GOVERNOR of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, has in recent times faced diverse public opinions over his mass sacking of 21,780 teachers in the state’s primary education board on account of failure to pass a competency test conducted by the state government. The action ushered in mixed reactions from the polity; one side hailing the state government while the other is unrelenting in condemning the action.

As a result, threats upon threats of thunders, labour actions and endless pressures continue to mount from various quarters especially the Nigeria Union of Teachers in the state for reversal. Politicians are not left out from taking sides particularly those in the opposition leveraging the commission. Incidentally, the governor remains unperturbed but standing vehemently on his action. Some critics anchored their position on the present economic situation in the country arguing that relieving people of their means of livelihood at this critical moment is the height of insensitivity, callousness and recklessness.

However, taking a cursory look at el-Rufai’s profile which convincingly shows that he places premium value on education as a first-class graduate coupled with the universally accepted proposition that education is the most effective means of nation-building, any positive-minded person would stand with or applaud the governor’s actions. The bitter truth is that the education sector cannot ideally be run on sentiments or merely as a job creation strategy especially the primary school which is the foundation. A state with incompetent teaching work force is dead from the foundation knowing that it is garbage in, garbage out.

El-Rufai’s bold action is constructive, patriotic and well-desired. A teacher who is incompetent and deficient has no business to be seen in school parading as a teacher. It is in conflict with ‘nemo dat quod non habet’ rule (you cannot give what you do not have).

The education sector is vital in any society and therefore must in principle be protected, stimulated and promoted. Teaching jobs must be offered exclusively to competent teachers and separated from partisan politics. The critics never bothered about what becomes of the pupils under the teachers’ custody in the future. Without mincing words, to allow incompetent teachers to superintend in schools as teaching workforce is as dangerous as child trafficking. It is an undisguised and planned damage to the future of the state. To resuscitate public schools across the country, other governors should learn from Kaduna State.

Corruption is not only when public funds are looted, diverted or ferried to overseas accounts by public officeholders. A teacher must be proficient, sound and properly trained accordingly for anticipated service delivery. There’s no magic that can upgrade our education system except by putting square pegs in corresponding holes and undergoing periodic training and competency tests. Most of puerile characters masquerading in the society are mostly products of poor foundation and upbringing. Thus, every sensible government will inevitably step on toes as is the case in Kaduna to make things function appropriately and effectively. If a carpenter could undergo training to come up with appealing products, why would a teacher who teaches human beings jump the queue to be coaching children believing that nothing is in teaching? Indeed, a lot is involved in moulding the leaders of tomorrow.

By the huge number certifiably said to be incompetent through the competency test, it is irrefutable that Kaduna is a collapsed state as far as education is concerned except the privileged ones with the wherewithal to patronise private schools. Thus, the state deserves a state of emergency as the governor did.

The cleansing exercise should rather spread across other states too. Teaching must be left for those with commensurate training and taken seriously like the health sector. This alone will go a long way in safeguarding the society from crimes in future as statistics have shown that crimes are more committed by unschooled population and dropouts who are usually products of quack teachers and then pathetic background.

However, on economic consideration, the state government should move the affected teachers to other sectors that they may fit in with their little qualifications as much as the state treasury can accommodate. Without a doubt, the economic situation in the country particularly to low income earners does not support joblessness at the moment. Thus, whilst it may be ideal to discharge the incompetent ones from teaching, it will be tantamount to more harm than good to push them out of work with no means of livelihood. This therefore calls for excellent crisis management on the part of the state government. In addition, government should organise periodic training for improvement and not just only competency tests for dismissal.

  • Carl Umegboro, Lagos

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