By Ibrahim Sheriff (Gold)
On January 3rd, 2021, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq led Kwara state government opened portals for taking applications for a new crop of teachers to fill State owned public schools with qualified and competent tutors who will teach our children in basic and Senior Secondary classes across the State.
The recruitment which involves the Teaching Service Commission, TESCOM and State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, from where over 2,000 teacher was illegally sacked as a result of the absence of a properly constituted Board lawfully empowered to hire,fire, discipline and promote teachers under SUBEB. Consequent upon this background, my chronicle is more focused on TESCOM recruitment.
As Gov. AbdulRazaq rightly said in his January 3rd, 2021 article, title “Building a new future for Kwara”, the recruitment is an enormous task that was not taken for granted. A rigorous task for which his (AbdulRazaq) administration will be judged. Fortunately, the TESCOM recruitment process hasn’t only attracted applause across societal divides, among whom are some of the most vociferous and consistent critics of the government.
It reassures of the possibility of a Kwara where merit reigns supreme, over and above whatever premeditated considerations. Little wonder the AbdulRazaq’s administration is getting judged credibly across board, for the recruitment process which is rare since its coming onboard almost 2 years ago.
However, as plausible as the recruitment process is, it is not the destination, but a means to an end. As we all know, while fair and free recruitment of workforce is the needed foundation for the desired educational reform which will in turn translate to improved educational sector in the State. The ‘New future’ we seek to build for Kwara State through improvement of quality human capital in our schools can only be actualized if we have the right policy, especially as it relates to motivation and development, to sustain the best in the hands harvested through the rigorous, transparent and merit based recruitment process.
According to a press statement issued by TESCOM, during a stakeholders meeting that precedes release of appointment letters for successful applicants, fifty (50) first class graduates, five (5) Polytechnic graduates with distinction, eight hundred and forty nine (849) second class upper among others were offered appointment by the Commission.
Reading through the appointment letter, these graduates were offered appointment as Education Officer II and rightly placed on grade level (GL 08 Step 2), with a paltry annual salary of #357,060.00. A monthly average of #29,755 (below the Nationally negotiated minimum wage) which the State is yet to implement, 2 years after coming onboard aback the workers, who embraced, marketed and adopted the Otoge movement which climaxed in the formation of this government.
The question that follows is whether a first class graduate or even second class upper product will consider the motivation as outweighing the opportunity cost of other available options to teaching in Kwara public schools, when such other opportunity arises? Assuming they are left with no other option at the moment.
This threatens the sustainability of the great feat attained by the highly celebrated recruitment process. A long run success is not achieved, if in nearest coming years, cases of high rate of teaching employees turnover are recorded in the State. It may only be returning us to the dark ages, as it is natural characteristic of any sound brain to be ambitious.
The way to go in the interest of a greater future for Kwara is to make a worthy and rewarding ambition for them to pursue in the service of our dear State. By so doing, we all win together.
The appointment letter issued the successful applicants also provides that as long as they remain in the service of the Commission (TESCOM), they must be ready to serve in any section/division/school within the commission’s coverage especially
in the rural areas for a period of six (6) years.
Worthy of reemphasis are those to be posted to rural areas, where there is wide human resources gap and requires large chunk of teachers to fill the vacuum.
However, if the newly recruited teachers must be made to stay in the rural areas, the government must do beyond the caveat attached to the employment letters, as the caveat is not novel, it has been synonymous with the civil service from time immemorial, yet absenteeism was the order of the day.
Rather, than assume the caveat can achieve commitment of rural teachers to work on its own, the government should come with stimulants, in form of incentive and device a reward system that not only encourages but promote and celebrate sacrifices.
A keen observation shows that schools located in some rural areas close to Ilorin metropolis like Lajiki, Oke-oyi, Ile Apa among others have school buses that conveys their staff to these areas from Ilorin and back on a daily basis.
However, most of these buses are rickety, unbefitting and unsafe for conveying school teachers. The State government must also be willing to provide for such means of transportation and in farther places, secure decent accommodation for these teachers, all in a bid to encourage teaching service in the rural communities.
There are other places close to Ilorin without specific means of transportation. A particular experience I knew of is that of teachers of a school in Kangile, Ilorin South, where teachers on a daily basis had to join tippers operating in quarries around the village for daily commuting to and from school.
This is not because they may not even bear the cost of transportation but because there is no commercial transportation along that route and having to resort to the dehumanising and demoralising means and mode of transportation.
It is also truism that most of these successful applicants are young graduates, who may have little or no working experience. Government, notwithstanding the brilliance and academic excellence that informed their appointment must subject them to capacity development trainings before commencement of job and periodically, as they grow on the job.
It therefore holds, that if the gains of the hugely successful teachers recruitment must be sustained and translated into long run turnaround of Kwara State’s education sector, deliberate policies and governmental actions must be set in motion to make the new career of our generational teachers worthwhile.
Thus, while it won’t be too early to celebrate the glimmer of hope, it will be premature to get carried away with over joyousness, as the remaining highlighted processes can vitiate the preliminary gains, if compromise is allowed along the chain.
I nonetheless, congratulate Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and his team for safely piloting this very slippery and tricky elementary stage, it is hoped that the zeal to elevate merit above political correctness will not only be sustained but improved upon.
Until then, I will congratulate Kwarans for living to witness a merit based recruitment exercise which prior to the Otoge revolution was a myth unthinkable of being reincarnated, for that I will say Veni.
Vedi and Veci can’t be awarded yet, until the next couple years when the positive derivatives will manifest and the abstract realm assumes physical form, that the initiated and uninitiated can see without stress.