From Jefferson Ibiwale, Benin
The squabble between the Edo State government and teachers in public primary and secondary schools is getting even fiercer as governor Adams Oshiomhole insists he would not compromise standard in the education sector, threatening to sack those who refuse to submit for the assessment test.
But the defiant teacher’s hands appear to have been strengthened in a new twist as the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, declared that it had sole legal authority to conduct competency test for teachers.
This declaration was contained in the council’s defence by its counsel, Daniel Osiagor, in the suit filed by the teachers at the Akure Division of the National Industrial Court, in which it is the 3rd defendant.
Fewer than 200 of the over 13,000 teachers sat for the Assessment Test conducted by a committee set up by the governor last month; the majority are hiding under the umbrella of the union which is opposed to the test
But governor Oshiomhole has maintained his ground that “no teacher will remain in the pay roll of Edo State Government if we have not assessed him and convinced that he is indeed a fit and proper person to be entrusted with the classroom or the particular subject which our pupils are asked to learn.”
He says his insistence has no political undertone.
“This, for us, is not politics; it is to stress the essence of governance and prepare our kids for the future for the inevitable role they have to play. We are in politics to drive change. I do not think it is enough for someone to say that was how I met it. I want to be remembered for a guy who took the difficult decision and at the end paid the price,” he said.
He said further: “There is no stopping and no one is going to block us till we get to that point where we are convinced that as government we have done enough to secure the future of the Edo children.”
The state government may also be planning to conduct another assessment for those who missed the first one and may have had a rethink about the exercise.
Meanwhile, citing the Teachers Registration Act 2004 as its authority, the TRCN argued that the Edo State government lacked the power to conduct competency test for teachers in the state as it relates to certification.
Osiagor said that the role of the state government as an employer of teachers is to organize mandatory continuing professional development programme, wherein the participating teachers can earn credit hours for all TRCN approved programmes.
“This mandatory Continuing Development Programmes, which are organized yearly does not dwell on competency, which is the sole exclusive preserve of the 3rd defendant as the only appropriate body that can certify teachers,” he told the court.
The TRCN insisted that its capacity and wherewithal to conduct competence test for teachers is in line with Section 1 (1) (b), (d) and (e) of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria Cap T3, 2004 (Decree 31 of 1993).
It would be recalled that the court sitting in Abuja had given an interim order restraining the Edo State government from conducting any competency test for teachers in Edo State pending the hearing and determination of suit.
But Edo State government refused to comply with the order, claiming that it was not served.