I am a teacher. I am a son of teachers, scratch that, make it a son of educationists in the old sense. My earliest memories: long, periodic absences of my parents for obligatory training at Advanced Teachers College, (ATC), Zaria. Virtually every year, you travelled to Zaria for obligatory teacher training courses, undergoing rigorous training curricula just to maintain your status as a public primary school teacher.
This past summer, I dusted my mother’s archives and stumbled on her materials from ATC in the 1970s. I shook my head. I am not sure that the PhDs we are training in Nigerian Universities today can handle courses designed for my mother and her peers at ATC just to make them better and more effective public primary school teachers.
Then, you have a silly Governor from Sokoto, whose primary school teachers make those who failed the Kaduna test look like Harvard graduates, talking populist nonsense.
Some 60% of the teaching corps in our primary schools nationwide are simply not retrainable. You cannot retrain them. Besides, where and how does Tambuwal propose to retrain his own dead wood? With what resources? These are people who allocate more resources to every imaginable frivolity than education.
Do you remember Oshiomhole’s encounter with a school teacher in Edo? Do you remember the tests in Kwara? Don’t get me started with Kogi. Nationwide, we have spent the last three decades destroying education, hiring bricklayers to teach in our primary schools.
Once you are jobless and sufficiently frustrated and you get a letter of introduction from any politician or big man, we hire you as a school teacher. In the process, we have staffed our primary schools nationwide with fish and ordered them to fly.
Then you have a stupid Governor in Sokoto saying he is going to retrain fish to fly, egged on by idiots playing politics with education and the lives of our children.
This is a serious national problem. I agree with Nasir that those who failed the test should not be in the system as teachers. Identify those who could potentially be absorbed by the Ministry of Agriculture and redeploy them to farms across the state in some practical capacity.
However, the sacking of dead wood is just 1% of the solution and Nasir is making a serious mistake by characteristically overmarketing it as THE SOLUTION. If Nasir is not prepared to tackle this problem holistically and comprehensively, then he is wasting our time. He imagines that hiring recent graduates is the solution.
The entire environment, the entire architecture, and the atmospherics of the education sector need emergency surgery. How much of his budget is Nasir allocating to education? Does it meet the minimum UN standards? What is being done to enhance teacher training capacity in his state? Even his state University is an apology. What are the specialist filters put in place to ensure that those who apply to fill the vacant positions are not just qualified but are also passionate about teaching?
More questions: in what physical environment are Nasir’s new teachers going to teach and with what pedagogical tools? In those dilapidated classrooms? With wooden slates and other pedagogical materials donated by UNICEF and Save the Children? How much is he going to pay them?
Any solution that does not start with these and more questions is a Pyrrhic exercise.
Senator Shehu Sani is making a lot of noise. Don’t worry. He is a Nigerian politician. Away from public scrutiny, I wager he is already writing letters of introduction for unqualified jobless relatives and constituents, expecting that, “as a whole Senator of the Federal Republic”, he must have a quota of the new teaching positions to be filled.
His enemy, Nasir El Rufai, may or may not oblige him. Beyond all the ad hominems they exchange in public, Nigerian politicians scrupulously respect private quotas across enemy lines. If Nasir does not oblige him, Senator Sani will make even louder noise in support of NUT. If Nasir obliges him, then he is not serious about his reforms. It would mean that even the new hires would come from the same atmospherics of nepotism and corruption and letters of introduction from influential Nigerians.
And we will continue the vicious cycle!