Stakeholders in Gombe State have faulted a directive by the Executive Chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mr Babaji Babadidi, to public school teachers to enroll their children in public schools.
The executive chairman had said his directive would enhance academic achievement by compelling school managers and teachers to take their work seriously.
But experts said the problem of low-quality performance of public schools was beyond a ‘mere directive to teachers’ to also send their children to public schools.
A lecturer with the Federal College of Education (Technical) Gombe, Dr Sani Yakubu Gombe, said if the government could provide the infrastructure necessary to provide learners with quality education, teachers and other parents would willingly take their children to public schools.
“In my view, there is no way you can direct somebody to enroll his children in a public school when the standard is too low to provide qualitative education.
“But once you improve the system, I believe that the teachers will willingly take their children to public schools even to save the cost of taking them to private schools,” he said.
He, however, added that if the SUBEB is serious about the directive, then education managers not teachers alone should also send their kids to public schools.
Dr Yakubu Gombe said such directive could not enhance performance but that a teacher could easily be effective whether in private or public school if he/she is provided with all necessary materials, motivation and effective supervision.
“If we look at our public schools, there are no instructional materials, the classrooms are dilapidated, there is no proper supervision; the teachers are not going for training,” he said.
Yakubu Gombe said the solution was for the government to improve the pupil-teacher ratio and the capacity of teachers in terms of training, motivation and working materials.
On his part, Malam Abubakar Uba, a lecturer with the Federal University Kashere, said the directive would help to a certain extent.
“First and foremost teachers’ welfare should be given priority. For instance, the TETfund is responsible for the infrastructure and training of higher institution lecturers. As such, a similar agency is needed to cater for the lower level. What obtains now at the SUBEB is that they concentrate on the infrastructure rather than the certificates or the training of teachers.
“A teacher is key to the education sector, not the classroom. If the teachers are not stable, there is no way they can give their best,” he said.
Malam Uba added that there was little effort on the part of government to motivate teachers to be dedicated to their jobs, noting that if the public school system is working, teachers themselves will prefer to enroll their children in the public schools, “because it would be cheaper considering the meagre salaries of the teachers.”
According to him, posting of teachers should also be looked into with a special provision for rural areas, to encourage teachers to accept posting to such areas.
A retired permanent secretary and public affairs analyst, Alhaji Umaru Gurama, said asking teachers to enroll their children in public schools is not the solution to challenges facing education.
According to him, the entire basic education system became ineffective after the abolition of the Teachers’ Grade II certificate.
“To get it right, the entire sector needs a holistic approach. First, the condition of service of teachers should be reviewed and their salary should be deducted from the federation account. Secondly, if the judiciary and legislature can have an independent salary structure, primary school teachers should also be given autonomy, to take care of their salary.
“Also, the SUBEB itself has deviated from its core mandate, which is enrolling and keeping the children in school till completion. What they are now after is awarding contracts for school infrastructure,” Gurama said.
According to him, once the quality improves in public schools, teachers and other members of the public would willingly take their children to there.
Gurama said at present, the sector was neglected and turned into a place for people who took the job as the last option after failing to get better jobs elsewhere.
However, the Executive Chairman of SUBEB, Mr Babaji Babadidi, said the board stood by the directive, which, according to him, was meant to reinvigorate the public education sector.
“One, if these headteachers, the teachers, the education secretaries and all officers involved in the education sector bring their children to where they are working the standard will improve because you know that your child is part and parcel of that school. Hence the teachers and headteachers would be serious about their responsibilities.
“Secondly, the issue of coming late under the pretense of taking their children to private schools will no longer arise, because apart from taking the children to school in the morning, they also close early under the same pretense of picking their children up from school,” he said.
Babadidi added that for now, the SUBEB was sensitising teachers on the imperatives of enrolling their children in the public schools before reviewing the relevant laws that would make it compulsory.
He said: “Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya has approved the review of SUBEB law in the state and of course we will make sure that the directive aspect is recorded as part of the law.
“As such, if you do not bring your child to the school there is a penalty because it is free and compulsory education. So, there will be punishment for parents that refuse to enroll their children in public schools.”
The SUBEB chairman said the authorities are working to improve the welfare of teachers through prompt payment of salaries and other entitlements as well as the provision of incentives to make them dedicated to their duties.