Kaduna State Educational Sector And The Inevitability Of Reforms By Emmanuel Ado

” Indecision and delays are the parents of failure” – George Canning

Governor Nasir El – Rufai of Kaduna State, makes very unpopular,but timely and critical decisions,which in the short term would always be difficult for some people to “stomach”, but ultimately the benefits would justify the action. Inaction or indecision most often leads to even bigger problems,so good leaders must make those hard choices,between reforms or stagnation,but it will always be at a cost.  And El- Rufai is very much aware of the political consequences of his various reforms. But he obviously prefers following his convictions,than pander to politics of second term,like some “concerned” friends have advised.

The essential Nasir El – Rufai ,is daring, when he it comes to making very hard decisions- from pruning the ministries from 24 to 14 to the disengagement of the 21,780 teachers who failed the tests administered on them. 21,780 teachers, two-thirds of the total 33,000 had failed to score 75% or higher in the test administered on them. El– Rufai is as predictable,as the sun rising in the morning,when it comes to taking such hard decisions. In fact it seems such decisions make his day – the tonic. The Hall Mark of leadership is predictability or consistency,a critical characteristic that is often overlooked,which El- Rufai does possess.He is not sly or cunning,like the average politician. In fact his biggest problem is his failure or refusal to “adapt”,to the ways of the Nigerian politician.

When the people of Kaduna State elected him, it was taken for granted that they knew for certain the product they were buying. El- Rufai had come with a reputation from Abuja,where he dared the likes of Ahmadu Ali,Pius Anyim etc.He demolished the houses of the high and mighty, that infringed on the master plan.He was from the very outset quite clear about the directions he was going to take Kaduna State. It was clear he was going to ruffle feathers.And this fact was easy to foresee or anticipate,so why are some people uncomfortable with some of the reforms that he has initiated,which are consistent  with the “essential Nasir El Rufai “,who  will score more than 250% in consistency accountability? The answer can be found in the nature of man – man will resist change,because it is in his nature to resist change. A point Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School eloquently made “We are creatures of habit. Routines become automatic, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways”. Change she continues, creates ripple effects -“Like tossing a pebble into a pond, change creates ripples, reaching distant spots in ever-widening circles”.

The  stiff opposition to the reforms Nasir El- Rufai has embarked upon should be considered normal,because “change” disrupts peoples routine and interferes with their activities. How can a teacher who for years,had maintained the same teaching methods,accept change? How can a teacher who is accustomed to spending more time outside the classroom than inside,accept change?The teacher will definitely rebel. The only snag is that the teachers are up to a man, who would not be intimidated. If Labour,makes good it’s threat to embark on strike,it might be working into a land mine,that might bruise it.

That Kaduna State Educational Sector is in a deep crisis, this depressing fact is very obvious, from the consistent 44% and below in WAEC results to the number of students admitted into the universities, that it should not be a subject of debate. The debate should have centered on the way forward, especially as the statistics is overwhelmingly in support of the fact that there is a crisis. Unfortunately rather than justifiable repulsion and anger at the mass failure of the primary school teachers,that failed the primary four(4) examinations administered on them, the state Government is being asked to do nothing. Like Adamu Mansur,the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education has asked the “do nothing” people – how can you redeem a teacher,that is irredeemable? Kaduna State hasn’t made much progress,and might not, unless the educational sector gets the critical,and urgent surgical operation, that it needs. If Kaduna State is to earn the name “Center of Learning”, then the full dosage of reform must be administered on the sector. Previous administrations shied away from administering the painful chemotherapy that was long over due. If El – Rufai,fails to,then Kaduna State will be in the same league with Zamfara State that has perpetually occupied the bottom of the table.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF), “Forty per cent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school with the Northern states recording the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls. Despite a significant increase in net enrollment rates in recent years, it is estimated that about 4.7 million children of primary school age are still not in school.Another challenge in Nigeria is the issue of girls’ education, in the North in particular the gender gap remains  wide,with the proportion of girls to boys in school ranging from 1 girl to 2 boys to 1 to 3 in some States.”

While the National Statistics by the United Nations Children Fund are horrifying,that of the North can best be described as calamitous,especially as it has been further  compounded by the insurgency in the North- East, the full implication that is yet  to unravel. But the major problem the North is facing, might not be in the numbers, as the statistics shows impressive numbers, rather it is in the functionality of its schools.Statistics show that the three(3) Geo-Political Zones of the North,have 41,913 public primary schools,twice the number  of schools in the entire South.However  the North despite this is fantastic statistics in numbers, is lagging behind the South, as the South has 67%  literacy level, while the North has a 34% literacy level.

The real problem is not just  in the high out of school number, but the fact that those in school are learning absolutely nothing. This is the problem that Nigeria must address as it goes for quantity,instead of quality. And unless serious attention is devoted to the issue of learning,Nigeria,not just Kaduna State will continue to lag behind other countries in every sphere of human endeavor, most especially in the area of science and technology. But how can Kaduna state students compete when the teachers are simply incapable of imparting knowledge? How can Nigeria hope to drive the new knowledge based economy,to propel socioeconomic development,when a teacher can’t write lesson note?

Moving forward the Kaduna State Government must also address other factors like inadequate teacher training and re-training, poor teachers’ welfare,which has also affected the profession. Two key programmes of the government the teacher – director,that aims to retain teachers in  the school system  is great. Worthy of commendation is also the complete overhaul of dilapidated infrastructures – labs, classrooms,and the provision of basic infrastructure should continue,though funding is a challenge. It is worthy of note that Kaduna State, has surpassed the  UNESCO mandate requiring that 26% of annual budget is devoted to Education.

The Senate recently passed an amendment to the UBEC Act,that makes education free and compulsory,but the reality is that with the dwindling resources Government can’t fund education.Some critics of the  reforms have their children in private schools,where the Parents Teachers Association(PTA), are known to fund the hiring of teachers for core subjects,but these same parents will hypocritically resist any attempt by the Government to ask for minimal contribution by the parents in the funding of Education. Considering the scope of work,the El- Rufai should consider lunching an Educational Fund,for rehabilitation and equipping of schools. It needs such an intervention to be able to address the crisis in the sector – for every one School fixed,there are 15 schools calling for attention.

From the various pronouncement of the governor,it is clear that there is no going back on the disengagement of the 21,780 teachers,as the  process towards hiring the 25,000 new teachers has commenced. The disengaged teachers must take some blame for failing to improve themselves despite the five (5) years grace to obtain  the NCE certificate,the minimum qualification for teaching in primary school.The greatest blame goes to the politicians who employed their thugs as teachers.

The challenge before those charged with the responsibility of engaging the new teachers, is to ensure that only the best and the very best who are passionate about teaching and who would be dedicated are hired. Most primary and secondary school teachers are accidental teachers- teaching is their last resort,when they can’t enlist in the customs or immigration. Such “accidental teachers” must be filtered out,because this is the only way that the the decision to weed out misfits would in the long run be justified.The exercise must not be politicized. It won’t make sense to sack thugs and engage thugs. According to the governor “The hiring of teachers in the past was politicised and we intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to restore the dignity of education in the state,”. Good talk and the governor must walk the talk.The Statement of the governor should be read to all at the examination centers for them to appreciate  the seriousness of the programme.

It is obvious that not all the new teachers that will be engaged will have the same level of competence from the very outset- strong set of values, skills and knowledge,so the urgent task will be building and sustaining these relevant competencies. These three (3), key values that have been identified as important for the 21st century teacher; learner-centredness, teacher identity, and service to the profession and Community, values that guide the application of relevant skills and knowledge on a day-to-day basis,must be impacted on these new teachers. The teachers to be need these holistic array of skills – for teaching and thinking, administration and management; as well as knowledge – of self, pupils, and community. What role can the National Teachers Institute(NTI),play especially, in the area of capacity building for the new teachers?Good teaching does not occur in a vacuum. It is a long way,but achievable.

According to Darling-Hammond the  task of a modern teacher is closely tied to the nature of the classroom. Today’s classrooms call for teachers to “prepare virtually all students for higher order thinking and performance skills once reserved to only a few”. Will the El – Rufai foot soldiers ( new teachers) share his vision and help move the educational system forward?

Moving forward,the ambitions of  Kaduna State will determine how it moves on -are the goals of Kaduna State global or is Kaduna State contented being the “northern champion” ? American physician, writer and Harvard professor Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” The next step forward, therefore, is up to all – government, parents,teachers and indeed all stakeholders.It must not be change,for the sake of change.