Sacking 22,000 teachers, in a swoop, in Kaduna State public service, for failing competency test by Governor Nasir El-Rufai could turn a hectic adventure. Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, and Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, vowed it would mobilize members in the State to resist the exercise. Kaduna State government said the exercise is part of reforms to rebuild the civil service.
Reforms have become necessary and overdue for economic viability and transparency in governance, not only in Kaduna State, but in 36 State of Nigeria’s federation. Nigeria’s federal and state governments must be determined to change the perception of governance in the country. Especially that the public service should not be dumping ground for incompetent and unproductive hands.
But legal views said the mass sack could breach labour laws and render the action a futility. Mass sack, according to legal views, would apply where there is redundancy or lack of teaching positions in the State. If evidence were established that all the teachers affected were irredeemably unable to continue to perform teaching jobs which they were employed to perform; they should be disengaged lawfully.
According to the civil service rule under which the teachers were employed, legal views said they have security of tenure which provides that their appointment cannot be terminated on “hire-and-fire”. To determine their sack, legal due process has to be followed and the teachers accorded their labour and human dignity, and their employment rights respected.
A highlighted feature of the sack of 22,000 teachers is palpable heating up the polity in Kaduna State. There is already anxiety over the fate of the sacked teachers. There is also anxiety over recruiting the right successors, who analysts said should be more qualified and experienced teachers than those been laid-off. There is anxiety over what would happen to the learning environment within the period?
Twenty-two thousand teachers exiting Kaduna State public school at the same time, would create extensive teaching vacuum. How long the vacuum created would persist before it returns to normal is uncertain. Crucially, it would be as long as it would take to advertise to fill the vacancies, interviews, recruitment and posting the teachers to various schools in Kaduna State affected by the mass sack.
Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT, President Michael Olukoya condemned the decision of the government to sack the teachers. NUT said it would shut down schools in Kaduna State if El-Rufai’s government sacked the teachers. Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, President, Ayuba Wabba, Friday, at a new conference in Abuja, faulted the claimed mass failure of the primary school teachers.
His words: “The state government has earmarked about 30,000 workers to be laid off, consisting of 21, 780 teachers already penned down to be sacked under the pretext that they failed a competency test while 5,000 local government workers are to be sacked under the Local Government Councils Restructuring Order 2017 and 8,000 more workers in ministries, departments and agencies are to be sacked for sundry but unjustifiable reasons.”
NLC said stakeholders must be carried along by the State government in the exercise; otherwise, what the government has done was a “sham and a pre-meditated action” to reduce workforce in the State. Wabba said professional bodies as Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria and National Teachers Institute were not involved in the process.
NLC said the NUT and the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees were equally left out because the motives were clearly not about testing for quality but a ploy to throw people out of employment. The principles of collective bargaining in labour relations enshrined in the nation’s labour laws and conventions of International Labour Organization were not followed.
Governor El-Rufai said his government would not be deterred from doing what was right for the future of children in Kaduna State. That the government would not keep in its employment teachers who failed Primary Four test, and wished to remain in the teaching service in the State. He said his government would respond appropriately to the threat by NUT.
According to El-Rufai, unqualified teachers found their way into government service when the system of recruitment of teachers was politicized. He said local government chairmen, senior politicians and bureaucrats made teaching a dumping ground for “thugs, supporters” and other unqualified persons. Teachers were employed without adherence to standards.
Governor El-Rufai needed to engage stakeholders to key into his vision to restructure and have a productive teaching service in the State, and make the exercise of disengaging 22,000 teachers a tidied one. El-Rufai’s leadership resourcefulness would be judged by his handling the disengagement of 22,000 teachers from the State teaching service.
Whether Kaduna State government can work together with concerned interests on matters affecting the State to improve governance, and improve the image of the State government to the world, is for leaders and stakeholders in the state to be engaged, and change perceptions about the State and its present leadership.