Kaduna state seems to have a fixation with teachers. In 2017, it conducted a competency test and some teachers were sacked. Last December, another competency test was administered and some failed the test. Why is this obsession with teachers to the detriment of other aspects of the education sector?
As far as we are concerned, the teacher is very critical in the education sector. You can build classrooms, provide textbooks but if the teacher does not impart knowledge, then you have a problem. You can have the best classrooms, the best facilities but you rely on the teacher to give knowledge to the pupils. So, the teacher is very important. To say we are obsessed or fixated with the teachers is for a good reason because everyone who has gone to school knows the value of the teacher. We value our teachers very highly and we are very happy with the turnout for the December competency test. Over 90% of the teachers of Kaduna state participated. We will not relent on teachers, we will make sure that the teacher is fully equipped and we will continue to conduct this test.
The test was not conducted just to sack people, this is the impression that the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) has been giving. If you have an employee, you assess him or her to find out areas where you can help him or her to improve. You can then train him or her, or give him or her adequate materials to improve. What we would have liked from the teachers’ union is to task us to improve teachers’ capacities. They shouldn’t be joining issues with us on conducting competency tests for our teachers.
The 2017 test that you mentioned, yes, we let the teachers go because they failed ordinary class four exams. So, you cannot give what you don’t have. If our teachers cannot pass a test for primary four pupils, then they have nothing to impart. At the time that we sacked 21,000 incompetent teachers, we recruited more than 25,000 teachers; more than the number we let go. This time around, we have seen improvements in the quality of the teachers in the last competency test that was conducted in December 2021 because we didn’t have a high failure rate like before; even though this time around, we did a computer-based test. Some people have challenges with computer and one of the reasons we conducted the test is for us to assess where we need to direct our training funds to. We need to train teachers on how to use the computers, so we have gained some insights of the capacity gaps from this test.
Some people didn’t sit for the test. The government decided that if you cannot sit for the test, or if you score below 40%, then we don’t need your service. About 27,662 teachers sat for the last test and 165 got below 40% and their appointments were terminated. 2,192 were dismissed for not sitting for the exams. We are getting better quality 10,000 teachers to replace them. At the same time, we have gaps in many schools, the teacher-pupil ratio is bad, we have few teachers in many schools, especially in the rural areas. People don’t want to go to the rural areas, so we have to come up with solutions to that. We are also going to hire facilitators under the Better Education Service Delivery for All (BESDA) programme to return out of school children back to school. According to UNICEF, there are about 10.3 million out of school children in Nigeria. We are also going to do what we call Open School Programme. This is a programme that was started by Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) with the support of the Commonwealth. Kaduna state is one of the states that is going to establish open schools, so that people who are trading can go to these schools to learn. We are also expanding the avenues for people to get education.
NUT has argued that Kaduna State Government or Kaduna State Universal Basic Education lacks the locus to conduct the competency test. According to the teachers’ union, the test should have been conducted by the Teachers Registration Council or the National Teachers Institute but not a government bureaucracy. What do you have to say?
Well, let me situate NUT. NUT is a union of teachers. You can only become a member of NUT if you have a job, in this case, with Kaduna State Government. So, these teachers are our staff, they are also members of a union. But we pay them and from the money they get, they pay union dues to NUT. So, if the union is designed to help teachers, the officials should be challenging us to provide materials to train teachers, but not to say that we have no right to test them. If you are to be employed as a teacher, you must have this Teachers Registration Council registration. But it is not saddled with the responsibility of assessing teachers. It’s like any professional body. For example, doctors and engineers belong to professional bodies like the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria as well as COREN respectively. But that does not mean that their employers can not test them. So, ab initio, you have to understand that NUT cannot exist if we don’t employ teachers, they are our staff. So, they are just parasites to our staff, demanding money from the teachers and misguiding them in this case. They were telling the teachers not to listen to government, their employer. Why should a teacher be afraid of sitting for a test? After all, they test pupils regularly.
We can understand NUT’s concern, if we fire people they are off the union and the union will not get dues. But we are hiring more teachers so they would get even more money. They should just collaborate with us, but not to say that we cannot assess our employees. Nobody, no court in the world can say we have no right to assess our employees. The Teachers Registration Council is just like any other body, if you don’t have teachers registration certificate from that body, you are not a professional teacher. But it does not mean that an employer can not asses his or her employee. Just like an Accountant, he or she must have a certification from ICAN or ANAAN before he or she is qualified as an Accountant. However, if you are an Accountant in a company, or government agency, your employer can still assess you. The teachers know this fact and you can see from the turnout. We are very proud that the teachers are not listening to these diversions. More than 90% teachers came out and sat for the test, so they ignored the union.
The union argued that it went to court to stop the competency test but you went against…
(Cuts in) We didn’t get any injunction to stop the test. You know we conducted the test in December last year, but we were only served with notice, I think about a month ago. Going to the court or serving processes is not the same as obtaining a court order, saying stop the test. In any case, if we receive an injunction today, the test has already been conducted. So, I don’t know why they decided to go to court over something that others have sat down for.
We sat with them and told them what we are doing. And you can see the decision taken by the Kaduna State Government that those that scored less than 75%, that is those who scored above 40% but below 75%, we are going to train them. So, it’s not like the other time. The other time, the pass mark was 75% because we expect that if you are teaching in the primary school you should be able to pass a class four exam, otherwise what are you teaching? And we spend a lot of funds in the building of more classes, or renovation. Our monthly salary bill for all the local governments is at least N1.2 billion. So, calculate how much money we are spending on teachers salary, not to talk of training them or other things. So, we are spending money and we think we have to get value for money. There are people who have qualifications, we want to employ them. We want to employ the best for Kaduna state. So, the union cannot be fighting us over incompetent people because our children deserve better.
The chairman of the NUT was among the sacked teachers. Is it a question of victimization or he did not pass the test?
He is just one of the statistics. He belongs to those who did not sit for the test, simple. What do we stand to gain by victimizing him? He is just a number, he is one of those who didn’t sit for the test, so he cannot get any special treatment.
Did KADSUBEB take measures to find out why people didn’t sit for the test, weather they were indisposed or have valid reasons for not sitting for the test, before you sacked them?
Let me explain to you how the process went. After the State Executive Council considered the results of the test, we were directed to query those who failed to attend. So they were given the opportunity to explain why they didn’t sit for the test. Now, a large number of them, the NUT drafted a response template and gave them, making this argument that we have no right to test them. So those people, we didn’t waste our time with them. There are some who had medical issues, those were removed from the sack list, so were those who gave satisfactory and reasonable responses. These people were also exempted from the sack. So, due process was followed and we didn’t just sack all those that didn’t sit for the test. No, they were given queries, asking them to explain why they didn’t participate in the competency test and they were given time to reply and we reviewed their replies based on their answers. We sorted out those who had genuine cases and fired those who do not have any explanation. Some even refused to collect the query. The number we are talking about, out of 35,000 teachers, it’s only about 2,000 plus that we were getting out of the system. Those who scored below 75% but above 40%, we are going to give them training. Those who scored above 75%, we are going to give them priority because we want the teachers to be proud of themselves and to be well equipped.
KADSUBEB has come to be synonymous with only teachers or competency test. What other things is the Board doing regarding the infrastructure needs of basic education in Kaduna state?
There are two aspects of the infrastructure. First, we have support from the federal government through UBEC and we do projects, construction of new classrooms, repairs, provision of furniture, provision of books. So, every year, we prepare our work plan based on the requirements we have from our schools and we submit to UBEC when we do the estimate. Every year they give an average of about N1.5 billion to each state. We have to do the work plan and the state will put its own counterpart fund, then UBEC will now look at the work plan and then they will contribute the same amount. So, every year we have something like N3 billion to build classrooms. That is one aspect.
The second aspect is what the state is doing on its own. We have Primary Education Development Projects on the Abuja to Kaduna and Kaduna to Kano roads. Last year, we started rehabilitating all the schools, fencing them, so there is a vote of charge for primary education separate from UBEC. In addition to that, now we have some projects from BESDA. Under BESDA, we have to convince UBEC that the reward we earned on the out of school children, about $20 million, we need to spend some of these money to build classrooms because we have like 2.5 million pupils in Kaduna. So the classrooms we are building or fixing are not enough, we are trying to bring more children to school, so they agreed with us that 50% of that money is going to be spent on building classrooms, while the other half of the money is going to be spent on things like exercise books, like this grant we gave to schools last Wednesday to effect minor repairs, tablets for schools and other learning materials. So, we are doing quite a lot in terms of infrastructures.
COMPETENCY TEST Facts
-In December 2021, Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board(KADSUBEB) conducted a competency test for all its teachers;
-27,662 teachers sat for the test and 165 scored below 40% and their appointments were terminated;
-Those who didn’t sit for the test were queried and their replies were reviewed;
-In the end, 2,192 teachers who couldn’t give valid reasons, were dismissed;
-Those who are eligible have been assessed and 10,000 of them have been engaged to replace the teachers that were sacked;
-Teachers who scored from 75% and above have been recognized as those who passed the test and are qualified to attend courses in leadership and school management;
-Those that scored between 40% and 74% did not meet up with the minimum pass mark but will be given a second chance to improve their capacities;
– The Board has arranged various training programmes for them under its statutory Teacher Development Programme with support from Development Partners;
– The training programmes will be conducted during end of term vacation and in their respective schools, to minimize disruptions of teaching and learning;
-This category of teachers are also encouraged to complement government’s efforts by seeking personal development for self-improvement.