Public primary and secondary school teachers in Ekiti State numbering about 16,000, on Monday June 4, 2012, refused to sit for the Teachers’ Development Needs Assessment (TDNA) test recommended by the state government. The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Eniola Ajayi, dropped hints on the test about two months before the June 4 aborted test; and had explained that the outcome of the exercise would assist the state government in developing and strengthening learning in public schools to guarantee improved performances of students in public examinations, upgrading the standard of education and enhancing the capacity of the teachers. The teachers, led by the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) in their response, however, cried foul and rejected the test outright. They strongly express the fear of losing their jobs should they perform poorly in the test. The teachers justified their apprehension with claims that similar tests conducted for some top civil servants in the state led to the sack or demotion of some of the officers.
They, however, expressed their readiness to sit for promotional exams and welcome any other policy aimed at boosting educational development and teachers’ welfare, but insisted they would never budge in their resistance to the TDNA test. Attempts by traditional and religious leaders about ten days ago to resolve the impasse hit the rocks, while another committee was being contemplated to resolve the disagreement. It is not unlikely that one of the reasons that informed the Ekiti teachers test policy is the generally poor performance of students in public examina-tions, as well as the need to make sure that square pegs are put in square holes. However, the adverse consequences of similar exercises carried out by the state on the jobs of some of those af-fected are enough to send jitters down the spines of the teachers, especially at a time when alter-native jobs are scarcely available.
The point must be made, nevertheless, that the TDNA is an appropriate human capital capacity building tool, particularly in the education sector where practitioners need regular exposure to modern teaching methods and techniques, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications, curriculum development and up-to-date knowledge of new developments in teachers’ core competencies. The Ekiti teachers’ total rejec-tion of the exercise in preference for promotional exams could convey the impression that they place their welfare above that of the quality of their products, when both should go hand-in-hand. Indeed, if the major fear is the sack of teachers who per-form below expectation in the TDNA, for how long would the Ekiti State Government shield dead woods and redundant teach-ers in its school system in present day Nigeria, when eminently qualified professionals are out there without jobs? And if the teachers’ preference is promo-tional exams, who says the state government cannot achieve the same purpose it seeks to achieve with the TDNA, using promotional exams as cover?
While we take serious exception to any plan by the Ekiti State Government to sack the teachers en masse; and thus lump the wheat and the chaff together; and visit untold hardship on the state’s education system, we think the teachers’ blunt refusal to submit to the competency test betrays the lack of appreciation of their employee status. It is within the constitutional purview of the Ekiti State Government to devise means of improving the quality of education in the state.
‘If the TDNA is one of such measures the government wishes to employ in doing so, the teachers are bound by the call of duty to key into the vision’
, provided it is not meant to denigrate or witch-hunt them. Likewise, the teachers have the right to take legitimate steps to protect their interests if really threatened; and that is why Governor Kayode Fayemi should hastily and sincerely address their fears. The government and the teachers should have a round table and clarify all grey areas. The TDNA test has its merits and must be taken for its diagnostic value in this era of mass failure of students in public exams. Besides, it will help fish out ghost teachers, considering the level of corruption now ravaging the nation’s bureaucracy at all levels. Those vested with its execution must display the highest sense of fairness, equity and justice for all. For, if well implemented, it would help in turning around the quality of products of the Ekiti State educational system for the better.
This article was first published in National Mirror on June 20, 2012.
Last modified: June 20, 2012