President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday threw his weight behind Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s decision to sack 22,000 teachers in Kaduna State who failed competency test and recruit 25,000 new ones.
El-Rufai had vowed that threats of industrial action by the state chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) would not deter his government.
Digressing from his speech after addressing participants at a special retreat of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria, which held at the Banquet Hall, Abuja, Buhari who gave the tacit support to El-Rufai, described the development as “a serious situation.”
If nothing else, the presidential endorsement will embolden Governor El-Rufai whose decision last week to sack almost the entire teachers in public schools in Kaduna State has attracted criticism from around the country.
Buhari said his administration was committed to revitalising the education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.
“It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in.
“For nine years, I was in boarding school, three in primary and six in secondary school. In those days, teachers treated students or children like their own children. If you did well, they would tell you that you did well. If you didn’t do well, they never spared the rod.
“I listened to one Nigerian I respect. He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma mater, his primary school, to see what he could contribute.
“I won’t mention his name, but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers.
“And what El-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are suppose to teach the children to pass,” the president said.
Earlier, Buhari told the participants that Nigeria would not be able to progress beyond the level of the standard of its education. “The problem is no longer a secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement, he said.”
According to him, it is those who acquired the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow that are leading the rest.
“With an estimated 13.2 million children out of school, high illiteracy level, infrastructural deficit and decay, unqualified teachers, and inadequate instructional materials, to mention some of the challenges, we can clearly see the effect of decades of neglect that the sector has suffered.”
In a letter titled, “State of Education in Kaduna: Issues and Politics to the Kaduna State APC Stakeholder”, he averred that politicising the matter is synonymous with politicising the future of the children.
“We can disagree with El-Rufai on many issues, but on the issue of fixing public education, we need to exercise restraints. Many of us, if not all, wouldn’t have been where we are if not for the privilege of access to good quality public education. We are all products of public education on accounts of which we are globally competitive. This is not the case with our children.
“Our children are in most cases products of private education and hardly competitive locally. Looking at these scripts, there is no question about why this is so. We can disagree with the approach of the state government, but the way to go is not to politicize this matter. We must do all we can to support the state government to get this reform right,” Lukman said.
But the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) faulted Buhari’s endorsement of the teachers’ sack.
The Deputy President of NLC, Peters Adeyemi, said yesterday that the endorsement of the sack of more than 22,000 workers at once by government that pledged to create jobs was most unfortunate.
He said the NLC would write a protest letter to the presidency over the matter.
His words: “We condemn the President’s endorsement of the mass sack. How could a President that promised to create jobs turn around to kill jobs? We have stated that we will not accept these sacks because it did not follow due process. We doubt the veracity of the examination because government can set the examination for the teachers to fail to justify the mass sack action.”
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) alleged a plan by El-Rufai to mobilise 30 buses of political thugs to Kaduna yesterday to drum up support for the government.
In a statement, the Kaduna State chairman of the group, Umar Ibrahim, said the information was gathered from reliable sources.
“It is unfortunate and disheartening that the state government is playing to the gallery of its detractors on this ill-advised action. Therefore, we call on the state to shelve this planned demonstration and heed security advice,” he added.