Responsibility for primary, adult and vocational education in the country is another constitutional endowment to the Local Government Council in the fourth schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended. Because the constitution particularly mentioned it, also like agriculture and national resources development, it will mean that funds are allocated to the LGs from the federation account for them to carry out the functions which the constitution assigned to them.
There are three major types of education listed here by the constitution namely Primary, Adult and Vocational. These three again have the greatest and most direct impact on the social well-being, peace and development of the society. Unfortunately, of these three, only one is structured and that is primary education. The remaining two are not structured and left to the creativeness of the local government administrators under the guidance of the supervising state government. The non existence of activities in the other two aspects is a clear testimony to the fact that the Local Governments existed more in abuse of the constitution than in the giving of effect to its provisions. Even the primary school education sector suffers creative investment beyond the routine payment of teachers’ salaries.
Primary Education is so pivotal as the foundation for every other developmental aspirations of the society. It is the first step that determines subsequent steps in education, technology and socialization process. Any serious country will never joke with its primary education and that must have informed the framers of the constitution to invest the government closest to the communities with that function statutorily. The primary school in Nigeria today has become the core basis of our egalitarianism and equal opportunity for all to compete to the extent of federal government making it free and compulsory across the country.
The Local Government is only expected to creatively and patriotically ensure that the communities and the people get the maximum benefit from the huge national social investment by ensuring that the schools get qualified teachers, the teachers get properly supervised and monitored and the schools are kept in safe and convenient conditions for teaching and learning.
Unfortunately, the sad and gruesome reality is that the primary schools as foundational and fundamental to our national development is the most abused; raped of funds, deprived of qualified teachers and starved of requisite modern teaching and learning equipments. Appointments into our primary school teaching service have been turned to compensation for the not too fortunate and least ambitious hangers-on of the politicians. Some of them can barely spell their own names and yet they are supposed to lay the foundational blocks of our nation. Be it in Edo, Bayelsa, Oyo, Ekiti, Benue, Zamfara, Sokoto or Kaduna, the story is the same, of fatal deterioration. It’s all sadly a story of a country that fails to plan and expensively planning its colossal doom.
In recent times, the accidental public servant and unforgettable minister of FCT who is the incumbent governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai turned his cut-through eyes to the primary education sector in the state and it was blood dripping all the way. Over 21,000 teachers were found wanting through a routine written examination conducted by the state government and marked for demolition…sorry, retrenchment in the public interest. It’s been hoax and uproars from opposition politicians and the labour movement over the impropriety and inconsiderateness of such a bloodletting deep cut, not minding the Governor’s promise to recruit a new set of qualified 25,000 teachers to replace the failures of the system that is been shoved out. The new 25,000 set of teachers to be so recruited will be subjected to fitness-for-purpose test before their enlistment and may just form the beginning of strong foundation for a solid future in the Kaduna State educational sector.
As the lawyers will say, “it is impossible to build something on nothing”. Primary education is like the foundation structure of the ambitious Trade Tower. Nothing short of sound professional handling can guarantee an enduring and dependable edifice as to do otherwise will amount to cutting disaster. Whilst the government has a duty to provide employment opportunity for citizens, fixing a square hole with a square peg is a greater duty of government and the state. Nobody should promote the argument that our very foundation should be left in the hands of the misfits. Everybody has its proper and fit vocation and would find the most fulfilment in such not in a damaging engagement.
If Gov. Nasir El-Rufai could put political considerations aside, quarter to his re-election and decided to sanitize and salvage the educational system, he should be encouraged to get the revolution right and not to be whipped into the line of political expediency.
Afolabi Ige is the chair at the Concerns for Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria, Abuja. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Whatsapp @ 08063054219.