In 2004, some people allegedly fell ill from consuming a defective batch of Indomie noodles. All of us then did not only stop patronizing the product; I remember, government agencies – especially the almighty NAFDAC swung into actions by proscribing the product till the alleged tainted batch was completely removed from market and others certified fit for human consumption. Even then, it took De-United Foods – makers of the noodles a chunk of her hard earned profits over years to engage in aggressive marketing thereafter to win back the lost confidence and market shares. I remember lots of free noodles were dished and served publicly to who is who, including the then NAFDAC DG – Dora Akunyili of Africa herself, just to prove a regained safety of the commodity. Upon all these, one cannot rule out the tendency the stigma still lives with a fragment of the noodles’ market till moment.
The noodles analogy does not seem to be same with myriad of defective teachers in the Nigerian education market today. A lot of impostor teachers flood the school system from basic to higher institution levels and we all consume their venoms at the expense of our very dear life and future. We are in an era where teaching jobs are for all comers. And a job for all comers is not qualified to be called a profession – so said former President Obasanjo at the launching of TRCN in 2005. My experience in the Nigerian education industry revealed a lot of anomalies in the service. I have come across a language teacher who herself could not spell ‘NOUN’ correctly. We have seen NCE holder of Geography Education that could not spell and write the word ‘GEOGRAPHY’ correctly! I have cases of primary school drop-outs in the teaching service, using credentials of their late siblings and politicians that gave them jobs were actually in the picture of the fraud. These of cause are not news to many of you. They are even tips of iceberg from what you see daily in the system. But, must we continue like this? For how long will these take us?
If you think these anomalies are only in the public schools, you are wrong. I can bet it that those of the private institutions are worse. School proprietors are but capitalists who concentrate more on incomes than the actual services and could take anybody for teacher. So, why do we pretend we know not? Nigeria is just an amazing country where we all see evil but must not call it by the name. We would rather wait for evil days to come so we wail, or at best result to prayers so God could descend from Heavens and salvage the trends. If anyone dares challenged the status-quo, he becomes foe rather than comrade. Thus the tenant evils have since become landlords. And here we are complaining of killer doctors, damaging managers, thief bankers, terrorist army chiefs, robber policemen, corrupt judges and the stuffs. So huge we pay the prices but still prefer to do nothing!
We’ve been in for it for so long; and this is where we all got it wrong. We get it wrong from our behavioural objectives. Why do we go school? We attended schools to become somebody, not necessarily to learn. We attended schools to become local government chairmen and councilors so that we could cheat in turn those who cheated our fathers. Our parents solemnly injected these into our psyches, and unfortunately the trend continues unabated. We enroll our children in schools to become doctors, engineers, accountants and get good jobs rather than learning to be independent and create wealth. This way, together with our incapable umpires, we technically paralyzed technical education and rendered polytechnic system futile. We all read to get jobs that are not there; so much crazy for certificates rather than education. Examination malpractices become order of the day. Our children must pass exams at all costs. We care less of what they know. The certificate they bring home matters. Now we blame someone somewhere for our woes. No doubt, for long, we’ve gotten it wrong!
Do we even bother how mediocre teachers got themselves into the service? Kaduna state cannot be an exception. It is the vogue across the nation. Just that El-Rufai is taking the bull by the horn may be. Teaching jobs, unlike others are often traded for elections. They are given to party loyalists in the various wards irrespective of their competence. Those looking for jobs but had no certificates are often asked to source for one immediately. Parents cry to politicians to reward their efforts at polls by placing their wards. And, since the guy fits nowhere, classroom teaching will do! Teaching, the noblest profession had since been nicked by quacks; and you still wonder whether we truly got it wrong!
Many bad eggs that failed interviews for placement in micro firms easily find their ways into teaching. Certificate forgers would not go for any job interview somewhere else, for fear of aptitude or nemesis; but they must get that teaching appointment, especially in public schools where screening exercises are nothing than cost waste routines.
Fake teachers and mediocre teachers do nothing in school than impairment and nuisance. They are bad tyres. We get nowhere without changing them. They know next to nothing about curriculum, syllabus and schemes of works. They can’t even prepare lesson plan in its simplest form. And somebody is talking about retraining these elements. I wonder where to start from! No one can give what he/she does not have. This is why you often see them gossiping around the school premises at the precious time they were supposed to be busy teaching. They condemn rather than motivate pupils. By their long canes you will know them. They beat hell out of innocent pupils. Since he/she has nothing to command respect, the only instrument is to instill fear through canes. Funny enough, they are first to carry placards for salary outstanding or pay increase.
Of course, good teachers still exist in our institutions. The fact is that the bad ones are great impediment to our collective being and our fragile future, no matter how small or big their fraction amidst the good ones. Knowing this fact is one. Accepting it as a problem is next. Then shall we be prepared to tackle the challenges head-on. For how long would we be afraid of a resulting unemployment to get our future and the future of generations unborn fixed? Mediocre teachers will continue to produce criminals and liabilities, just as it has started manifesting. Teachers who cheated to have certificates themselves consider exam malpractice a normal business. They make fortunes out of it and a vast majority of us are accomplices. We must not continue this way.
Where are the Akunyilis of education sector? Where are the Fafunwas? Where are NTI, NCCE and TRCN? Where are the scholars of education? Do we doubt there are bad apples in the teaching industry? Must we put all the blames on El-Rufai’s tables? What are we doing as agencies and authorities to rescue the failing system? Authority goes with responsibility. That is why I said we are all culpable. We got it wrong.
El-Rufai to me is a hero in this direction. Not because he has gotten it right; but for calling a problem its name and taking steps to right the wrong. We may not like his styles; but the fact is, we have to start from somewhere. Some people argued that the tests given to the teachers were sub-standard and invalid. Others say the cut off mark was too high. To some others, it is all a political game. Fortunately, nobody has argued there are bad eggs in the system. To me a better hero than El-Rufai is he/she that proffers more workable solutions out of the quagmire. Not just mesmerizing by trading blames. We wait for such a Messiah. Hope we will not wait forever!
The education summit held recently on matters related to this by President Buhari and the President’s applaud of the El-Rufai steps is admirable. Nigeria urgently needs a rescue of her education system. It is time for value education and real learning at all levels. It is time to revive our technical education and the polytechnic system. Many of these teachers did not love the chalk and talk job ab initio. The poor structure of our polytechnic system made many of them missed roads. Had our polytechnic system not lost its past glory, most of them would have exceled in trades and technicalities. The fault is not outrightly theirs. Together as a nation we got it wrong. We must therefore work individually and collectively for a rescue. The earlier we rescue, the greater our future.
As I wish Governor El-Rufai success in his bids to sanitize the education system, I suggest that those teachers who failed the tests could be given a second chance to re-write, so as to clear all doubts and of course to avoid throwing baby with bad water. I am very sure grains could always be separated from chaffs at all times, if we are determined to do so. I also support the calls that those who have credentials but eventually adjudged not fit for classrooms could be redeployed to relevant ministries in the state. This would minimize the effects on the individuals and the society. How I wish other governors and indeed the Federal Government prioritize sanity of the education sector.
S. AbdulGaniyu is a staff of Federal Colllege of Education, Yola.