President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight behind the decision of the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, to sack no fewer than 21,780 teachers who recently failed the competency test conducted by the state government.
Buhari made his position known at a special retreat of the Federal Executive Council on the challenges facing the Education sector in Nigeria.
The retreat was with the theme: “Education in Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects.”
Buhari said it was not acceptable for teachers not to be better than their students.
Digressing from his prepared speech, Buhari said: “To digress a little bit so that you know that I meant what I read.
“Having been an orphan, I still feel that whatever I did in life so far was built by boarding school.
“For nine years, I was in boarding school: three in primary and six in secondary school.
“In those days, teachers treat 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.
“When I finished my secondary school, I didn’t work for a day.
“I refused to work for a day.
“I left home.
“I refused to work in the local government and then I joined the army.
“And the army of that time we went through all we went through up to the civil war.
“And then 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 mata, his primary school, to see what he could contribute.
“I won’t mention his name, but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers.
“And what El-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago.
“It is a very very serious situation.
“When teachers cannot pass their exams that 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 prepared address to the retreat, Buhari said: “The significance of this summit is obvious. We cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education. Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow that are leading the rest.
“We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launch-pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. This administration is committed to revitalizing our education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.
“One of the primary roles of education is to build and sustain individual and society’s development. It renews and improves the economic, social, political and cultural aspects of any nation.
“Education upgrades the living standard of citizens and enables people to become better and more productive citizens. It is a human right that creates a safe, healthy and prosperous society.
“It changes the visions and perspectives of individuals, enhances critical decisions and improves democracy. Indeed education is paramount and necessary requirement for all-round development.
“Nigeria’s participation in all relevant international education fora together with our investment in education and collaboration with development partners is an indication of high level of commitment towards ensuring that every capable Nigerian receives good quality education.
“These efforts are justifiable only to the extent that schooling is effective in promoting the realization of national objectives, attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Education For All (EFA) by 2030.
“These targets are, happily, in harmony with the manifesto and the CHANGE agenda of our Party, the All Progressives Congress.
It is also in agreement with my campaign promises during the 2015 elections exercise and in pursuit of the yearnings and aspirations of the generality of Nigerian citizens.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the state of education in Nigeria calls for a serious concern and that is why we are all gathered here today. 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.
“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.
The summit must work to enhance quality in, and access to, higher education and other challenges in the sector that will debar us from attaining the SDGs and be among the top 20 economies in the world.
“My firm belief is that with the calibre of participants at this summit, the road to a better future is before us and we must chart it.
“It is my expectation that at the end of this summit, we shall come up with feasible, implementable but far-reaching action plans for the ministerial strategic plan that would make education play the pivotal role as the engine that drives national prosperity and development.
“While there are numerous other competing demands and responsibilities from different sectors of the economy, I want to assure you of this administration’s commitment to confronting and tackling the challenges in the education sector. This will be part of our deliberate policy of revitalizing education provisioning and capacity building.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me in conclusion, emphasize that we must get it right in this country. To get it right means setting our education sector on the right path.
“No nation can achieve economic, social, political and cultural prosperity without a sound and functional education system.
“We should also bear in mind that the security and stability of the country hinges, to a large extent, on its ability to provide functional education to its citizens.”