The coast seems clear for the execution of Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s reform programme for public education as the teachers’ union in Kaduna State has called off its 10-day old strike.
The strike, which was called to compel the governor to recall 21,780 teachers sacked for failing competency test, ended without a single dismissed teacher being reinstated.
This latest development is seen as an unprecedented victory for the determined stance of Governor El-Rufai to face down the unions, and hire 25,000 qualified new teachers to provide education for the largely poor families that send their children to public primary schools.
Previous efforts by elected governors in Edo (under Adams Oshiomhole) and Ekiti (under Kayode Fayemi) to test and replace failed teachers were thwarted by the unions.
Primary school teachers in Kaduna State sat for a competency test in June 2017.
Only 34% of the teachers who sat for the Primary Four equivalent exam in June 2017 scored at least 75%.
The government decided to retain the 11, 591 teachers that reached the pass-mark, and to disengage the 21,780 that failed.
The NUT was represented on the committee that organised and monitored the competency test by its state chairman Titus Audu Amba, and its state secretary, Adamu Ango, who is also the state NLC chairman.
The NUT began challenging the powers of government as employer to assess its own employees, and to downplay the union’s involvement in the test, once it was clear that the government would act on the results.
But the government advertised for teachers, and 43,000 applicants responded.
The government also gave notices of disengagement to the failed teachers, a move that the NUT tried to resist by calling an indefinite strike in which they also involved secondary school teachers.
The Kaduna State Government announced last week that the 43,000 applicants have taken the first test in the recruitment process, and the scripts marked with result collation going on.
The State Universal Basic Education Board said it plans to have the first batch of new teachers in place by February 2017.
Sources in Kaduna disclosed that the NUT strike was failing, as teachers were increasingly ignoring it and communities resisting union efforts to keep primary schools closed.
Many parents had rallied to the government’s explanation that it was acting to ensure that the children of the poor also receive decent education.
Parents responded to the government’s declaration in 2015 that basic education will be truly free by sending more of their kids to school.
By September 2017, primary school enrollment had risen to 2m pupils, from 1.1m in July 2015. The government clamped down on illegal levies in schools.
The NUT said its decision to shelve strike action was prompted by a government announcement that any teacher can apply to be part of the 25,000 new teachers being recruited.
Sources said that the NUT is engaged in a face-saving exercise, since the teacher recruitment advert never included any clause barring any one from applying.
Rather, say the sources, it was the NUT that actively dissuaded many teachers from applying, although about 12,000 that defied their union were among the 43,000 applicants for teaching positions in the state.
The Kaduna State Government is yet to issue an official reaction to the NUT.