President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight of support behind Kaduna State governor, Nasir el- Rufai, on the plan to sack teachers who failed the competency test conducted by the state government.
About 21,780 out of 33,000 teachers were said to have failed the primary four test administered on them to test their competence.
Speaking at a presidential retreat on education for ministers at the presidential villa yesterday, Buhari described the situation as tragic.
Expressing shock over the development, Buhari lamented that a situation whereby teachers cannot pass exams that they are supposed to prepare school children to pass calls for serious concern.
Buhari said, "To digress a little bit so that you know that I meant what I read, having been an orphan, I still feel that whatever I did in life so far was built by boarding school. For nine years I was in boarding school- three in primary and six in secondary school.
"In those days, teachers treat their students or children like their own children. If you did well they will tell you you did well; if you don't do well they never spared the rod. When I finished my secondary school, I didn't work for a day. I refused to work for a day; I left home and refused to work in the local government, and then I joined the Army. And in the Army of that time we went through all we went through up, to the civil war.
"And then I listened to one of the Nigerians I respect. He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma mater, his primary school, to see what he could contribute. I won't mention his name but when he went, he couldn't differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers".
Giving credence to the planned sack of teachers, the president said, "And what El-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very very serious situation when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in and our gathering together, to me, is one of the most important in this administration".
Buhari had earlier noted that the significance of the summit was obvious, as the country cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education.
He observed that those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and are empowered with practical knowhow are those leading the rest.
He added: "We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launch pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. This administration is committed to revitalizing our education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.
"One of the primary roles of education is to build and sustain individual and society's development. It renews and improves the economic, social, political and cultural aspects of any nation.
Buhari further stated that education upgrades the living standard of citizens and enables people to become better and more productive citizens, even as he noted that it is human rights that create a safe, healthy and prosperous society.
He continued: "It changes the visions and perspectives of individuals, enhances critical decisions and improves democracy. Indeed, education is paramount and necessary requirement for all-round development.
"Nigeria's participation in all relevant international education fora, together with our investment in education and collaboration with development partners, is an indication of high level of commitment towards ensuring that every capable Nigerian receives good quality education.
"These efforts are justifiable only to the extent that schooling is effective in promoting the realization of national objectives, attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Education For All (EFA) by 2030".
He further noted that these targets are in harmony with the manifesto and the change agenda of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
"It is also in agreement with my campaign promises during the 2015 elections exercise and in pursuit of the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of Nigerian citizens".
Buhari pointed out that the state of education in Nigeria calls for serious concern, noting that it is no longer secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement.
He said, "That our country is facing numerous challenges in education and all other sectors as a result of historical abuses, mindless impunity and corruption is not news to anyone.
"With an estimated 13.2 million children out of school, high illiteracy level, infrastructural deficit and decay, unqualified teachers, and inadequate instructional materials, to mention some of the challenges, we can clearly see the effect of decades of neglect that the education sector has suffered".
President Buhari restated the determination of his administration to turnaround the sector for the better.
His words: "We are already making appreciable progress in this respect. This summit must therefore, among other things, sharpen our strategies for addressing the challenges of basic and secondary education, teacher training and professional development, technical and vocational education.
... He Must Have Been Misinformed - NLC
In a swift reaction the the president's stance on the planned sack of teachers by the Kaduna State government, the
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) said it will seriously seek audience with Buhari, who it said may have been misinformed about the issue.
NLC said it will mobilise massively to Kaduna in what it described as mother of all protest to demand that the Kaduna State governor rescind his decision to sack the over 22, 000 teachers.
Following reports that President Buhari has endorsed the sack, NLC deputy president, Peters Adeyemi, told journalists in Abuja that Labour believes strongly that the president was not properly briefed and will seek audience with him.
He said, "We in the Labour movement will seriously seek audience with Mr. President on this matter and express our case to him. We do not think it was the right decision to take because it is clearly unfair. I do not think it is right because this government promised employment and not unemployment.
"This government said it will create jobs. They did not tell us that that they will kill jobs. For God sake, who employed those workers in the first instance? Why not deal with those who employed those you think are not supposed to be on the employment? These people did not employ themselves in the first place. Government employed them and they have been working with the government.
"How did we find them unemployable over night? Labour has contested whether it is within the right of the Kaduna State government to set exams for teachers. The answer is no because we know clearly that you can set exams for people to fail. If you really want to sack workers, you can design questions that will make them fail".
Earlier, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, said in a statement that the governor should be ready to keep a date with NLC in a mother of all rallies, "as we mobilise workers, pensioners, and our civil society allies across the country to the state".
He accused the governor of directing the Sole Administrators in the 21 local governments in the state to use the resources of the local governments to mobilise thugs to Kaduna metropolis to demonstrate in support of his "obnoxious policy on the mass sack of workers".
Nigeria Needs N1trn Investment In Education Annually - Minister
Meanwhile, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, said yesterday that the ruling All Progressives Congress-led federal government needs N1 trillion annually to fulfill its campaign promises on education.
Adamu stated this earlier at the presidential retreat on Education at the conference hall of the presidential villa, Abuja.
The minister, who advocated for declaration of state of emergency in education, maintained that all change must begin with education.
He said, "If we get education right, other areas of our national life will be right and they will fall in line. I believe that this retreat should end with a declaration of a state of emergency in education so that we can face the challenges frontally and squarely.
"These challenges are not insurmountable. What is needed is vastly improved funding accompanied by a strong political will. The strong political will needed to do all this is present in this government. What this government must now do is to make the funds available.
"Nobody has the moral and resource capacity to intervene promptly, substantially and sustainably in all areas of education provisioning better than the government.
"Unfortunately, from 1999 to date, the annual budgetary allocation to education has always been between four per cent and 10 per cent".
Adamu further noted that none of the E9 or D8 countries other than Nigeria allocates less than 20 per cent of its annual budget to education.
He added that even among sub-Saharan Africa countries, Nigeria was trailing far behind smaller and less endowed nations in terms of its investment in education.
ASUP Strike Cripples Academic Activities In Polytechnics
The ongoing strike embarked on by Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has crippled academic activities in Polytechnics across the country.
Worried by the damage the industrial action may cause the academic calendar, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, yesterday called on ASUP to shelve the strike action, as issues in dispute are being addressed.
According to a statement by the deputy director of press at the ministry, Samuel Olowookere, the minister made the appeal in his office while receiving some leaders from Kogi in his office.
He said, "I want to appeal to the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic to shelve their planned industrial action because we cannot achieve industrial harmony in a state of incessant strikes. We all must join hands together to support President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the implementation of the policy of Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
Ocheni also commended the leadership of labour unions in Kogi State for the amicable resolution of the industrial dispute between Kogi State government and the organized labour sector.
The minister noted that the Governor Yahaya Bello administration is disposed to making life comfortable for the state's workforce.
He enjoined organized labour operating in the state to see themselves as partners in progress, shun frequent strike action and adopt dialogue as means of resolving an industrial crisis.