is worth calling out that El-Rufai is not just looking at building or renovating schools but rather, strengthening the educational system in Kaduna. This is an anomaly considering that the typical Nigerian politician would rather waste money on white elephant projects that people do not need than build sustainable systems that would have a lasting effect on the life of the common man. He is doing this seamlessly in health and it is impressive he is kick starting what will be a revolution in the educational sector. I hope he also carries this revolution to the tertiary and secondary Institutions in Kaduna.
It seems that for the very first time there is a Governor in Northern Nigeria that does not care about the numerous attacks coming his way and the fact that this whole debacle might cause him the 2019 ticket. As always, El-Rufai gives his best to anything he does.