It was a shocking revelation when Kaduna State government recently announced that 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers failed the primary four examination administered to test their competence. This was disclosed by Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufa’i on Tuesday October 10, 2017 when he received a World Bank delegation. He said, “We tested 33,000 primary school teachers by giving them primary four examinations. They were expected to get at least 75 percent but I am sad to announce that 66 percent of the teachers did not get the required percentage.”

El-Rufa’i also said the state is planning to recruit 25,000 new teachers as part of plans to restore educational quality. He did not categorically say that the state government would sack the teachers that failed the competency test but that is what the recruitment of 25,000 new teachers suggests. He said “the hiring of teachers in the past was politicised and we are determined to change the trend by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to take education in the state to greater heights.”

Several factors could be linked to this abysmal failure which is typical of primary school teachers in most states of the country. Poor training arising from poorly-structured teacher education in the country; near or complete absence of schools’ supervision by inspectors as a tool for quality control in the teaching profession; and lack of motivation are some of the connective factors. Because teaching has remained unattractive for years, the most well-trained and qualified teachers always ditch teaching for other well-paying jobs, leaving behind less stellar performers to teach.

Governor el-Rufai’s threat to replace incompetent tutors with 25,000 new teachers has, since the pronouncement, brought severe criticism to Kaduna State government. Nonetheless, it is important to understand and appreciate the basics from which el-Rufai’s position sprouted. There are three essential characteristics that make up a well-trained and qualified teacher. A competent teacher is required to know the best way to transmit or convey specific learning experiences to learners (methodology) just as he is also expected to have sufficient knowledge of learners’physical development and the traits of each stage.But more important and most crucial than those two is the teacher’s knowledge of the subject matter.

With a well-trained and qualified teacher, proper teaching and learning could successfully take place even under a tree. On the contrary, no meaningful learning would take place even with the best of classroom facilities and cutting-edge instructional materials if the teacher is incompetent due especially to deficiencies in his knowledge of the subject he claims to know and teaches.

A teacher who failed to exceptionally pass the examination of the pupils he teaches cannot be said to have a good knowledge of his teaching subject; thus making him an incompetent instructor for that level of education. El-Rufa’i therefore has a point if he threatens to sack teachers whose professional deficiencies have, through a competency test, proved them unfit for teaching job. However, the governor needs to also weigh the consequences of sacking a huge number of teachers.

Presumably, the cost of sacking about 20,000 teachers would be more devastating than the misfortunes inherent in retaining inefficient and poorly trained teachers. There is no certainty that the teachers to be recruited would be better because they are all products of the same teacher education system. Besides, it may not be easy to get as many as 25,000 qualified personnel for recruitment as teachers.

The unfortunate situation could be remedied without necessarily sacking the affected teachers. Re-training workshops could be organized at state and LG levels to upgrade and update the affected teachers in their competences. The state could partner with the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI), a college of education or a faculty of education in any university within the state to organize the proposed workshop. In the interim, the teaching schedules of affected teachers could be limited to classes where curriculum contents are proportionate to their abilities.

DailyTrust Editorial