By Tonnie Iredia
At this year’s World Teachers Day celebration held last month, it was revealed that there were no less than 300,000 unqualified teachers in Nigerian schools. The figure which was released by the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, was said to be 50 percent of teachers in the country.
The reason for such an influx of unqualified personnel into the system was traced by the Chief executive of the Council, Josiah Ajiboye to the politicisation of education by governors and other political office holders. Ajiboye said nothing new because there is hardly any public position in the country that is appropriately filled.
All over the place, unqualified persons are recruited while many less qualified are brought into a system to supersede more qualified persons who had laboured hard to get to where they are. Although the current recession understandably does not favour official recruitment of staff, there is hardly a day when there is no backdoor recruitment of those connected to people in power- a posture that is by far worse than economic corruption.
As for teachers and Kaduna state, the announcement by the government that it has about 22, 000 unqualified teachers should thus not surprise anyone especially those who have followed development in that state. We can recall that in December 2011 the then State Commissioner for Information and Home Affairs, Saidu Adamu, disclosed that more than 18,000 teachers in the State who possessed fake certificates had been sacked.
The report was never controverted. A few months later, his Education, counterpart, Alhaji Muhammad Usman in a review of the government’s activities in the education sector explained that teachers who did not have the minimum teacher’s qualification had been flushed out.
At the second National Joint Graduation ceremony of the National Teachers’ Institute, former Governor Patrick Yakowa confirmed the situation as follows: “We have assessed and verified the quality of all teachers in both primary and secondary schools which shows us that nearly 50 per cent of teachers in our primary schools lack the required qualifications to teach.
The verification also revealed that about 4,000 teachers had been employed with fake certificates.” The implication of this is that Kaduna has always been home to fake teachers making it obvious that what el Rufai is witnessing now is the grave consequence of years of decay.
According to the governor the recruitment of teachers was politicized, allowing politicians and local government chairmen to turn the primary school sector to a “dumping ground for their thugs.” 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. In the words of governor el Rufai, there were many “teachers who 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.” What appears to have further provoked the state government was that the products of the state education system who were sent overseas for further studies were being withdrawn due to poor academic performance there. El rufai’s lamentations were poured out to chiefs and traditional rulers from Southern Kaduna who recently paid him a courtesy visit.
It was against this background that the government acted to sift out the bad eggs among teachers in the state which is now a bone of contention between the government and the Teachers’ Union aided by the Nigerian Labour congress.
All eyes are now directed at November 23, when a major strike may disrupt the peace of the state following the decision of labour to withdraw the services of all workers from that day until the governor rescinds his plan to sack teachers who having failed a competence test were declared unfit to remain in service. This is a development that well meaning Nigerians must engage before it is too late because nothing succeeds like dialogue.
In so doing, we all have a duty to offer suggestions on how to resolve the issue. First, the argument that government was wrong to have organized a competence test for the teachers should be dropped as it lacks merit. Government would obviously be failing in its duties if it cannot redress a situation in which teachers in the state are found wanting.
Second, government on its part needs to review its rather harsh posture to sack as many as 22,000 teachers in one fell swoop. It appears too massive with consequences that adversely affect the entire socio-economic milieu of the state.
Our considered opinion is that the issue requires a human face. Whether a test is easy or not; it runs against standard score assessment, if anyone who scored between 50 and 74 percent is said to have failed. It is easier to explain that anyone who scored below 50 in a difficult test failed than to say that because a test is easy only persons who scored 75% which by examination standards is excellent would be seen as having passed.
On this score, we suggest that those who scored over half should not be sacked; rather they should be further trained to overcome their deficiencies. Kaduna can borrow a leaf from Kano which recorded a higher number of unqualified teachers.
According to the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria TRCN “about 8,000 of the 25,000 unqualified teachers in Kano have so far been professionalized through the efforts of the state government and TRCN through referral to Nigerian Teachers Institute (NTI), colleges of education as well as post graduate diploma in education.” If this is done over a period, the situation can be redeemed to the benefit of all concerned. We also admonish labour to discard ego and opt for rational negotiations.
It is also expedient to call on all authorities in Nigeria to change their posture towards teachers to whom everyone owes his training. Nigerian teachers deserve better handling than presently is the case across the nation.
While competence tests are good for keeping institutions on their feet, the posture of applying the strategy now and again to only teachers is discriminatory. Many officials in the Ministries of Education all over the country, who supposedly monitor teachers, are less qualified, less productive but better remunerated than teachers.