Teaching and the education sector – Thisday

Education is too important to be politicised. There is need to clean up the system

We stand with Governor Nasir el-Rufai in his efforts to rid Kaduna State of teachers who are not worthy of their calling. No system should allow any person who failed Primary Four competency test to teach children in school.

Since no one ever gives what he or she does not possess, one can only imagine the amount of damage these illiterate, unqualified teachers have already done to the future of pupils in Kaduna State. And now that El-Rufai is saying ‘thus far and no more’ he deserves all the support he can get.

The issue in Kaduna State is simple for those who would not play politics with the destiny of innocent children: If those who are supposed to impart knowledge to primary school pupils cannot even pass some elementary test, what kind of knowledge will they communicate to the children? It is akin to a blind leading a fellow blind and unless urgent measures are taken to address the malaise it could lead to a permanent system collapse while the future of the coming generations will be seriously compromised.

However, beyond the drastic steps being taken in Kaduna State, the challenge is national. Therefore, only a return to those neglected details that make for a credible educational system can rescue the nation from the current sorry pass. Pre-primary school education, for instance, should be made to function within a well-articulated and enforceable policy framework. The recruitment and retraining of teachers at this level should be regulated and standardised. Beyond the public schools, there is also a need to look at what is happening in many of the so-called private schools where there are no standards.

A modern testing instrument should be developed and administered to potential/existing proprietors and staff of early childhood educational facilities to audit the system. All these can be done through a sustainable partnership arrangement with pro-child organisations and affiliate NGOs of development partners. The many well-meaning associations and groups acting in disparate ways to help in this regard should be properly warehoused and coordinated.

For several years, the quality of teachers and other academic infrastructure at the level of basic education has been a major challenge. Despite the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme, many states maintain a truly pathetic profile in the form and content of their curricula. This is hardly surprising, as many of them have consistently failed to access the federal government counterpart funding arrangement that offers a clear rescue path. They are unwilling to provide the matching funds for the UBE intervention and are therefore on the run from the generosity of the federal government.

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) has repeatedly lamented the failure of state governments to access and use the funds. This is in addition to states which collect it and divert same to political patronage, or which put their counterpart funds as bait to draw federal government support and quickly pocket theirs. To address this problem the commission should publish the list of defaulting states.

The much-vaunted professionalisation of teaching should be pursued with new timelines while the Teachers’ Registration Council (TRC) and the Nigerian Teachers’ Institute (NTI) may well be merged, to have all matters relating to teachers domiciled in one address. Besides, there is need for a total overhaul of our educational system, especially at the primary and post-primary levels. Above all, those who want trade union platforms as springboard to political visibility should be subtly distanced from teaching. The government should also always honour its agreements with the teachers, so that attention can move from trade disputes to exchange of ideas for the development of the education sector.

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