Tuesday, 12 December 2017 01:05

Teacher Quality in Kaduna State: A reaction to Governor Nasir El-Rufai's Frustration

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We have been writing  for awhile on the poor educational climate in Nigeria in general and specifically in Northern Nigeria . This writer had served as teacher and headmaster in primary schools in then Benue Plateau State. Readers should  please check out our featured  essay (How Do We Educate the Children of Northern Nigeria?) at jamesagazies.blogspot.com. 30 May, 2015.

When Governor Nasir El-Rufai of kaduna State sacked about 21,000 teachers who had failed a recently conducted examination in the state, there was a huge hullabaloo.   See https://dailytimes.ng/features/kaduna-el-rufais-burden-teachers-failure-national-emergency-2/decision. The Governor buttressed his decision by sharing the results of some of the primary 4 competency test scripts conducted for primary teachers in Kaduna State.

Though the teachers’ performance on the test was pathetic, there is still hope that things would turn around with a little work. Kaduna State cannot throw the baby out with the dirty bath water. There is  a lot of salvaging to do. To salvage is to save, recover, rescue, retrieve, recoup, reclaim, or re-claim. Of all the definitions of salvage, to retrain comes readily to mind. We recommend:

(1)    Mandatory In-Service Programs for teachers during the week after regular hours of work and on weekend in order to strengthen teachers’ knowledge base and test-taking skills, where teachers may be provided with small stipends for participation.

(2)    A massive retraining of teachers during the months schools are closed aimed at strengthening skills in reading, writing, computation, and teaching area, also with stipends.

(3)    Teacher Certification Examination that requires teachers to pass a proficiency/competency  test in basic English, science math, and their teaching fields, where teachers pay a fee for the examination.

(4)    Teachers who fail to make acceptable scores on the Teacher Certificate after 2 or 3 attempts are asking to be dismissed, and those who pass should be the pool from which future employment decisions are made.

The dereliction of education in Northern Nigeria took years to come into fruition, and it will take a little time and planning to correct. Dereliction refers to years of neglect, disregard, negligence, carelessness, recklessness, failure, abandonment. Leaders and policy makers in Northern Nigeria ought to cease fighting against education of young people. It takes more than just money to educate young learners; it takes caring and nurturance. Nigerian schools should be user-friendly places that are inclusive of all learners,  where teachers are paid well and encouraged to be creative,  and where interesting lessons are related to the child’s culture and experiences.

Nigerians should learn a bitter lesson from Sir Ahmadu Bello, Premier of Northern Nigeria , who must be recognized as the notorious father of efforts to destroy education in the North. While this writer and other Nigerian secondary school students were preoccupied with completing the WASC and enrolling in the Higher School Certificate institutions  in order to gain admissions to the three available universities at that time  (Nsukka, Ibadan, and Zaria), the Sardauna was promoting vitriolic anti-Igbo messages and  promulgating the Northernization Policy aimed at kicking Igbo children out of Northern schools. 

The Northernization Policy shall not mean watering down the curriculum or hiring unqualified Northern teachers when qualified others are available . It does not mean hiring Northerners who failed WAEC examinations or NCE and paying them higher salaries to teach primary school children when qualified Southerners can be hired.  It shall not mean saturating the Nigerian armed forces with persons who have failed the WAEC and other examinations.

Uneducated military is a bane rather than a boost. Northernization shall not mean protection of inefficiency in Northerners or discrimination against non-Northerners in hiring and compensation. Rather, Northernization  policy shall mean strengthening  the quality of teachers  at both the pre-college and college sectors in all of Nigeria.

Efforts should be made to augment President Buhari ‘s efforts to weaken boko haran whose insurgency has killed hundreds of teachers and thousands of school children, in addition to displacing millions of villagers. Fear should not be allowed to grip teachers and parents whose support is needed if our children’s education is to succeed. Fear of violence shall not continue to drive Southern teachers and children away from Northern schools.

How could the North catch up with the South in education when the North’s leaders and parents  had formed  very negative attitudes towards education in the 50’s, 60’s, 70s, such that while this writer and thousands of his 3-5 year-old classmates were learning the multiplication tables and English alphabets in mud walled windowless schoolhouses in Benue State, the Muslim children were encouraged to look down upon the Western education, as they were gloating over their special relationship with conqueror Ottoman Dan Fodio.

It is time we placed education of all Nigerian boys and girls at the front of our national priority and scheme of things, particularly in the Northern Nigerian schools, Girl students will no longer be considered only as an afterthought or postscript. Girls are more important to society than we realize, and much more significant than just being concubines, domestic help, or sex slaves. Girls are equal partners with the males. Gone are the days when girls and young women were relegated to the kitchen and “the other room.” Girls have important roles to play in society as cherished mothers of the nation.

The quality of the teaching staff and learners will improve in all of Nigeria when we emphasize equality of the sexes and the importance education plays in the health and well-being of both the individual and the nation as a whole. Educated citizens make better employers and employees, and they make more suitable marriage partners. Educated Nigerians are better tax payers and vote in elections with greater understanding of issues. Educated persons are less likely to be poor and unemployable than the less educated. It is better to trust educated people and hand over the task of governance to them than we would the uneducated.

We ought to divest or strip education of its religious overtones by teaching the reading, writing and ‘rithmetics in secular schools, without appealing to religious sentiments and indoctrination of the church or mosques.  Education ought to be secular.

 Secularization means education should be earthly, worldly, and nonspiritual.  In other words, all religious teachings and religious indoctrination ought to be left at the door of the Methodist Church , Catholic Church,  Mosque, or other houses of worship. Let’s emphasize science, technology, engineering, agriculture, and mathematics (STEAM) in schools above other considerations.

The Nigerian Constitution should provide for a complete separation of state and religion. There should be no more  boko haram dictating policy or kidnapping female students from boarding schools.  Boko haram and all it stands for should be wiped out of Nigeria. Every attempts shall  be made to create a safe school environment. We should cease the use of school buildings or school property for non-school activities, such as army camps, barracks, military deployments, weapons, ammunition, and supply depots.

Teachers and students shall be safe at schools and universities. Schools ought to be built in safe places where teachers and students shall be guaranteed a measure of protection and security.  Reasonable people would agree that no meaningful teaching and learning can take place under stress and  duress, or threat of violence or insecurity. There should be immediate cessation of all attacks, and threats of attacks, that target schools, students, teachers, school administrators, and other civilians.

Dr. James C. Agazie, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; jamesagazies.blogspot.com

Monday, 11 December, 2017

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James Agazie Ed D

A retired college Professor  with educational backgrounds in law (JD) education (Ed.D, MA) counseling,( MS) and and mathematics.  Write on topics dealing with Nigerian families, marriages, education, and employment.