President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday expressed support for Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s planned sacking of 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 themed: “Education in Nigeria: Challenges and prospects.”
He described as “tragic” a situation where teachers cannot pass the examination their students should have been taught to pass.
He recalled that a Nigerian — who he refused to name — returned to his alma mater about 10 years ago and he could not differentiate between the students and their teachers.
The President said, “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 mater, 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 the examinations they are supposed to teach the children to pass.
“It is a very tragic situation we are in and this our gathering, to me, is one of the most important in this administration.”
Buhari said the summit was crucial to his administration’s desire to improve the lot of Nigerians through the provision of quality and functional education for all, at all levels.
He said the national conversation was aimed at refocusing the education sector not only to overcome the numerous challenges, but also to strengthen the Ministerial Strategic Plan that has already been developed by the ministry.
Buhari said the nation could not progress beyond the standards of its education.
He said only those equipped with qualitative education would have the capacity to lead others.
The President said, “We cannot progress beyond the level and standards of our education.
“Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical know-how that are leading the rest.
“We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launchpad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future.
“This administration is committed to revitalising our education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive.”
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in his remarks, expressed regrets about the low budgetary allocations to education sector since the return of democracy in 1999.
He said in Africa, Nigeria was trailing far behind smaller and less endowed countries in terms of investment in education.
He said there was an urgent need for the administration to fulfill its electoral promise that there would be investment of a minimum of N1trn per annum in the sector after four years.
The minister said all changes, including the ones promised by the ruling party, begin with education because it is the sector that “shapes, corrects and restores society.”
He said, “From 1999 to date, the annual budgetary allocation to education has always been between four and 10 percent.
“None of the E9 or D8 countries, other than Nigeria, allocates less than 20 percent of its annual budget to education.
“Indeed, even among sub Saharan African countries, we are trailing behind smaller and less endowed nations in terms of our investment in education.
“There is therefore the need for a major investment in education in the national interest.”