By Josef omorotionmwan
EARLY in the life of the immediate-past Administration in Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole discovered a terrible decline in the standard of education in our schools, particularly when he stumbled into a teacher who could not read her own affidavit of age.
Understandably, a concerned government felt something urgent must be done to arrest the ugly situation. That was the genesis of a “Competency Examination” for teachers. Initially, the examination was aimed at weeding out the deadwoods among the teachers.
As soon as the idea of a competency examination was muted, a storm of indignation burst forth as the teachers did not see why they should be subjected to the same examination with people in the administrative cadre of the Civil Service.
More than a decade down the line, the controversy over the examination rages on. Although the case has changed colour considerably, the time has come to begin to seek a permanent solution to it.
Generally, people detest examinations and do everything possible to avoid them. Examinations have been attacked on various grounds. At the tertiary level, for instance, one common argument is that in a situation where some Universities have 30 percent failure rates and others 3 percent, the failure in one institution could easily have been a huge success in another.
They question the reliability and relevance of examinations and come to the conclusion that most examinations test nothing. Indeed, there is no alternative to a deep personal interest in whatever one does. Examinations must not be used as the control centre of the examinee’s life.
The foregoing notwithstanding, examinations have come to stay. We know of no other means of assessment leading to the award of certificates or for job placement in a democratic setting.
As it now stands, the ever-recurring controversy between the Government of Edo State and the Teachers is absolutely unnecessary. This is one case where both parties are right.
The Government realises that when a man stops reading, he stops thinking and starts dying. Therefore, its workforce must be constantly reinforced through the instrumentality of occasional proficiency tests.
In the process, Secondary School Teachers who make up a critical segment of society should not be left out.
Apparently, this is acceptable to the teachers but they insist that if they must be involved, the tests must be cognate to the job they do as teachers. Such tests cannot be left exclusively in the hands of the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, but it must involve the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN.
The Teachers still smell a rat. They think Government still wants to use the result of the Competency Test to reduce its workforce. Hear them: “A similar examination recently conducted by government reveals government’s hidden agenda as those who were assumed not to have done well had their files removed to Government House for possible removal from Service, as in the exact words of the Governor; ‘those lagging behind will be asked to go as the era of permanent job is gone’. The appointment of every tutor with the Edo State Government is permanent and pensionable job and cannot be terminated unceremoniously under any guise”.
With Government’s full assurance that this position has changed, both the Government and the Teachers are apparently on the same page. Perhaps for peace to reign, government has dropped the name, Competency Examination; and now calls it Promotion Examination thus, agreeing with the Teachers that their competency had been determined at their entry point.
Governor Godwin Obaseki has now said that no teacher will be removed from the job as a result of his or her performance at the examination. As it were, the promotion examination is now trending in the free zone as it is no longer compulsory for the Teachers. Hear Obaseki, “We are not sacking anybody, but want to strengthen the Service so that they can deliver good and efficient services to the State. The examination is not compulsory but necessary for promotion… Two teachers who performed well in the last exercise have been made Permanent Secretaries”.
For all intents and purposes, the promotion examination has now been lifted to the level of a lottery. What is now left is for the Teachers to approach the examination with an open mind. Let’s face it, the Government is asking you to take an examination, which if you pass, you stand a chance of being promoted from a classroom teacher at Uwemuwe Village in one obscure corner of Orhionmwon Local Government Area to a Director or Permanent Secretary in the heart of Benin City; but if you fail, as they say in the colloquial, “Nothing spoil”. You still have your job. Why would anyone resist taking such a free examination, with all fees prepaid by government, an examination without let or hindrance or any encumbrances whatsoever?
This is a dynamic world where strict contructionism is not what is needed to move forward. The Government is now saying that teachers should no longer stay glued to the blackboard and the lesson notes. They should develop a liberal attitude that would enable them understand a little of the world around them. They should know a bit of the country’s Constitution and their rights under the law. They should know a bit of the Staff Regulations and Financial Memorandum in the State Public Service. They should understand the rudiments of the disciplinary procedure in the Service. This is basically what the competency exam is all about.
The Trade Unions should stop posturing as if they only exist to organise strikes. They should be concerned with the overall development of their members. If all the creative energies squandered on going to Arbitration in faraway Enugu and preparing for strikes were devoted to preparing members for the examination, you would be pleasantly surprised that the failure rates among those bright Principals would not be any higher than what obtains in the core Civil Service. Above all, no knowledge is useless!