Let me start with an apocryphal story of a high rise building with slippery and wobbly stairways. Upon appointment of a new property manager and an inspection of the stairways, an order for the immediate removal of the stairs was issued as it had become too dangerous. The removal was done over the weekend only for the occupants to resume on Monday aghast. This was done without considering how people will get to the upper floors, the effect of the removal on the structural integrity of the building amongst other implications.
I say this to illustrate the ludicrousness of knee jerk reactions, to problems whose symptoms have become gargantuan stand alone problems and the root cause a shadowy enigma. Such is the problem in our educational sector and I daresay any randomly selected sector of our country for that matter. This has been amplified in the public discourse by the recent uncovering in Kaduna state and earlier by the matriculation cut-off mark saga.
We did not get here in one day; neither will we get out with a magic wand. Our slide on the education stairways has been going on for decades. These Kaduna “teachers” are a product of our education system trained by teachers at different levels; primary, secondary and tertiary and were adjudged by our system as suitable for higher levels. There was a recruitment process facilitated by our education administrators, who by the way passed through the same education system and judged these “teachers” as fit and qualified to teach. These “teachers”, in the course of their careers have been appraised and probably promoted for good performance then suddenly we are told that primary four students are better than these “teachers”; SACRILEGE! Even worse, our solution is to sack them all.
The question is, then what? We recruit another set of teachers from the same pipeline, using the same process that produced the sacked ones thereby perpetuating a vicious cycle while we wait for the next courageous albeit rash governor to repeat the cycle. By the way, what happened to the Edo State “teachers” during Governor Oshiomole’s tenure, are they the ones in Kaduna State?
This takes me to the vexing issue of our matriculation cut-off marks which in my opinion is a celebration of mediocrity. Placing the general cut-off at 100 marks out of 400 marks (25%) for entrance into tertiary institutions is a tragicomedy (in Yoruba; oro buruku t’oun t’erin). On hearing the cut-off mark of 100/120, I enquired if the total score was now 200. Alas, it is 400, and we were credibly re-educated that the matriculation examination is a ranking examination and not a qualifying one. This is a classic case of placing schooling and certification above education. Unfortunately, we have endorsed mediocrity from primary school level to secondary and suddenly we expect more than 25% at tertiary and even worse 60% while at work. I think it is unfair and I can only compare the teachers shock to the turkeys in the farmer and turkey tale.
As much as I appreciate the Governor’s dilemma, his reaction in and of itself alone does not start to address the problem, but only highlights the leadership’s penchant for thoughtless reactionary fixes, instead of a bold, holistic approach which doubtless will be a daunting task.
As an admirer of practical men of ideas above jeremiahs and philosopher kings, I believe that the Kaduna State government, the Federal Government, and the Society at large should consider the following;
The state government should invest in teachers training institutes based on merit, and not state of origin or any other mediocrity induced yardsticks, with the aim over time to become the teacher supplier to the nation thus living true to its alias “state of learning”.
The federal government should review and redefine our education system to align with our national goals and aspirations (as soon as we have one) and reflect our commitment to education through the percentage of our budget allocated to it and the remuneration of our teachers.
Finally as a people, we must restore education to its pride of place through our actions and words; and our teachers to the prime position through proper recognition of their role as the cornerstone and builder of all other professions.
We are all a product of all the teachers we have encountered! Salute to my parents who are both teachers.