NUT faults President
Kogi mulls competency test for teachers
President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight behind the decision by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el- Rufai, to sack 22,000 teachers for gross incompetence.
The teachers, who were recently subjected to competency test by the state government, failed to score average points in their assessments. El-Rufai has already announced his government’s plan to recruit 25,000 new teachers to replace the affected teachers. Against this backdrop, el-Rufa’i came under attacks from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) over plans by the governor to sack at least 21,780 primary school teachers, who could not pass a competency test. The Kaduna State Government had, in June, conducted competency test for 33,000 primary school teachers, while 21,780 failed.
The development, which did not go down well with the leadership of the NLC and NUT, prompted a protest on November 8 over what it described as ‘obnoxious plan’ by the state government to sack the teachers.
But speaking yesterday while declaring open a special retreat for members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), on the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria, the President expressed concerns on the decaying standard of education in the country.
The President, who said that the situation in the sector was serious, explained that his administration is taking deliberate steps to address it. While tacitly giving his nod to the actions being taken by the Kaduna State governor, President Buhari described the development as “a serious situation.” Buhari noted that the Federal Government, under his leadership will take deliberate actions to revitalizing the country’s education system and make it more responsive and globally competitive.
In specific reference to what happened in Kaduna State, Buhari said: “It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in. “For nine years, I was in boarding school, three in primary and six in secondary school. In those days, teachers treated students or children like their own children. If you did well, they will tell you, you did well. If you didn’t do well, they never spared the rod,” he added. Buhari continued: “I listened to one Nigerian I respect.
He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma mater, his primary school to see what he could contribute. “I won’t mention his name, but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers.
“And what el-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass,” he lamented. Speaking further, President told the participants that it was not possible for Nigeria to progress if the standard of education remained at the current level.
He said: “The problem is no longer a secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement.” Buhari explained that it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow, that are leading the rest. The President said that Nigeria cannot afford to continue to lag behind, adding that education is our launch-pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. But the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has faulted the presidential endorsement for the laying off of about 22,000 teachers in Kaduna State.
General Secretary of NUT, Dr. Mike Eneh, who spoke to New Telegraph in Abuja, noted that rather than layoff teachers under the guise of having failed a competency test, a retraining programme ought to have been organised to boost the quality and efficiency of teachers in the state. “It will be unfair if Mr. President listen to onesided story and decide to sack the teachers.
If I were Mr. President, I could have called all parties involved, including the stakeholders the NUT, the people that set the exams and we dialogue to proffer solutions to know what to do,” he said. Eneh, who described the competency test and alleged failure as a lame excuse to cut down cost by reducing the workforce in the state, disclosed that the union was not resting on its oars, but was joining forces with NLC to address the situation.
His words: “Our position is that El-Rufai and the government of Kaduna State have decided to cut down on their workforce. We have learnt that local government and civil servants are on the line to take their own exams. If 22,000 teachers can fail, it then means that civil servants and the local government workers who do not have the opportunity of going to school will fail the exams and he will sack everybody. “We are not laying low; we have several options we are going to take.
The NUT has the backing of NLC, we are going to face him one-on-one. Nobody is intimidating him. All we are saying is that as a governor he should give room for dialogue.
“Even in governance, we cannot clap for all the governors and say that they are the best, but to tell us that 21,000 teachers failed exams does not go down well with us. We are disputing it; we are arguing it and we want to find out how the 21,000 teachers failed.
If we dialogue and we are convinced what he did was real and that nobody was cheated, we give up,” he added. Speaking on the endorsement of the Kaduna education reforms by the President, Samuel Aruwan, Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to Governor el-Rufai, said the state government won’t relent in its efforts for quality education.
“We thank the President and many Nigerians for supporting the tough choice we have made in the interest of the future of our children. “The national conversation over the last week reflects a growing consensus that quality public education should be available for all citizens. Qualified teachers who are competent in their subject areas and equipped with the skills to teach and inspire pupils are crucial to delivering decent education.
“We are witnessing the triumph of reason over sentiment. We owe our children unfettered access to decent education in the public system, and we shall not relent in delivering it,” Aruwan said.
Meanwhile, the President said that his administration was poised to ensure that every capable Nigerian receives good and quality education in line with his campaign promises during the 2015 elections exercise.
“With an estimated 13.2 million children out of school, high illiteracy level, infrastructural deficit and decay, unqualified teachers, and inadequate instructional materials, to mention some of the challenges, we can clearly see the effect of decades of neglect that the education sector has suffered.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in his remarks, expressed the need for education to be made attractive to the best brains, make its study free, its outcome lucrative and accord it the respect it deserves.
The minister specifically canvassed that graduates with background in education be employed on grade level 10 at entry into the civil service so as to make the sector more attractive like what obtained in many other nations of the world.
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