Opinion: El-Rufai and his teachers – By CHIECHEFULAM IKEBUIRO

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The quality of teaching and learning in schools, I believe, is a shared responsibility irrespective of our differences and a senator who claims to have the interest of his people at heart should know better.

In October, at a meeting with some World Bank representatives, Governor Nasir el-Rufai had made his intentions of disengaging over 20,000 teachers in Kaduna State. Their crime? They failed to score up to 75 per cent in a Primary 4 examination which the state set for them to test their competency level and academic abilities. The governor also blamed the politicisation of hiring of teachers in the past for this disgrace and vowed to change this by replacing the soon-to-be-sacked teachers with competent hands after, of course, putting them through professional screening.

In his response, a “sworn enemy” of Governor el Rufai, Senator Shehu Sani, condemned the move calling it “inhumane” and the “height of lunacy”.

It’s quite a shame that the lawmaker allowed his hate for el-Rufai becloud his reasoning. There is no reason why a child of the peasant should not enjoy the basic right of being taught by a qualified teacher, just like Sani’s children. Hate el-Rufai all you want (and this applies to the rest of those who have condemned this move), encouraging the status quo, in this case, is what is inhumane and the height of lunacy.

The quality of the education of a nation could be determined by the quality of her teachers and the most important factor in improving children’s achievement is by filling our classrooms with people trained in this process-qualified teachers. Issues such as the quality of schools, teachers and the education provided to our children should be of utmost importance to all of us. It is pertinent to note that schools in other climes have been preparing their children – the next generation – to compete and win in the global space while we’re still grappling with unteachable teachers. Teachers who probably should be schooled by their pupils! Supposed teachers who are unable to pass a test for Primary 4 pupils. Teachers who don’t know the meaning of the acronym of the education board. Teachers who can’t even write a proper sentence. Teachers who are better off sticking to their various skill sets, one of which I am certain is everything but teaching. What is worse, a senator throws his weight behind the even more disgraceful and inhumane protest organised by the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers for the recall of these teachers – all for purely political reasons. In other climes, unions like this warn against the use of unqualified teachers in school so as not to jeopardise the children’s education.

I repeat, hate el-Rufai all you want, but if you are opposed to this feat, then, your sincerity of purpose should be questioned. As a matter of fact, I think this exercise should extend to all the states of the federation, especially those in the North. It is high time we held our teachers, schools, communities as well as representatives accountable for the education of our children so they can have an excellent future. Pray, will Senator Sani allow his children get schooled by these sorts of teachers? Is the future of these children worth jeopardising because of some political vendetta? I totally agree with el-Rufai that it will be irresponsible not to act in this kind of despicable situation.

However, while the move by the governor is commendable and worthy of emulation, the infamy we just saw in Kaduna State has exposed our flawed education system. Some questions like how these teachers even passed the NCE and qualified to be teachers in the first place are worth asking. It is time to tackle the real fundamental issue with our educational sector. Pray, why should there be a segmentation of cut-off points for say, entry into a college of education? Why should the cut-off point in the South differ (by a wide margin) from that of the North? This, I believe, is encouraging impunity, laziness and endangering the future. Truth is, you cannot provide what you don’t possess. In the end, we end up churning out these kinds of teachers who continue to wreak havoc by shattering the hopes of our future generation if we do not jettison practices like these.

That said, ensuring that we have teachers with expertise in our classrooms is crucial in achieving the best student outcomes and an improved society.

It’s time to act and not rob our children of their entitlement-they won’t forgive us tomorrow. Punch

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