By Alasela Saidi
Dear Mallam Nasir:
Despite the pleas for mercy from different organizations and unions on your decision to sack over twenty thousand primary school teachers who failed the competency test, you have insisted like Shylock, the Jewish merchant, in William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “there is no power in the tongue of man/ To alter me. I stay here on my bond.” Mallam Nasir, “though justice be thy plea, consider this/ That in the course of justice non of us/ should see salvation.”
Let it be stated from the outset that I am not writing on behalf of any union or organization but as a concerned Nigerian who is interested in the development of education in the country. I have decided to use this medium for two reasons to express my opinion on your proposed plan to sack twenty thousand primary school teachers who failed the competency test that an average primary four pupil would have passed. The first reason is that in 2014 you sent a friend request on Face-book to me to support the train of change which I gladly did. Also, since it would not be possible for me to meet you eyeball to eyeball, I decided to use this means to pass my message across to you.
The value of education cannot be overemphasized. The development of any nation depends strongly on its educational system because education is the bedrock of any development. For any educational system to be effective three things must be present. First, the learning environment must be conducive to learning. Second, materials must be provided for both the students and the teachers to work with. Also, the teachers must be competent, qualified and certified because no system of education can rise above the standard of its teachers.
Accepted, over twenty thousand teachers failed the competency test conducted. But, those teachers are more “sinned against than sinning”-apologies to our bard of all seasons, William Shakespeare. The failure of the teachers is a reflection and mirror of a failed government. Mallam Nasir, you showed the world the scripts of the incompetent teachers but you failed to show the world the environment where they were teaching.
You failed to tell the world the last time you retrained the teachers since you emerged as the governor. You failed to show the world the amount you paid them as salary. Do you know that most of those teachers operate as ‘Okada riders’ after school hours because the stipend you pay them as salary is nothing to take home? The fact that they failed the test does not mean they are incompetent. None of the teachers would go to class without his lesson note. Examination is just one aspect of appraisal in human resource management. After all, some ambassadors were unable to say the National Anthem when they appeared for screening before the Senate.
Mallam Nasir, a leader is neither known by the office he occupies nor by the enormity of the power he wields but by the magnanimity and equanimity with which he exercises the power entrusted to him and the humility he demonstrates in his interaction with people. Mallam. Nasir, you are not Mr. Grandgrind in Hard Times by Dickens.You are not a Bentamite. Show some feelings, pity and understanding. Instead of sacking them, you can retrain those teachers, place them on half salary and reconduct the test after six months of their training.
Mallam Nasir, listen to the voice of the people. The people of Kaduna voted you to bring succor to the suffering and suffocating people and not to take their jobs. What they are experiencing today is a gradual transmutation of the former defender of human rights to a despotic leader. The same people you are planning to sack were the ones that voted you in. It should be noted that for every action we take, there are consequences. Almost all the teachers are men, by sacking them, you are creating more foot soldiers for Boko Haram and you are automatically sending over sixty thousand people to the street because the north is feudal in system. Listen to the words of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet, “consider your origin. You were not made to live as brutes but to follow virtue and knowledge”. Cicero once said “do not hold the delusion that your advancement is accomplished by crushing others.
In conclusion, let me emphasize that I am not saying, I have never said and do not believe that mediocrity should be celebrated over merit. All I am calling for is fairness and transparency on both sides. Apostle Paul once said the letter of law killeth. But the spirit of the law saveth. In Quran chapter 3, verse 159, Allah told Muhammad(,p.b.h),“you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude and harsh on them, they would have disbanded from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them…” I can only presume to hope that this letter adds its own voice to the national chorus of pleas calling to an end to the proposed sack of the 20,000 thousand primary school teachers in Kaduna.