The Kaduna state government in an attempt to improve the quality of education in the state conducted a “competency test” that it graded to be equivalent to primary four test for about 33,000 primary school teachers under the employment of the state’s public education system. At the end of the test about two-third of the teachers (22,000) did not make the benchmark score for being successful in the test, which the government had put at 75%. As a result of the mass failure by the primary school teachers, the government through the office of the governor announced that those teachers that did not meet up with the 75% pass mark will be relinquished of their role as teachers in the state’s public education system.
As a result of the announcement by the governor of the impeding mass sacking of these teachers there have been reactions for and against the decision by the state government. Unfortunately, some of the reactions have been appalling to say the least; from the vandalism of public properties to the use of primary school pupils, children, as protest tool and the governor has rightfully said that those people that perpetrated such criminal acts will be dealt with, with the full force of the law. This decision by the governor to deal with the perpetrators of such heinous acts is perfectly right and the best way forward, because such individuals have nothing to do with educating children. However, there are issues with the government’s decision to conduct the “competency test” and the decision to expel the “failed” teachers.
To start with, how competent was the “competency test” itself? A test that wanted to test for scientific knowledge and ended up asking five out of ten questions on the names of the: President of the United States of America, Governor and Commissioner of Education of Kaduna state, Executive Chairman of UBEC and the Minister for Education. Even at elementary education level everyone knows that such questions are usually asked under current affairs and under social studies as a subject. In the Mathematics paper there was a question that asked the teachers to “Add this pair of numbers.” and ended up with three numbers (5000 – 4563 + 2378). There was another Mathematics question that ended without a question mark even though it ended with “how much has the buyer paid”.
In the social studies paper there was a question that the teachers were asked to “Name 4 types/forms of common illnesses in our communities”. One would have expected this question to be in the primary science test paper and not social studies. While there were many issues with the competency test, I have chosen to highlight some of the obvious ones. The fundamental issue that some of the mistakes made in the “competency test” papers highlighted is that, the government that is trying to act as the gatekeeper of the state’s public education system needs to improve on its own basic knowledge of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy in education, particularly with regards to its own primary education curriculum. Because the inability to identify that questions that asked for the names of the President of the United States of America or the Governor of Kaduna state should be under social studies and not primary science exposes the lack of competency on curriculum and assessment issues in education on the part of the chief examiner in charge of the competency test
Secondly, the Nigeria’s National Policy on Education (2013) (PDF), which is the most up to date edition, states that the responsibility for the administration of primary schools lies in the hands of the Local Governments through their Local Education Authorities. The state government by attempting to take over the administration of the primary education sector through the office of the governor is attempting to usurp the powers that have been bestowed on Local Education Authorities by the Federal Government through the provisions in the National Policy on Education (2013 pp.42-43):
*State Ministries of Education and FCT Education Secretariat shall have responsibility within the state and FCT, respectively for the following:
- Policy control over Early Child Care Education and Development, Basic and Post-Basic Education as well as Tertiary institutions owned by the state in accordance with the requirements of the National Policy on Education;
- planning, research and development of education in the states;
- inspectorate services for monitoring and improving standards;
- provision of broad educational services;
- coordination of the activities of State Universal Basic Education Boards and other education Parastatals as well as Local Government Education Authorities as prescribed by law;
- examinations, testing and evaluation for Basic and Post – Basic Education levels;
- providing appropriate education laws and ensuring their enforcement; and
- developing and managing an efficient State Education Management Information system (SEMIS).
Local governments shall, through their Local Education Authorities (LGEAs) have responsibility for the management of Primary Education within their local government areas. In particular, the Local Education Authorities shall be responsible in public schools for:
- Appointments, promotion, discipline and transfer of primary school teachers and non-teaching staff within their areas of jurisdiction;
- payment of primary school teachers’ salaries and allowances;
- payment of pensions and gratuities;
- retraining of teachers;
- overall management of their educational plans;
- supervision and quality control in all primary schools in their areas in conjunction with federal and state authorities; and
- developing and managing an efficient Local Education Management Information System (LEMIS).
We are putting these out in the court of public opinion for Nigerians to make their verdict. Here are some of the primary 4 competency test scripts conducted for primary school teachers in Kaduna State.
– Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state.
Thirdly, there is the issue of breach of trust with regards to employees’ data protection on the part of the state government through the office of the governor, who decided to act as the chief examination officer of the state and at the same time the arbiter. By releasing some of the candidates’ answered test papers to “the court of public opinion”, the governor eroded the basic relationship of employer-employee trust and has damaged the little trust the public has in teachers and teaching profession in the state and probably in the country as a whole. The fact that those teachers failed the test, the decision by the state government to sack them and the uproar the decision generated is not enough justification to destroy such a fundamental aspect of employer-employee relationship – trust. This particular decision by the governor is quite strange, going by the nature of how forward thinking and thoughtful he has been known to be in the past on issues of public discourse in the country.
The Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) was a partnership between the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Nigerian Government. The eight and a half-year programme (2008 – 2017) supported federal and state governments – Enugu, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara and Lagos – to develop effective planning, financing and delivery systems to improve the quality of schools, teaching and learning.
The governor in an interview he granted to premium times on the issue referred to the training and re-training efforts by ESSPIN and the Teacher Development Programme as the justification for the competency test approach. However, the state government did not declare in the same interview that the ESSPIN program was not a statutory program but a series of intervention programs to help in improving the quality of the standard of education in the state and five other states in Nigeria. Using the ESSPIN program as one of the excuses for the competency test approach by the governor is most unfortunate because the program was done based on the trust and quality of information and active engagements by the different stakeholders involved in the public education system in the state, particularly the administrators and teachers. So, for the governor to now turn around and use such a program to justify his decision will only set the field of educational research in the state decades backward because in the future, participants – teachers in this instance – will be wary of giving out any information that they think will be used against them later on. And without very rich data from the relevant stakeholders in any field of human endeavour the likelihood of achieving any meaningful progress is very limited. Furthermore, on the ESSPIN project, the reports on Kaduna state laid more emphasis on what the state government has to do than on the teachers themselves. The question is – how many of those fundamental issues raised in the ESSPIN reports has the state government attended to?
It is a common knowledge to anyone that has paid attention to the education sector in Nigeria that the quality of teaching in most public schools is low and teachers in general get blamed for it, but in correcting this anomaly the Kaduna state government through the office of the governor shouldn’t put the cart before the horse. Getting rid of the incompetent teachers is the least of the problems in the system. The government needs to: fix its inspectorate unit; fund teachers’ associations (e.g. Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN)); invest in in-service training and introduce government aided mandatory CPDs through the Local education Authorities; create an observation framework that is in line with the National Policy on Education and the national curriculum to determine the quality of teaching and learning that are happening in classrooms in the state; use its state media outlets to produce educational programs that are in line with the national curriculum; attend to teachers’ welfare, particularly in the areas of salaries and allowances. These are just some of the issues that the state government needs to address before conducting a “competency test” that is full of mistakes.
*Emphases are mine.