By ‘Kunle Adebajo To start with… On the fourteenth day…
By Samuel Onimpa Alfred
Fans of the Legendary Fela Anikulapo-kuti have always termed his songs as evergreen. His songs have proven time and time again that he is a Prophet that sees beyond the immediate future. He sang about the past and the present day Nigeria during his lifetime and with each passing day, the veracity of his songs lyrics are impossible to deny. Despite Fela’s departure from mother earth 20 years ago, the clairvoyant nature of his songs cannot go unnoticed. His song ‘Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense!’ aptly captures the rot in the educational sector as recently revealed by the Kaduna state Government.
Illiteracy is at an all-time high in Nigeria. Recently, the Minister of education Alhaji Adamu Adamu stated that Nigeria has 65 to 75 million illiterates. This figure is scary to say the least. Education is the bedrock of any country’s growth and development and when a country has a large percentage of her citizens as illiterates, the country is bound to remain stagnant.
I am guessing that is one of the reasons some state governors, who have foresight for development, have taken steps to checkmate the growing number of young illiterate Nigerians. The former governor of Edo state, Adams Oshiomhole paid an unscheduled visit to a Primary School in Edo North senatorial district in 2011. Oshiomhole spent state resources to build and rehabilitate schools across the state. It was therefore imperative that once the school environment is conducive for learning, every other thing should fall in place. His findings shocked most of us. A teacher could not read her own certificate! Yet she was ‘Qualified’! However, she could not show competence beyond her paper certificate. Findings by the then Edo state Government revealed a lot of rot in the system. However, much could not be done. The governor was in his first year in office. Any action that is seen as anti-people even when it is for their good is not ‘acceptable’. You see why we deserve the leaders we get? Political correctness above anything else!
The Rivers state government marked 1886 schools for closure. They did not meet the laid down regulations for operation. Many were not recognised by the government as they were not even licensed. People faulted the imminent move and threatened the governor’s 2019 re-election bid. I might fault the Rivers government for not building enough schools before taking such an action. However, many of these illegal schools are not ready to comply with the government’s directive and they are solely in operation for money making purposes. The government has backed down and many of such mushroom schools have continued to operate in Rivers state.
The recent action of Governor Nasir El-Rufai to sanitize the educational system in Kaduna state is not going down well with the affected teachers and their sympathisers. The Kaduna state government intends to sack about 22000 teachers who could not pass the competency test. I have gone through the test questions, and in all honesty, the questions are fair enough. As a rule of thumb in the educational sector, you do not teach people who you barely know more than. If majority of the teachers cannot pass that test satisfactorily, what are they teaching the Pupils? The questions covered basic Mathematics, English comprehension, Science and the Principles of teaching. A teacher should be familiar with these at primary school level.
There is a viral photo of a protesting teacher, carrying a placard, with the inscription ‘Examination is not the true test of knowledge’. As an academic, I agree with that to a great extent. However, how do you teach what you do not know to even assert that examination is not a true test of knowledge?
Sympathisers are blaming the government for not training the teachers. You do not train incompetent people. An organisation will not train you if you do not get the basics right. It shows that the teachers either rigged their way through or they never followed extant recruitment laws in getting into the teaching profession. Sympathisers are also pointing to unemployment as a consequence of this action. Do we continue to do what is wrong because the present wrong is serving a perceived right motive? Certainly not!
It is corruption to pretend to teach what you do not know. The future is being mortgaged by allowing incompetence remain in the educational system. The re-election bid of the Kaduna state governor might be threatened, come 2019 (If he decides to contest) but whether he wins or not, he has successfully nipped educational corruption in the bud. Most of the government schools have decayed infrastructure. That is enough damage, but allowing incompetent teachers, teach students is like cleaning the floor always instead of mending the leaking roof!
I am not a fan of the Governor of Kaduna state but I must commend him and I advise other state governors to follow suit. Nigeria can be great again if we look inwards and right the wrongs of the past instead of dwelling on the wrong for the sake of being politically correct. Unqualified teachers kill slowly and surely!
Samuel Onimpa Alfred can be reached via twitter- @samoalfred