By Blessing Ackney
Plans by the Ekiti State Government to conduct the Teachers’ Development Needs Assessment (TDNA) test has set the teachers against the state government. Acting under the aegis of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), the teachers insist that the decision was an attempt to victimise and sack some of them, 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. However, the fate of those affected, according to some of the teachers, was enough to send jitters down their spines, especially at a time when alternative jobs were scarcely available.
While the state government has taken steps to reassure and persuade the teachers that the test was only part of its strategy to enhance their capacities and improve on teaching quality, the over 16,000 teachers in the state bluntly boycotted the test and instead went on strike to press home their position that. They, however, expressed their readiness to sit for promotional examinations and welcome any other policy aimed at boosting educational development and teachers’ welfare.
Attempts by traditional and religious leaders to resolve the impasse hit the rocks.
But the state government has defended its position. With over 18,000 teachers catering for the 150,000 pupils in primary, and 96, 000 students in secondary schools, the government insisted it was unacceptable that the state recorded only 20 per cent effective credit passes in the 2010, and 27 per cent effective credit passes in the 2011 West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). Besides, only three students from the state scored 300 and above the 2012 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), conducted recently by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).. About 1.5 million candidates sat for the examination nationwide.
Ekiti State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Dr Eniola Ajayi recently admitted that despite steps being taken by the state government to provide qualitative and functional education, there were still some challenges to contend with. These, according to her, include: poor teacher quality, poor students’ performance, automatic promotion for pupils, examination malpractice and uneven distribution of teachers. Besides, the government now has to contend with the increasing number of students, especially boys dropping out of secondary schools.
Ajayi, who embarked on an advocacy tour to convince the teachers on the need for the test, also declared that there was no proper coordination in the education sector before the present administration came on board. She said: “the first thing the governor did was to institute a task force and visitation panel to help us do an assessment and proffer solutions. In the course of their work, they came up with several findings on primary, secondary, technical and tertiary education, curriculum, and Information Communication Technology.
For instance, it was discovered that the secondary schools had the problem of uneven distribution of students and teachers. In the 2010/2011 session, it was discovered that there were 535 students in JSS 1 at Christ’s Girls’ School, Ado – Ekiti, and 91 students in SS1-SS3 at Ado Grammar School.
Ajayi explained that the state decided to peg enrolment in each school at 200 students per session, except for schools in Ado Ekiti and Ikere Ekiti which were allowed to enrol 240 students because of their population in the two cities. The government also decided on a maximum of 40 students per class. For the Government Technical Colleges, she disclosed that they had an enrolment of 960 students with 180 teaching and non teaching staff across the state. But a recommendation was made to reduce the schools to three technical colleges, with a vocational centre of excellence in Ado-Ekiti and another three Life Academies, which were proposed for Ijero Ekiti, Iluomoba Ekiti and Otun Ekiti.
On funding, she said: “The state will be spending over N1.9billion annually from 2012 to 2014 on ICT education alone at this level. The governor has also flagged off Operation Renovate all Schools in Ekiti (ORASE) and the 2012 budget clearly reflects this. This will include renovation of classrooms, laboratories, sports facilities, hostel accommodation in boarding schools, construction of toilets as well as perimeter fencing across the state. Ekiti state is poised towards spending nearly 24 percent of its annual budget, which is the UNESCO recommendation for education”.
Still on (ICT), she said: “in line with Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s promise to put a computer on the desk of every student in Ekiti State, the state signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Samsung Corporation, to provide 100,000 pieces of solar netbooks for our students in secondary schools and a laptop computer for our 18,000 teachers in both primary and secondary schools. We have taken delivery of the first consignment of 7000 laptops that were distributed to students and teachers. We have also received 4000 additional laptops, and by the end of this year, September precisely, all our teachers in Ekiti state including those in primary schools will have laptops of their own”.
On the quality of teachers she said: “Poor quality teaching is another problem we also identified under this sector. This informed our decision to embark on strategic capacity building for teachers in our secondary schools. We focus on areas where our students are most in need to help improve teaching and learning. One of such efforts brought about the invitation of Mr. Steve Leinwand – a Mathematics expert from the American Institute, in conjunction with three other indigenous Mathematics Professors, who took our teachers through how to simplify the teaching of Mathematics.”
Ajayi, who also identified ignorance as a major challenge among students in the state, noted that apart from text books in core subjects, the state government was also providing dictionaries. “This year, we budgeted N76 million just to purchase dictionaries, because we see the downward trend in the students’ spoken English language and their understanding of it . We believe that if they have access to vocabularies, they will express themselves better, be able to understand comprehension and summarise things properly.”
At the tertiary level, she explained that it was agreed at the education summit that the state should not have three universities. “The universities have now been merged into what we now have as the Ekiti State University (EKSU). We are proposing about one billion naira in the 2012 budget for the university”
On the free education policy and subsidized fees at the tertiary level, the commissioner said: “In Ekiti, we have looked at our population and most our people who are in EKSU are not people who can afford the high fees. It is a game of numbers. Even if the students pay N50,000, you can get it properly managed. There is no government in the world that can fund education alone. That is why universities abroad do what we call endowments. Harvard endowments in a year is more that the entire budget of Nigeria to education. So we should explore such areas.”
Ajayi also hinted on the state government’s determination to stamp out illegal schools. She revealed that out of the 125 private schools in the state, 31 illegal private secondary schools have been slated for closure. She said: “One of our core strategies in education sector is to ensure school monitoring. The state exco has just recently approved the establishment of a quality assurance agency. We will sanction teachers for not being in class when they should; for not teaching for the required number of hours or covering the curriculum or writing their lesson notes completely”.
Throwing more light on the controversy surrounding the TDNA, she explained that the test was being organized by the state government to help raise standards and performance in the public school system. She describe as unfortunate, the decision taken by the teachers to boycott the competence test and instead staged a one-day strike.