Imagine this scenario: “Little Fayokun, a primary III pupil walks up to his father, a teacher in one of the public schools in Ekiti State and asks: “Daddy, is it true you are afraid to write the exam?”
“Which exam?” his puzzled father demands.
“Governor Fayemi’s competency test, of course” the boy answers.
Embarrassed, the daddy barks: “My friend, shut up there! Go and read your book, what do you know?”
What daddy has done is what Yoruba people call “Ogboju”, putting on a hard face to cover shame, embarrassment and abject lack of moral.
There is obviously good reason why daddy and his other more than 16, 000 colleagues should feel ashamed and embarrassed for refusing to sit for the competency test the state government mandated them to take in a bid to shore up teaching standards in its schools. But defiance, as we have witnessed in the past weeks, is hardly the right attitude of engagement expected of them. For some time now, activities in primary and post primary schools in the “Land of Honour” have been paralyzed, due to strike by the teachers, protesting government’s decision to subject them to what it calls Teachers Development Needs Assessment. The teachers’ opposition is inspired by fear that the examination might be used to sack those who may fail. And as is usual with most Nigerians unsure of themselves – Self interest, self-preservation is the word, even if it has to be at the expense of greater public interest. For this reason the future of the poor children of Ekiti, expected to build and develop the state, must be sacrificed, in the resolve of their unconscionable, lazy tutors, many of whom have been marking time, perhaps, too complacent to improve themselves.
It is a notorious fact that educational standard in the country is in the doldrums. The annual results of public examination bodies such as the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) have shown a distressing and abysmal slide in quality. This, experts have said, cannot be divorced from the mass of inferior quality of teachers that have trooped into and now populate the country’s school system. Over the years and without warning, the educational crisis that has produced graduates who could barely construct a correct sentence in English language, not to talk of answering a simple question in their basic areas of knowledge, has foisted on the school system generations of mediocre tutors, who, year in year out regenerate themselves caring less to improve themselves. In the process, development in the various spheres of national life is arrested, while other countries advance to new frontiers of civilization.
Alarmed at this dismal trend, the Kwara State Government a few years ago took the bull by the horn by conducting an evaluative examination for teachers in its public primary schools, in a move to firm up the bedrock of its school system. In the test, the same questions their primary four pupils would answer was set for the teachers in subjects including English and Mathematics. And what was the outcome? The present Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, who was then Commissioner for Education in the state, reported that only 70 or less than five per cent of the 19,200 teachers who took the examination passed, to the bewilderment of the authorities!
But, the result was an eye-opener to the state government, which subsequently declared an emergency in the education sector with a bouquet of comprehensive reform package to shore up standards.
Governor Kayode Fayemi, himself an academic, apparently has the same laudable vision and agenda for his state, which once earned itself the proud appellation as the “Fountain of Knowledge” for having education as its sole industry, but which in 2010 and 2011 recorded only 20 per cent and 27 per cent “effective pass” in the WASC examinations.
It is, therefore, shameful and shaming that a people reputed to have produced the largest number of professors in Yorubaland, if not in the entire country and from whose ranks models and icons such as Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Femi Falana (SAN- designate) and world renowned economist, Prof. Sam Aluko emerged, should resist an initiative at restoring its past glory. It is more so that teachers, who, as the custodians of the knowledge industry, should be at the head of the vanguard for reforms, are the belligerent ones straddling the lines of opposition. Where is the love for the job, where for the children and the state?
The teachers’ stance betrays the indifference or the ignorance of God’s expectation of what men’s attitude towards their jobs should be in order to reap bountiful harvest of both the earthly and spiritual fruits of their labour. As we have now been enlightened, our being here on earth goes beyond seeking to eat, drink, or enjoy other earthly acquisitions and pleasures, which many have made their ultimate life goals. Everyone has a task to ennoble and perfect the area of life he has found himself as a reverential worship in gratitude and service to God, who in His wisdom and grace, providentially endowed us with the relevant knowledge, skills abilities, or opportunities we need to accomplish something great among other men. That is spiritualizing the work of our hands, laying our treasures in heaven as we have been enjoined, to be truly happy. Shirking this responsibility under any guise amounts to failing the Almighty and losing the chance of making paradise. So, if the weak links in the chain must be severed to get things working, this should be welcomed as sacrifice for the overall good and such elements could be pushed to other fields where they can be useful. It is immoral to receive salaries for service not rendered. It is tantamount to fraud, or even robbery, which is no less sin before God.
But is the fear of the teachers even justified? The State Government has reassured them that it bore no intention of using the contentious examination to retrench, but only to restructure and determine their training needs as a means of overhauling the education system. The tutors should be reasonable and cooperate with government. They owe it a duty not to Fayemi, but this generation and unborn generations of Ekitis.
By YINKA FABOWALE
This article was first published in The Sun on July 26, 2012
Last modified: July 26, 2012