It is no longer news that 21,780 teachers in Kaduna State failed a competence test set by the government to evaluate their ability or lack of it to continue to remain in the state’s teaching service. It is also not news that the competence test was based on standards reserved for primary four pupils. What is news is that they are not ashamed of themselves. Worse is that they are celebrating their incompetence.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the state and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) who, ordinarily ought to have been embarrassed, are making a case for the continued retention of these bunch of illiterates as teachers and for them to continue to mislead the children put in their care. They argue that the test was not professionally done and, to further expose the shallow interest they represent, the unions are issuing threats to the effect that if the government went ahead to sack those erroneously labelled as teachers, that they would not guarantee industrial harmony in the state. As is usual in matters like this, sentiments have been introduced and allegations of political victimisation and witch hunt are rife. They also insinuate that the exercise was a smokescreen to sack workers who ought not to have been employed in the first place.
They even insisted that legitimate institutions that are mandated to carry out such tests were ignored. If it is true that such institutions exist, we comment the government for side lining them. If they had conducted this test, they would have railroaded every one as having passed the test as was the case in the past.
However, the government on its part is shifting ground despite the good case it has by setting up a committee to look into the complaints and possibly re-mark the scripts of any of them who feels overtly aggrieved. That is the best we think the government can do to address any misdirected case.
But how were these teachers employed in the first place? Were they really qualified for the job they were given? This is the question the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) should make efforts to proffer answer to before they join in castigating the government for doing what it has to do to safeguard the future of the state which everyone acknowledges belongs to these same pupils that these ‘teachers’ are toying with.
This newspaper urges the NUT, NLC and the TRCN to cooperate with the state government in its drive to sanitise the education system in the state. It is important that this was done because the prestige of the profession is at stake. The real issue here is that teaching like the medical profession, deal with human beings and there should be zero tolerance for errors that can turn out to be costly. In the teaching profession elsewhere, there is no room for sentiment in the recruitment process. It is either you meet the standards that are high indeed and be engaged or you fall below par and be dismissed. But here, teaching profession is where the politicians dump their thugs and hangers-on in the name of political patronage and settlement. It is inconceivable that teachers will fail a test they set for their pupils and still expect to be retained to continue in service so that the authorities will look politically acceptable.
Unfortunately, this, for the present government of Kaduna state, is not politics. If it were, the proper thing to do on that basis, would have been to allow them to stay on and continue to befuddle the younger generation in the guise of imparting knowledge into them. We commend the government for summoning the courage to do what many think is politically incorrect at this time with politicking soon to take off.
It is pertinent, in our opinion, to point out that Kaduna State is not alone in this dangerous game that is threatening the future of the country where the school system is losing its credibility at an alarming rate. What is going on in the state can be replicated in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). And yet, when massive failures are recorded in the examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) or the national Examination Council (NECO), the blame is put on the students alone. When these ill-prepared students go on to the universities and come out as semi- illiterates who cannot spell their names in a hurry, nobody is bothered.
We call on the education authorities at all levels to begin to insist that only the well trained and qualified teachers find their way near any classroom. With what has been exposed in Kaduna State, the governments should consider declaring a state of emergency in the sector. This celebration of mediocrity must stop.