The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has said that his administration will ask its senior officials to enrol their children in government-owned schools.
Public primary schools, largely poorly funded, ill-equipped and staffed with inadequate, and sometimes incompetent, teachers, are usually attended by wards of low income earners and the poor across Nigeria.
Mr. El-Rufai revealed his plan in a state broadcast on Thursday to explain reforms being undertaken by the state government.
Details of the broadcast were made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, just as the NLC accused Mr. El-Rufai of violating a court order on the controversial sack of teachers in the state.
Speaking on his plans, Mr. El-Rufai said, “As we make progress, we will require our senior officials to enrol their children in public schools. And I will by personal example ensure that my son that will be six years of age in 2019 will be enrolled in a public school in Kaduna State, by God’s grace.
He said one of his goals is to have only graduates as primary school teachers, arguing that the educational attainments of a country like Finland shows that this is the way to go.
“We do not agree that we should restore Grade 2 teacher training. But we must improve the intellectual capacity of teachers that the NCE should give way ultimately to first and second degrees as minimum teaching qualifications. Kaduna ranks first among the northern states, and 12th in the country overall in WAEC scores. We can be the best if we do not relent in reforming our schools,” Mr. El-Rufai said.
He said public schools in Nigeria lack facilities and good teachers.
“We said many schools did not have roofs, doors, windows, water and toilets, and we promised to fix it. As soon as we took office, we also sadly learnt that at least 50 per cent of school pupils sat on floors due to the absence of desks and chairs. Therefore, under no circumstance would we subjugate the future of the two million pupils in public primary schools, and those coming after them, to the interests of unqualified teachers,” he said.
He said the attitude of indifference to public education resulted in the recruitment of teachers at local government level without adherence to standards.
“We found that unqualified teachers entered the system because the recruitment of teachers was politicised. The local government council chairmen and other senior politicians and bureaucrats saw teaching as a dumping ground for their thugs, supporters and other unsuitable persons. 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,” he said.
Mr. El-Rufai said the current government has spent more than N625 million on training since 2015 noting that thousands of teachers were trained in literacy, numeracy, reading skills and in other subjects of the teaching profession.
“The competency test results clearly showed that the training programmes had recorded, at best, only limited impact. The results of the competency test profoundly disappointed us. It showed that much of the monies spent on training teachers since 2011 had been wasted,” he said.
He said the competency test revealed that many of the teachers do not have the basic knowledge, and are incapable of imparting what they do not have.
“The honest truth is that many of these teachers should themselves be adult education students, being taught basic literacy and numeracy. The government came to the conclusion that it is not further training that teachers who cannot score 75 per cent in a Primary Four exam require. In these circumstances, the government took the difficult, but necessary decision, to disengage all the teachers who did not meet the 75 per cent threshold. This has been done in accordance with the terms of their employment, and their entitlements will be payed, as appropriate,” he said.
He said that in place of the 22,000 teachers disengaged by government due to failure in the competency test, 25,000 qualified teachers are to be recruited.
“This week, SUBEB conducted tests for the over 43,000 applicants that have indicated interest in the teaching positions. The ongoing recruitment process will sieve these applicants to ensure that only bonafide teachers are recruited.
“Education is a leveller, it gives the children of the poor a chance to rise above the condition of their birth. And a nation of well-educated people offers immense opportunities for social mobility, enabling the poor to move out of poverty by the sheer force of talent and hard work,” he concluded.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how two-thirds of primary school teachers in Kaduna failed to score up to 75 per cent when the test, largely made up of primary four questions, was set for them.
In November, the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, explained that such teachers can ask for their answer sheets to be re-graded.
The SUBEB chairman, Nasiru Umar, said the affected teachers who have spent more than five years in the public service will be allowed to retire while those who have spent less than five years will be sacked. All the affected teachers can also reapply in the ongoing recruitment process.
EL-RUFAI VIOLATES COURT ORDER – NLC
However, on Sunday, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, accused Mr. El-Rufai of violating a court ordering a halt to the planned sack of the 22,000 teachers.
The labour union said despite an order of the industrial court, the Kaduna government proceeded to conduct fresh recruitment test for new teachers.
“Despite the wise counsel of well-meaning Nigerians and protestations from the Congress, including an injunction from the National Industrial Court (NIC) which had ruled that the status quo should be maintained till the determination of the substantive suit brought before it by the unjustly dismissed workers and unions in Kaduna State, Governor El-Rufai, like all despots, has remained adamant,” the NLC said in a New Year message by its president Ayuba Wabba.
“Last Friday, 29th December, 2017, Governor El-Rufai authorised Education Secretaries and relevant local government authorities to commence the distribution of sack letters to teachers and local government workers in the 23 local government areas of the state beginning from Tuesday, 2nd January, 2018.
“While some state governments are struggling to devise ways of bringing succour to workers and the people generally in the New Year, Governor el-Rufai’s Christmas and New Year gift to the working people of Kaduna State and their families is tears and sorrow.
“Under this atmosphere of disregard for the rule of law and decency, Congress is left with no other option than to use all legitimate means to challenge the crass impunity and despotism being displayed by Governor el-Rufai. It will therefore give effect to the Congress National Executive Council (NEC) decision to observe January 11, 2018 as a day of solidarity with the workers of Kaduna State, and shall mobilise Nigerian workers to march for the reversion of the sacked workers in Kaduna City.”
Speaking on the NLC’s stance on Sunday, Mr. El-Rufai’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, said the process for the recruitment of new teachers was already on before the industrial court decision.
“The process of recruiting new teachers has been ongoing and those that will be leaving also will have their entitlements fully ready.
“One interesting thing about this is that many of those who failed the competency test also reapplied and were among those who wrote the first recruitment test that took place in Kaduna last week.”