We’re determined to turn around education –Buhari

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• Backs El-Rufai on plans to sack 21,780 teachers

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Sola, Kaduna

President Muhammadu Buhari said the Federal Government was determined to turn things around in the education section.

He also expressed support for Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, over his plans  to sack 21,780 teachers, who recently failed competency test conducted by the state government.

This is as Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, disclosed that the Federal Government needed N1 trillion annually to fulfill the All Progressives Congress (APC) 13 campaign promises on education.

Governor El-Rufai had unveiled plans to sack more than 21,78 teachers, saying primary school teachers in Kaduna State failed to score up to 75 per cent when asked to write examinations meant for primary four students.

“We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers, we gave them primary four exams and required they must get at least 75 per cent but I’m sad to announce that 66 per cent of them failed to get the requirements,” he said.

In his opening remarks at a special retreat of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the challenges facing the education sector, with the theme: “Education in Nigeria: Challenges and prospects”, the president said it was no longer secret that the sector was in crisis, especially with 13.2 million children out of school.

Buhari said the state of education in Nigeria calls for a serious concern, hence the need for the summit.

“The problem is no longer a secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement. 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,” he said.

He promised that the Federal Government would effect a change in the sector.

“We are determined to turnaround the sector for the better. 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.”

Giving reason behind his support for El-Rufai’s decision to sack teachers, the president described the mass failure of teachers as tragic.

“In those days, teachers treated 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.

“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 among the students, the children and the teachers.

“What El-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams they are supposed 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.”

In his remarks, Adamu, noted that if education were weak or dysfunctional, society and its development would also be weak and dysfunctional.

According to him, “all change, including our very Change Agenda, begins with education because it is education that shapes, corrects and restores society.

“But to restore order to society, education has to be made a national priority. This truism is valid for every society and it’s of particular relevance for our society, which, we all agree, is confronted with a litany of challenges and deficits.”

Adamu said civilisation was at risk and in great peril when access to proper and quality education is denied majority of its citizens.

“Such a denial can lead to a number of undesirable consequences, the most pernicious of which are value erosion and character failure among the youths who are supposed to become leaders of the society,” he said.

The minister said  it was high time the country paid attention to teachers and to teaching as a profession, emphasising: “Mass literacy, adult education, distance learning, nomadic education and the rest are all important, but we cannot deliver them without giving respectability and renewed stature to the teacher.”

We must learn to make education attractive to the best brains, makes its study free, its outcome lucrative – and accord it the respect it deserves. That is why we must attract and retain the best brains into the classroom as it is done in many other nations of the world.”

Meanwhile, a group known as Kaduna State Patriots has commended Governor El-Rufai for his determination to restore confidence in the education sector in Kaduna State.

The group said the development would help to revamp the age long decadence in public schools in the state.

In statement signed by Mr. Bulus Auta, Mallam Ibrahim Dodo, Alhaji Muazu Sani and 16 local government chairmen of the group across the state yesterday, said: “His resolve to take suicidal decision to terminate the appointment of ill-equipped 21,780 teachers is not only commendable but also worthy of emulation. It is a herculean decision that defies solution for more than a decade, successive government failed in taking this decision for fear of losing elections.

The group called on the people to reject the orchestrated political gang-up to deliberately divert the attention of the transparent government assiduous effort to aggressively develop Kaduna state socio-economic infrastructures and the educational sector.

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