By Lawrence Olaoye
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed support for the Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, over the sack of about 22,000 primary schools teachers who recently failed competency tests in that state.
The President who, in his remarks at the Presidential Retreat on Education for ministers in Abuja today, lamented the decay in the nation’s education sector also noted as very serious a situation where teachers coul not pass examinations they are supposed to set for their pupils.
He said “The significance of this summit is obvious. We cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education. Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow that are leading the rest.
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.”
Digressing from his main text, Buhari said “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, I refused to work in the local government, and then I joined the army. And 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.
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 their exams that they are suppose to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in and this our gathering together to me is one of the most important in this administration.”
Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu, has pleaded with the government to engage the nation’s intellectuals in the teaching profession as done in many other countries in the world.
He said “In Germany and Finland, for example, the highest paid professionals are teachers. They are better paid than judges, doctors, engineers, accountants and so on.”
The minister counseled that the government should do everything possible to attract the best brains into the teaching profession.
Adamu said “I am strongly persuaded that if we offer automatic scholarship to students who take education, automatic employment and preferential compensation package to those who take to teaching as a profession, our system will improve tremendously.
If we insist on professionalism with appropriate deadlines for those who teach, the situation will improve phenomenally. We can minimize and in due course eliminate mediocrity in the education sector.”
While demanding improved funding and political will in the educational sector, the minister said his ministry had begun the publication of its strategic plan in line with the approved Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Adamu observed that the highest the nation has ever budgeted to its education since 1999 has never exceeded 10 percent of her total budget whereas other smaller counties in the E9 or D8 countries allocate not less than 20 percent of their budgets.
While seeking a declaration of emergency in the education sector, the minister told the President that he would need to budget N1 trillion annually for four consecutive years for him to fulfill his 13 campaign promises in the sector.