From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
Following the lingering face-off between the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai and the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) over sack of 21,780 primary school teachers who failed the competency test conducted by the state government in 2017, over two million poor children have been forced out of school.
Before now, in its bid to transform the educational sector of the state and to ensure that more children especially those of low income earners background are in schools. In 2016, El-Rufai introduced free school feeding, free uniforms, infrastructural development in primary schools across the 23 local government areas of the state.
The programme skyrocket the enrollment of school children from about 1.4 million to over 2 million based on government statistics. The free feeding programme gulped about N10 billion within the first eight months and followed by overwhelming criticism and dwindling economy, it was stopped.
With dwindling economy vis-à-vis the need to transform the education sector of the state’s economy by removing redundancy usually associated with government businesses, the state government arranged and conducted competency test for those teaching in its primary schools. The results of that test shocked the state government because 90 per cent of teachers could not score 75 per cent benchmark and decided to send them packing.
But, this alleged mass failure of the test as announced by the state governor did not go down well with the NUT. The union had on October 30, 2017 approached an industrial court and filed a motion of “interlocutory injunction”, asking the court to restrain the state government from dismissing or disengaging any teacher on the basis of the test.
Justice Lawal Mani, in his ruling on December 14, granted the prayer pending the determination of the substantive suit and adjourned the case until February 6.
On Tuesday, January 2, the Kaduna state government directed the commencement of the issuance of letters of termination of appointment and compulsory retirement to be issued to about 22,000 primary school teachers in the state. The letters were back-dated to November, 2017 but would be effective from February 3, 2018.
In reaction to the government’s decision, the NUT directed teachers to begin an indefinite strike by boycotting classroom from Monday, January 8 because of the pending case it has filed at the National Industrial Court, Kaduna against the state government over the same issue and the interlocutory injunction granted in its favour.
Visit to some primary schools within Kaduna metropolis showed that the directive issued by the leadership of NUT to commence indefinite strike was strictly adhered to as schools were totally shut.
However, before this controversy got to this point, the state government had advertised applications from qualified candidates to fill the vacuum the dismissed teachers would create. About 43,806 interested persons applied for the job from where 25,000 of them may be considered for the offer based on their performance. But many of these applicants were unaware of the date of the aptitude test spread across 130 centres within the state.
It was reliably gathered that, even if all the persons that eventually wrote the aptitude test were taken, there is no how they can augment the vacuum that would be created.
A source who is involved in the ongoing marking of the scripts but does not want to be mentioned hinted that, he doubted it if the government is serious about the recruitment, describing the performance as “hell”.
According to this source, there is no how government can get the replacement of number of sacked teachers let alone of getting 25,000 based on what he sees in the scripts and even the number of people that participated in the exercise.
“In Birni Gwari, Ikara, Soba, Zaria, Giwa and Makarfi local government areas, there is no way we can get such replacement. What that means is that, the children of the poor will suffer because there is going to be vacuum in many schools and that will in the long run affect the pupils academically”, the source added.
A Senior Staff of Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Mary Ambi hinted shortly after the aptitude test held on December 20, 2017 that, only those who scored the minimum points and possessed the required qualifications would be contacted for the next phase of the recruitment which is oral interview.
In an exclusive interview with The Education Report, chairman of NUT in Kaduna, Mr. Audu Titus Amba said, “this has been lingering for some months and it has become a national issue. Hearing that government promised job creation will wake up overnight and say it is sacking 21,780 primary school teachers alone came to many as a big surprise.”
Commenting on this development, Press Secretary to former Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, James Kanyip asked whether the state government would withdraw the letters of termination of appointment and compulsory retirement earlier issued to the teachers and substitute them with that of outright dismissal.
Following the strike, the state government invoked the ‘no work, no pay policy’ but NUT called the bluff of the government. The union urged its members to remain at home.