By Emmanuel Ado
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” – Albert Einstein
What exactly is wrong with a periodic re-assessment of teachers, which the kaduna state government justifiably instituted in 2017,after the ugly experience with the over 21,000 teachers,that flunked the competency test! This is the pertinent question, the Nigeria Union of Teachers(NUT), Kaduna State chapter, must answer,as a matter of urgency and in public interest. The state government, while engaging the over 25,000 teachers, to replace those it had disengaged,unequivocally made it clear, that moving forward, primary schools teachers in its service, will be subjected to competency tests,every five(5)years. It was that transparent with the teachers.
But the NUT in its reaction to the announcement, predictably declared with magisterial finality and arrogance , that “no teacher in public Primary School in kaduna state, will sit for the competency test being organised by the government”, because they sat for one, when they were engaged, and because “writing a competency test does not determine the skill of a teacher”. Rather the NUT, in an unsolicited advice, asked the government to channel the “funds meant for the exercise to the training and re-training of the teachers”. But if one might ask the NUT, is the competency test not an integral part of a re-training programme. Or is it that the test doesn’t qualify as a re- training programme in the estimation of the body, because conference bags won’t be distributed, with the usual allowances?
It’s amazing, and a big shame that the NUT,which should be in the vanguard of continuous retraining, is vehemently opposed to teachers continuously improving their knowledge through regular competency tests, considering that the education of a professional teacher is a life-long process. Happily, aspiring professional teachers, have very early in their careers come to terms with the stark reality, that continuous competency tests is the new normal. And that these five yearly tests will substantially determine who remains or who can be retrained.
There is no gain saying the obvious fact that education is key to economic social mobility and development, and that teachers have a pivotal role to play, the reason why the Nasir El-Rufai administration, in discharging its responsibility to Kaduna state citizens, hasn’t shied away from taking very painful decisions,to ensure that those impacting instructions,at the foundation level, are themselves, well equipped. By vehemently resisting the competency test, the NUT has unwittingly, confirmed the necessity for the the competency test, as the government endeavors to bequeath a teaching profession,worth its salt.
The problem of the NUT, the reason why like it’s other sister unions it’s averse to change, is the erroneous believe it can always intimidate employers with threats of prolonged industrial strike,like the residents doctors who have been on strike for more than three(3) weeks. The unions,without doubt have been emboldened, in their rascality, because they hardly suffered any consequence(s), for their illegal actions. So long as they are not called to order, so long will these unions continue to put the narrow interest of their members, over and above that of the general public,which it ought to be accountable to. There will be no immediate end to their irresponsible actions, since they continue to see themselves more as trade unions, than as professional bodies.
While professionalism has taken roots in some bodies,which is clearly reflected in the very rigorous requirements for professional recognition and registration in legal, engineering, pharmacy, and other professions, with mandatory years of approved training,same can’t be said of the NUT. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria(ICAN), is an example of a model professional body, which without prodding, introduced continuing examinations and maintains a strict oversight over its members practice, something the NUT, is stridently opposed to. Rather, it is unashamedly determined to fight any effort towards enhancing its professional reputation,because the aspiration of the NUT, is to remain a bread and butter body, that is not bothered about quacks in the profession, yet delights in constantly issuing threats, that it clearly has no capacity to enforce.
But how can such an unserious body want to be taken seriously or delude itself that it dictate terms of engagement? Serious professional bodies are deeply concerned with public benefit,are dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, through developing, regulating, promoting professional standards, as well as jealously guiding their reputation, all attributes the NUT manifestly lacks.
Were the NUT leadership, abreast of developments in the real world, they would have heard, the popular saying in football, that a coach,is as good as his last match, the reason why clubs do not hesitate to immediately sack a coach, who in the last season won the champions league, but started the new season poorly. The clubs have very little patience,nor do they indulge coaches. The kaduna state government, deserves commendation,for insisting on the competency tests of its teachers. If the NUT insists that the 2017 test is enough, one wonders how its members will react, if per chance they relocate to the United States, where to be licensed, a teacher must write a minimum of 140 sets of tests. Or that possessing a license of New York, does not entitle the teacher to practise in New Mexico. Part of the effort to ensure that no one enters the profession without complying with its very strict professional standards.
Some of the tests conducted by the Educational Testing Service includes; Praxis 1/Core Academic Skills for Educators Test,which assesses the basic skills and knowledge in reading, writing, and mathematics that a teacher candidate needs to have in order to enter a teacher preparation program;the Principles of Learning and Teaching Test,which assesses a new teacher‟s knowledge and understanding of educational practices foundation to beginning a career as a professional educator; and Praxis II, which is designed to measure the knowledge and competencies necessary for a beginning teacher.
Kaduna state government, is acting perfectly within its rights. And its proactive policy, is strongly backed by the federal government policy statement, that the teaching profession will no longer be a dumping ground for quacks or a stepping stone for other jobs. Though, the federal government instituted the Teachers Professional Qualifying Examination Benchmark,and introduced the registration and licensing of teachers,it hasn’t aggressively implemented the policy like the kaduna state government.
People only fear change,when there is lack of awareness. But in this instance, the NUT has no right to complain, because El- Rufai, hasn’t changed the goalpost or the rules in the middle of the game. It’s important for the NUT to wake up from its deep slumber and accept the fact that El-Rufai, is still governor,till May 29th,2023. It must not be a stumbling block in the desire of the kaduna State Government to impact concretely and positively on the quality of education its pupils receive.
While, the Kaduna state government has demonstrated its determination to fix the rot in the educational system, to enhance quality in the teaching profession, because of its multiplier effect on the learning process, and due to the implication for the future of the Nigerian child and the overall prosperity of Nigeria,same can’t be said of other stakeholders,like parents,who have displayed an amazing I don’t care attitude. Kaduna citizens and indeed all stakeholders, have a sacred duty to support the state governments efforts in restoring the sanctity of the educational system, particularly teaching; because every time it gets the teacher factor right, the impact is noticeable on the educational system.
Teachers,are trustees of these children, on behalf of their parents and the larger society,the reason the government is paying attention to the issue. It follows that parents should be concerned about the competency of the teachers teaching their children are being taught and whether by competent teachers or not. And as in other climes, they should hold the government accountable for teaching breaches bothering on sheer incompetence, because incompetent teachers, can forever kill the talents of these children. Like it’s often said, “if a medical doctor makes a mistake, an individual may die; if a lawyer makes a mistake, an individual may lose freedom; if an engineer makes a mistake, a bridge may collapse; but if a teacher makes a mistake, generations of humanity may reap grave consequences.”