Here are some of the primary 4 competency test scripts conducted for primary school teachers in Kaduna State. Would you allow someone like this to teach your child? Should these teachers be allowed to teach our kids? The future of our children must never be politicized. Be the judge.”

These were the preluding words of the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufa’i, via his Twitter handle @GovKaduna, in presenting a minutiae sample of the marked scripts of Kaduna State primary school teachers that failed to score 75% in a competency test set for them by the Kaduna State Government. These scripts as presented by the Governor, for me, amounts to a ploy in order to cast majority of teachers in the State as unfit to teach. It is left for those that have swallowed this bait hook, line, and sinker. But it’s not possible for some of us with close friends, and acquaintances that are primary school teachers here in the State, many of whom with valid intellectual functions, to be taken in by such half truths. However, I will tell you why the examination has a suspicious nature; that is apart from being an emotional blackmail.

Firstly, only three scripts were provided. Secondly, two out of the three gave their qualifications as (i) SSCE, awaiting Grade II, who scored 17% and (ii) Grade II, who scored 32%, while the script of the third person who scored 23% showed SSCE as qualification. Thirdly, two of the three scripts showed that they are from one Local Government: Kubau, while the third script did not show from which Local Government. Is this data (3/21,780) enough to permit a generalization? What about the scripts of those with the obligatory qualifications to teach, who had also taken the exam? Isn’t presenting the scores of those who, in the first place, do not possess the requisite qualification to teach not playing to the gallery?  Besides, the manner the case is presented to the public in a very personalized fashion by the Governor has aroused suspicion in the minds of many that there are more to it than meets the eye. This is clearly discernible.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde, who shares such feeling, wrote: “Something is fishy with the current exams in Kaduna state. People are pasting the worst scripts on their walls in a propaganda effort to swerve public opinion to the fixated plan of dismissing 21,000 teachers. Honestly, did 21,000 write these scripts or are they cleverly selected to ridicule the teachers? If 70% of them got 60% and above as their union claims, I believe the pasted scripts are not true representatives of the 75% that failed the exams. It is sheer propaganda which I hope His Excellency has not fallen prey to.”

There is no denying that the capability of many teachers calls to question. So, when taken at face value, the position of the government has merit, as there are many parading as teachers who should not be seen anywhere close to a school. But, methinks, for the Governor to advance a more convincing argument, he should also present to the public the statistics of those with Bachelor of Education (B.Ed), and those with National Certificate of Education (N.C.E) that have also taken the same examination, and show to the public the number of those with B.Ed that have passed and those that failed, as well as those with N.C.E that have also passed and those that failed. Failure to do this would only deepen the existing atmosphere of suspicion. Those three scripts are not anywhere-near-enough to convince those with discerning minds of the Governor’s verdict that all of the 21,780 teachers are not fit to teach.

However, if this propaganda is meant to whip up public sentiment in favour of the government in justifying the sacking of the 21,780 these teachers who did not score up to 75% in the competency examination allegedly meant for primary 4 pupils, it has really achieved its purpose. Gleanings of reactions would attest to this. Meanwhile, what one would infer from the position of Kaduna State Government is that if 21,780 out of 33,000 primary school teachers could not pass an exam meant for primary 4 pupils, it then means that hardly can one get any pupil, not even that of primary six, that would make 10% from that same exam.

That as it may, we would have to situate things with the performance of public school pupils in Common Entrance Examinations done, say, in the last 10 years. Only when such comparison is done that one would be convinced that all these teachers are not educationally sound enough to teach. Or would it be a case of teachers failing primary 4 exams while their pupils are passing primary 6 exams?

Granted, how people that are not qualified to teach have found themselves as teachers should neither be the fault of el-Rufa’i neither should it be his burden. He is also not to be blamed for his attempt at restoring some sanity to the situation. It is the manner of doing it that is rather unconventional. And this brings us to the doorstep of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), established by Decree 31 of 1993 (now Act CAP T3 of 2004). Among its mandate are: Determining who should be a teacher; Determining what standards of knowledge and skills are to be attained by persons seeking to become registered teachers; Raising those standards from time to time as circumstances may permit; Classifying from time to time members of the teaching profession according to their level of training and qualification; Prosecution in the law court of unqualified persons performing the jobs of teachers.

The content of the TRCN Act is one and the same with the contents of the Acts that established other Councils that regulate and control other professions like Law, Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, Accounting, etc. So, if the TRCN, which was established after agitation by professional teachers and other stakeholders for the setting up of a regulatory agency for the teaching profession had not abdicated its responsibility, by allowing the teaching profession to be relegated to that of every Tom, Dick, and Harry, the teaching profession would not have found itself in the present sorry state where a government would have the effrontery to meddle in an issue that is not within its jurisdiction.

No doubt, educational standard has greatly been eroded. But to say that 2/3 of teachers could not pass a test meant for primary 4 pupils without backing it with convincing statistic is completely silly. That is why the outcome of the exam is mired in so much controversy. We all know that Colleges of Education’s courses are specialized such as English/CRK; Social Studies/CRK; Social Studies/IRK; Hausa/IRK; English/Primary Science, et al. So, while it may be compulsory for all teachers to score well on questions on ‘Principles of Teaching’, you don’t expect someone, for example, with a specialty in English/CRK to pass an exam in Mathematics, or someone with Hausa/IRK to pass an exam in English language. Moreover, someone that scored 70% may have more ability at impartation of knowledge than the person that scored 80% who may not possess that ability at all. If the government of Kaduna State must avoid throwing away the bathwater along with the baby, then it needs to revisit this issue that is very likely to be counter-productive.

It is thus a bizarre scenario that a teacher who has been teaching since 1987, having passed through a Teachers College obtaining the Grade II Certificate, and also obtaining the National Certificate of Education (N.C.E) from a Federal College of Education, as well as B. Ed from Ahmadu Bello University, and currently doing a Masters Degree Programme at the same University, would be said not to have passed an examination meant for primary 4 pupils. Consternation! One can envisage how such teacher’s psyche can be damaged by this experience!

In conclusion, I would make reference to what a lecturer, Mr. David Adams, wrote as a clincher: “I am not contending against the view that a good percentage of teachers in our schools (including private schools) are incompetent. I am also not against the competency test administered on the teachers. However, my doubts lie on whether it will provide the solution. The government wants to replace the sacked teachers with inarguably those that went through the same system. Will replacing a black pen with another black pen change the colour of a text from black to white? The entire education system has gone through decades of decay. Consequently, sacking and replacing will largely give you the same results. I think if government had conducted the competency test with the aim of improving the quality these teachers, the test could have been used to identify three classes of teachers, viz. Competent: 75% and above; Retrain able: 50% – 74%; and Incompetent: 49% and below. If this were the case, by now government would have been focusing on improving the abilities of the average teachers instead of the existing brouhaha. And, based on reliable source, most of those who are said to fail the competency test fall into the average class. Meanwhile, for those who fall into the incompetent class, I think redeployment won’t be a bad idea.” Governor el-Rufa’i, the ball is in your court!

By Ishaku Yohanna