PROPOSED SACK OF TEACHERS IN KADUNA: LEGAL AND ALLIED MATTERS ARISING
Since Kaduna State conducted assessment tests for primary school and secondary teachers and the announcement of it’s decision to sack the about 22,000 teachers who unbelievably and woefully failed the tests, there has been a range of reactions.
There has been a frenzy of unrestrained , even hysterical endorsement of the mass sack plan, with some of our compatriots hailing the step as an act of patriotism.
Some have also condemned the step as anti workers, without offering any constructive suggestions on how to deal with what is a serious crisis in the education system of the State and Nigeria. For them opposition has become religion. Opposing without reason because of the personality of the person driving the policy.
The disgraceful performance of the teachers in basic and elementary competency tests is less the failure of the teachers than it is of governance and our education system. It is a rot we have to confront.
NLC and the teachers and the political opponents of Mallam El Rufai may be at war with him, for self preservation and opportunistic reasons. They may uncharitably characterise the move as his ” typical arbitrary style”. What he truly deserves is commendation and not condemnation for bringing this matter to the front burner of public discourse. The issue of quota system , educationally disadvantaged states and nepotism in our public tertiary education, and mediocrity in the workforce begin with a faulty, caricature primary and secondary education. For years, many of the northern States have shunned Teachers Development and Needs Assessment ( TDNA)projects and processes. El Rufai is now zeising the bull by the horn.
In the circumstances, the teachers who can’t perform the task of teaching must be trained to determine whether some of them can be salvaged. If they remain ineducable , then they must be disengaged lawfully, with labour and human dignity, and with their workers and employment rights being respected.
In spite of the fact that the teachers have failed these tests, they are public servants , employed by the Teaching Service Commission or Civil Service Commission, Kaduna State, as the case may be.
They have security of tenure, meaning their appointments cannot be terminated as if they are private sector employees, who are on a contract of personal service , and whose appointments can be terminated, based on the hiring and firing prerogative or discretion of the employer of labour , subject to agreed to notice being given.
The employees ( teachers), lawfully, cannot be mass sacked , except there is redundancy ( conflation of jobs or lack of teaching positions or jobs for them, which is not the case, and which if if were the case , will be actualized on the basis of first to come , last to go , or first to be employed, last to be sacked ) until they attain the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years in service, whichever age is earlier.
Being public servants ( civil servants ) who may only be lawfully dismissed in accordance with the due process, as prescribed by the public service rules, the challenge before the Kaduna State Government is to work creatively and imaginatively, within the provisions of the public service rules, to sack the workers.
The approach to be adopted could be, making the Teaching Service Commission or Civil Service Commission, as the case may be , to issue queries to all the teachers , to which the results of their performances in the tests and the questions administered to them will be attached. This may be laborious, but it has to be meticulously done. The idea is to characterise the mass failure as “an act of misconduct”, warranting dismissal or termination of employment with severance benefits.
Under the Public Service Rules, acts constituting misconduct are defined . But generally the categories of acts that may constitute misconduct are never closed. Incapacity to teach could be argued and adjudged as an act of misconduct. There are provisions in the Rules which specifically or liberally can be interpreted to make incapacity to teach an act of misconduct, warranting dismissal from service.
Upon being served the queries, the teachers will then be invited in batches to disciplinary panels (many of such panels may be established for reason of administrative convenience) to satisfy the requirement of ” fair hearing ” and eventually all of the teachers could be dismissed.
If the teachers upon their dismissal resort to litigation at the National Industrial Court , their case may not succeed. The wind would have been taken out of their sail . The ” wind ” in the sail of unlawful dismissal cases is usually the contention that the law and due process of law were not followed in dismissing a civil servant.
But if the above discussed steps are taken, the arguments of unlawful dismissal is likely to be defeated because it will be obvious that the teachers were afforded fair hearing, before being sacked etc.
They can’t then argue that ” o yes, we failed the tests but incapacity to teach is not an act of misconduct ” . No matter how labour-centric or workers-friendly the court is , being a National Industrial Court, the court will be too embarrassed to grant the workers the remedy of reinstatement.
The point is that while the proposed sack may be avoided by resorting to a long term training and retraining of the teachers; or by a mass redeployment of the teachers to an appropriate ministry in the State ( for example agriculture ministry to engage in large scale, state owned mechanized farming ) considering the unemployment, poverty aggravation, and humanitarian implications of the sack , if, after all things are considered, the Government is resolved to offload the teachers as the best option in the circumstances, the mass sack should be done within the confines of the rule of law, and it will be legal and legitimate.
If I were the Governor, my first preference would be training and retraining. And after salvaging some of the teachers, if there are such a number, the rest who are
irredeemable could be sent to other ministries , as appropriate; or dismissed under the rule of law.
This issue does not call for the mocking of the teachers . It calls for the examination of our systems that are in a state of all round failure: education, healthcare, law enforcement, politics, government, religions etc.
Pix: Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai