NIGERIA: Press briefing by Samuel Aruwan, SSA Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kaduna State, 10 January, 2018.

“Govt must serve ordinary people, not only trade union members”

Gentlemen of the press:

The Kaduna State Government is encouraged by the overwhelming support of parents for its Education reforms. Ordinary people clearly understand that the government is making public primary schools better for the sake of citizens and their children. They have seen failed teachers and the NUT disrupt schools as they try to force others to join the strike, and they know that it is the government that is standing for their interests.

The state government believes in the equality of opportunity and is devoted to promoting social mobility through Education and Skills.  It is the children of the poor that attend public primary schools, and public schools must not offer inferior education. Therefore, senior government officials, including Malam Nasir El-Rufai, who are themselves products of public education, believe that the children of the poor are entitled to decent education. The government’s programmes since 2015 have been propelled by a need to improve the learning environment and the quality of teaching. It has guaranteed nine years of free basic education in its public schools, and is determined that only qualified teachers will be allowed to mould the minds of the 2 million pupils currently in public primary schools.

No amount of sentiments will result in subjugating the future of these two million children to the caprices of poor teachers. Not strikes. Not blackmail. Not craven indulgence in tired clichés. The urgency of serving our people does not permit us to retain unqualified or redundant workers just because they were able to sneak in. Perhaps the labour unions are unable to identify or grapple with the great issues of the day if they are not prompted by external actors, but not every social actor shares that affliction.

There is no way to even contemplate retaining teachers who have failed badly, and who are actually in need of adult education classes in Literacy and Numeracy.

The Kaduna State has disengaged failing teachers. 25,000 new teachers will replace the almost 22,000 that have proven unsuitable. The recruitment process will continue until we find the right calibre of teachers. The scripts of the 43,000 applicants who sat for teacher recruitment exams have been marked, and are being collated. The next phase is to interview and screen the candidates that passed the recruitment test.

It is instructive that NLC and NUT officials were part of the committee that organised and supervised the competency test. They requested that 60% be accepted as pass mark for teachers writing a Primary Four exam, but are reluctant to admit to their members that they endorsed the logic that unqualified teachers must go. To save face, they have shamelessly tried to repudiate their participation in the process.

The government is doing what is right and proper for the people. Getting employed as a public servant does not elevate the interests and perks of that person above the larger interests of society. Keeping five people in employment sharing the desk and job of one person amounts to injustice to the many whose public resources are being squandered on a few.

The Kaduna State Government launched its Public-Sector Revitalisation Programme in October 2016.  No cadre of its public service was left in any doubt that the public service must be made leaner, more efficient, younger and IT-savvy. Government engaged with labour unions and individual workers before it launched the programme in 2016. Nobody can blame a government for acting on the things it has repeatedly said it would do.

The public service consumes N4 out of every N5 the state gets from the Federation Account. The state government pays salaries promptly, and is settling inherited arrears of gratuity and death benefits.

But a government must do more than pay the salaries of the less than one percent of the population that works for it. The 99% of our population, hardworking citizens trying to make a living outside the public service deserve roads, schools, hospitals and other public goods to make the society function better.

The government has proposed a package to help ease the post-service transition of disengaged public servants. But nobody should foster the delusion that this government will be browbeaten into surrendering the interests of the majority for a vocal and selfish minority.

The last time the NLC and NUT organised what they called a peaceful rally, they attacked the Kaduna State House of Assembly and destroyed public property in addition to engaging in unlawful assembly and other violations of the Penal Code of Kaduna State. The Attorney-General of Kaduna State has filed criminal complaints and has obtained bench warrants for the arrest of those involved in the fomenting the chaos of Wednesday, 8th November 2017.

Government is committed to protecting the lives, property and livelihoods of the citizens of Kaduna State, and will take firm and decisive actions against any persons or group that seek to undermine this. The security agencies have already made it clear that no body or group will be allowed to repeat those messy incidents or threaten law and order in Kaduna State in the guise of a march. Trade unions cannot hold our state to ransom, by shamelessly insisting on the retention of bad teachers, or baselessly claiming that a state must spend all its resources on 1% of the population.

Thanks for listening.

About Dunio Mabushi


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