Advising El-Rufa’i on primary education (1), By ALIYU U. TILDE

The humour of Kalarawi aside, I am here to suggest something to Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State on what to do with his 20,000 teachers who woefully failed the Primary IV competency test he administered last week.
I can understand his anger.
Their problem, however, cannot be detached from the larger issue of having a rotting education sector in place.
My suggestions, therefore, attempt to cover the primary education delivery as a whole from its human content point of view.
I am not a good advocate of classroom buildings at the expense of knowledge.
The suggestions also border more on tested practice than on theory.
Retention To begin with, the governor has to drop the idea of dismissing 20,000 teachers before my advice will be of any benefit to him.
My reasons are pragmatic: He does not have a better system to fetch new teachers from other than the one that produced the old ones.
So the new ones may not be much different.
The small diff erence, if any, will not be enough to off set the financial burden of disengaging the old ones, the social crisis that their dismissal will generate and the political nightmare of the governor waking up one morning to find out that the 20,000 teachers have joined the ‘akida’ camp.
So the governor should make the best use of the teachers he has on ground by tackling the problem that turned them so bad.
The Problem The teachers are not the problem.
In fact, studies have shown that in Nigeria there are better teachers in public schools than in private ones though unarguably teachers in private schools are more productive despite their dismal wages.
The difference is in the systems under which they serve, not in the teachers.
Once teachers are left alone, without supervision, motivation, training and all that is needed to keep them up to date in their trade, their productivity will continue to decline.
This is common to all states and applies to majority of officials in various domains of the public sector.
Private individuals today are better informed, more equipped and more effective than their counterparts in the public sector.
El-Rufa’i is more likely to have the latest books on Quantity Surveying than the department from which he graduated in Ahmadu Bello University.
I know that.
My experience, however, has shown that the situation is not that hopeless to warrant a mass dismissal of teachers as some are suggesting.
Condition It can be salvaged if the government can abandon politics and face its shortcomings.
Majority of these teachers can be turned into very good ones within a year or two, with the necessary training, motivation and control tools in place.
Th is is not theory.
It has been done elsewhere.
Government needs to protect education funds from the “contract syndrome” that pays more attention to awarding building and school lunch contracts than to a contentdriven administration of education – for political purposes.
An army of supporters needs to be compensated in every community and there is no better way of doing it than awarding them classroom construction and renovation contracts while even daily teaching materials (like chalk, books, registers), teacher on-the-job training and paltry allowances are not provided.
This condition must be met before any progress can be made in education, including the much needed teacher education.
If half of what is spent on these contracts or school lunch programme will be spent on teacher training, motivation and inspection, Kaduna State’s education sector will be revolutionized within a short time.
Having assumed that the governor has agreed to put politics aside, I will go ahead to discuss how he can salvage the situation by addressing the five areas that affect teacher performance: Training, supervision, teaching materials, motivation and measurement.
Training I am an advocate of quality delivery in anything.
Teachers must be sufficiently qualified to be entrusted with the future of our children.
That qualification does not stop with the NCE, diploma or degree certificates they have at point of entry.
Those papers say little about what they actually know.
Their knowledge needs to be transparently tested at point employment and from time to time during the course of their work to ensure that it is of the desired standard.
For many reasons teachers deteriorate after employment leading to the present situation where many are no longer qualified.
That is why, worldwide, employers train their teachers on the job continuously, especially for the level that each serves.
There must be a standing policy on this that will be implemented religiously, supported by adequate funds from government.
Attending workshops and seminars and passing competency tests must form part of teachers’ duty.
Initially, the State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) must take inventory of the competency of its teachers and key in each teacher into a training program that will “upgrade” him to a higher operating level.
I suggest a three tier approach to the training: Th e fi rst will be workshops at the school level where a competent senior is appointed to put other teachers through their difficulties as was done in our old schools in Northern Nigeria but this time with the caveat that if the teacher fails the next basic competency test he or she will be disengaged.
Th is caveat is necessary because from my experience teachers treat in-house workshops with levity, as adults generally do, unless it is accompanied by the threat of a loss or the hope for a benefi t.
Fire any teacher that fails the second competency test after he is given a retraining opportunity and you have my support, 100%.
Th e 20,000 teachers that failed the last competency test will be very willing candidates for this upgrading programme.
Higher than the basic competency level, workshops can be held for teachers at local government and zonal levels where advanced and modern skills of teaching are taught to teachers who have passed the basics.
While passing the basic competency test assures retention of a teacher, passing the test at middle level forms part of promotion requirement.
Without it he or she will remain stuck forever.
The most advanced workshops will take place at the zones or state capital and will be for teachers that have proved exceptional.
Th e curriculum here will cover all modern skills in education administration.
Passing competency at this level gives a teacher the opportunity to become a headmaster, supervisory headmaster, or an official in the local government education office.
Th e essence of training is to meet the most basic ingredient of quality control.
Without knowing what to teach and how to teach, eff ective delivery in our schools will continue to be a mirage.
Training must be continuous and competency must be ascertained from time to time.
No assumptions must be made on certificates or tests passed a decade ago.
With sufficient training


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