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19 Nov 2017

Viral result belongs to carpenter converted to teacher — Kaduna NLC

The Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Adamu Ango, speaks with BAYO AKINLOYE about the ongoing face-off between Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s government and primary school teachers in the state.
Have the Nigeria Labour Union and the Nigeria Union of Teachers been able to meet with the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, since the crisis involving the sacking of civil servants began?

The issue is that the Kaduna State Government has not opened its doors to organised Labour, including the Nigeria Union of Teachers. The government has neither been meeting nor listening to us. We have written several letters to the government but we got no acknowledgement. So, in the first place, it is the officials of government that have failed to meet with us despite our efforts to work with them. We only hear or read about government policies in the electronic and print media. To date, there has been no response from the government of Kaduna State to sit down with us to resolve the matter. Since its inception, this government has not been communicating with Labour. They are anti-labour; anything that has to do with Labour, the government is not interested.

Apart from the teachers’ competency test, what other issues does the NLC in Kaduna State have with the government?

First, there is no recognition for the NLC in Kaduna State. Secondly, the government thinks we are not up to the standard of people the government should be meeting with. Thirdly, several letters – we’ve lost count of them – that we’ve written to the government have not been acted upon. Again, when we meet with government representatives and agree on something at the end of the day, it is something else that the government will carry out. For example, the issue of the primary school teachers, we were part of a committee that sat down with the government to decide on how the test should be conducted. The so-called competency test had been conducted more than twice in the past – the examination had been organised about four times. At every point that each of the exams was conducted and the government felt that it could not pick holes in it, it would ask the teachers to repeat the exam.

In the last examination, the teachers passed, but unilaterally the governor raised the pass mark to 75 per cent. In the committee that was set up prior to the exam, which included the Secretary to the State Government and other labour leaders, it was agreed that 60 per cent should be the pass mark. It is also vital to mention that it is the same government that met with the Local Education Authority and asked carpenters, plumbers, cleaners and others to teach in the classroom or else they would lose their jobs. You can see why some teachers failed the examination. Even the result that was posted online by the governor via his Twitter handle, was that of an O’Level certificate holder, who was a carpenter but later posted to teach in a school. How do you expect such a guy to pass the examination? Besides, the examination was not credible. We told the government that they have no authority to test any teacher because there is a regulatory body saddled with that responsibility – the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria. But because of the hidden agenda of the government to sack workers, they went ahead to conduct the test.

Why didn’t the NLC and NUT object to the test being conducted?

If we had objected to the test being conducted, the government would have gone public to blackmail us that we were harbouring quacks or teachers that are not qualified in the classrooms.  That was why we allowed the state government to conduct the test. Again, this is Nigeria; the economic situation of the country is bad. The government has been playing pranks on us. It is difficult to get the teachers and other civil servants to listen to the union. We had told the teachers not to sit for the examination. But the government came out to say that those that did not sit for the exam would not be paid their salaries. We didn’t want a situation whereby only teachers, who sat for the test, would be paid. But look at what is happening now; the government isn’t seeing anything wrong in their action. No matter how good something is, if it is against the law, it is illegal. What the government did was to rubbish the teachers. We have no alternative than to resort to legal intervention – we have taken the matter to the (National) Industrial Court in Kaduna. Our national leaders, that is, the NLC, have taken up the matter. On Thursday, we had a National Executive Council meeting on issues concerning the teachers and local government workers.

As I speak with you, if the government is not thinking of retrenching workers, it has not resolved the teachers’ crisis. They brought a list of local government workers who are pencilled down to be sacked, almost 6,000. The government is not trying to raise the standards of education or raise the morale of civil servants in Kaduna State, but rather to retrench workers. Maybe, it is one of the conditions the government has to meet to get a World Bank loan. Some of the teachers the government is planning to sack, have one or two years to spend in service before their retirement; they are senior teachers. The salary of one of these teachers can pay for about five new teachers the government wants to employ – it’s a ploy to cut cost. It is not about addressing the fallen standard of education in the state.

Does it not bother you that some teachers failed what Governor el-Rufai called Primary-Four examination?

The government is saying that the examination questions set for the teachers were that of Primary Four pupils. But let me tell you categorically that the questions were not for Primary Four pupils; can you ask a Primary Four pupil ‘what is a lesson plan’? Can you ask a Primary Four pupil to explain ‘what does child mental education mean?’ The government’s efforts were to portray the teachers in a bad light. Again, I can tell you that those who failed the test were not the real teachers – they’re the carpenters, plumbers and cleaners employed by the government. Kaduna State Government isn’t sincere in its approach concerning this matter. Let them bring to the open all the scripts and the truth will be made clear. Nevertheless, I am not saying that there are teachers who are not qualified in the system. But those teachers who are not qualified were sent to the classroom by the government even though we objected to that move – the government insisted that they should either go to the classroom or be laid off. The government makes no consultations; it makes and takes decisions as it wishes. But this isn’t a military government. We’ve never had it this bad in Kaduna; the government is insincere in every facet of life in Kaduna.

Besides teachers and local government workers, other civil servants are also pencilled down for sacking. There is a letter emanating from the office of the governor, instructing all MDAs to cut down the number of their staff. The government isn’t interested in changing things for the better in the state. We supported this government to assume power, hoping that it would change things for the better, but what are we getting in return for our support? It is not a government that is transparent; it is not a government that is listening; it is not a government that treats people as humans and gives them the respect that God created them with.

That sounds like arrogance. Isn’t it?

Yes, in a way. You should understand that it is very important that one exercises some moral restraint talking about a leader. You cannot look at your leader and say he is arrogant, or, say he’s a liar. But the government has not been living up to expectations of the people. Let me tell you: even all the traditional title holders in the state are also being treated in a curious way by the state. The government has asked all the traditional title holders to re-apply. This government has missed it. They’re not listening to the candid advice of the people. My sense is that the government should have called a stakeholders’ meeting to address issues being faced in the education sector. The present government, under the leadership of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, thinks that it knows everything and nobody can tell it anything. But that’s a mistake; there’s nobody who knows everything.

If you try to bring anything to their notice, they’ll tell you, ‘are we not your employer? We dictate?’ The government operates a master-servant relationship, but being called a civil servant doesn’t make anybody a slave. It is the thinking of this government that everybody in the employment of the state government is a servant and can be treated anyhow; they can even ask you to do some unthinkable chores for their wives. But going forward, we’re going to do everything possible within the law to kick against this treatment. We have taken the first step by going to the industrial court. A teacher is a professional and a professional body has a regulatory institution that directs its affairs. Our stance is ‘no retreat, no surrender’. The examination results must be cancelled. The examination is a scam.

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