In view of the recent teachers’ mass failure recorded in Kaduna State, a Professor of Strategy and Development, who is the Director, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS), Anthony Kila, explained to Funmi Ogundare why those who recruited them should be prosecuted and reiterated the urgent need for the country to declare a state of emergency in the sector. Excerpts:
What is your view about the recent Kaduna teachers’ mass failure?
It confirms what I have said that for us to move forward, we need to declare a state of emergency in education in Nigeria because the output of education the students reproduce, their level of knowledge and performance in the society does not meet the standard of Nigerian education. They do not meet because the teachers who teach them are not up to the standard because the school where they are meant to learn are not up to standard. The curriculum itself is not up to world standard and we can see that in Nigeria, a lot of people are sending their children to private schools and those who can afford it are going abroad, so that tells you how bad the situation is. In the case of Kaduna, it is just one of the many bad situations, it is not the first one, other people have tried that test before, but the fact that the governor decided to follow it through probably gives us a chance to hope that it is possible to do it because some people say it is not possible; it shows that it is doable if you have the right kind of leadership.
It is believed that the northern part of the country is a bit backwards in terms of education, what do you think can be done?
They need to train the northerners and bring in the southerners to teach them. A school follows the clear curriculum, it is only the people who are capable of teaching regardless of where they come from that should teach. In the long run the whole generation would lose if you say only northerners can teach in the north. We should train more people to teach and while we are training them, get people outside the north to teach. The input of teachers is a long-term thing, so you must give your best. The fact that some people were protesting against the governor, especially the NUT, I think they do not understand the importance of their role. The NUT’s position shows that they do not also understand the role of teachers. They should understand that education is as important as health. For instance, if you get a nurse that cannot read temperature, you would not say they should help him or her, but you would treat that as a very bad case. When teachers cannot pass an examination that they are supposed to be teaching, it is a very sorry case. They should actually get rid of them and look for the people that recruited them and if possible prosecute those people.
Considering the level of failure, how do you think they could have been employed to teach?
That is a common problem that we have in this country because we don’t test rigors anymore, to those people, it is either they did not write a proper test or somebody just recruited them regardless of how bad they were doing. If you are to teach some subjects in a certain way and you can’t do it that way, then you are a dullard. There is no space for understanding, they need to be sacked immediately. Luckily they were not arrested. What they have done is fraudulent, Who are the people recruiting them? They should be arrested for conspiracy to defraud the country. What the governor has done is a contingency case, he has done something that is right on point. If the state wants to do something structural in the system, it should trace it back to the process of recruitment and find out who recruited them and how they were recruited. We need to see the conspiracy; what is the conspiracy? To defraud the state? To deprive qualified candidates of the roles and to bring down the standard in education and pull down the quality of students. We as a country need to see that education is as important as health. The smartest people among us know its importance so they go abroad for treatment and send their children there too, so it is the right of the people. So this battle is a battle on behalf of those who cannot afford to go abroad. Quite frankly, most of the elites do not care about Nigerian education that is why we have a problem. The elites have an option, they go to private schools and when they get richer, they go abroad. This is a battle of citizenry. If Nigerian parents have a bit of those, they should focus on health and education especially those that cannot travel, they should be fighting the government for sacking those people. It is good that President Buhari is backing the governor on this. From day one, an administration that wants to be an emblem of change, the minister of education should have come in with a plan to know that we have a sorry state in education and what we can do about it.
The education budget is low compared with other sectors and nothing has been done to upgrade it, what is your take on this?
In spite of the way education is perceived, we do not see it as an essential element of survival and crucial element of growth. If we see education as something that should be purpose-built, we will spend money on it. We do not see education as a kind of work or the foundation of everything good. If we saw it that way, we will be spending money. I think it is criminal on the part of the Nigerian elites who are running the country either as politician or public officers to spend a lot of money on the education of their own children abroad to the extent that they spend the common wealth of the masses. It shows that there is something dangerously wrong. So Nigerians need to look at it that way and understand it. The only way to have a good future is to have good health and education. Those things go together.
Every parents have the duty of giving their children the best of education, the government has the duty of making education available to all. That is the difference and the same goes with health. Why would you send your children to a bad school when there are good schools? It does not make sense. It is the people who cannot afford it or those who believe in the sense of justice that should be pushing for good education in Nigeria.
Do you see Nigeria as a country that could use tax to get free education for all?
That was what Obafemi Awolowo did, but it all depends on who you are talking to; there are people who manage budget and they tell me that education is not practicable. The budge is about vision of the world and the political will to do it, if you strongly believe in something, you will find a way to do it. If we have a policy maker that believes in free education, then it is doable, then there is something you have to do. You have to increase the budget and take away from somewhere else. But if you don’t have a policy maker that believes in that, then it is not doable.
What do you think are the causes of policies somersault and inconsistency in the country?
It is because we don’t have shared vision of education. Now we are in a very vicious circle because ideally, education should protect itself but the situation has been so bad, the teachers and lecturers are badly paid, they are moved at will and depend too much on the political power, as a result, they have lost their authority to be independent and respectable voices in the society. We also need to say that education should be a voice for itself. The citadel of learning needs to come out to be a centre of solution for the country and that is lacking. A good learning centre or university should be somewhere the whole society looks up to provide solution. Our learning centres should be coming up with solutions and they get effects, it is a vicious cycle I say. The products are sub-standard as students and the lecturers cannot pass the exam of the students, so what do you expect? Somebody needs to sit down and ask how it is going to work, we need to ask ourselves what we need to have. We need to have schools that are well built, teachers that are capable and well paid, as well as students that are following good curriculum and how they can contribute to national wealth. So talking about the quality and lack of budget is due to a flawed vision of education in the country. We still did not get it or somebody can actually understand that if we don’t declare emergency in education, we cannot get it right. We need to do three things: firstly, we need to understand that our situation is bad in education and declare an emergency; secondly, we need to understand that education is not a kind of charity that we do and all the vices that we are fighting such as poverty, corruption, unemployment, dependency on importation, foreign reserves, among others, cannot be achieved without education. We need to see it as one of the most important sectors because you can prevent a lot of things by educating people. It is only if we educate doctors that we get treated and until we get a government that sees it that way. The success of Obafemi Awolowo, I doubt if there is any leader that can be compared to him in this country, is his vision of education. He wanted to turn the society into an open learning centre, so we need to review that. We also need to understand its importance and we can now sit down and rethink everything that is impeding education to give us the best.
Do you share the view that teachers are not recognised in the society?
It is the society that sees it that way because it shows that they do not understand their path or future. Opinions in the society are led by people who matter, so it shows that we have created a society where opinions that matter come from people for whom education does not matter. If you put those people together, it tells you what kind of society we are going to get. We are all guilty, shame on the society that allows its teachers to be treated badly and shame on teachers that allowed their profession to slip away so much to a place of no pride and authority. I think kindergarten teachers up to university lecturers should sit and see how they can get their pride back, how to find their glorious places in the society. What does it take? Educationists need to sit together and reflect on how to restore the past glory of teachers. It is easy to see the correlation between the quality of education and the level of development of the people. That is the reflection that needs to be done.