Chief Sylvester Onoja,MON, was a one time commissioner for Education in Kogi State. Presently,he is the Chairman,Teaching Service Commission and Technical Adviser on Education to the Kogi State Governor on education. In this interview,the Technical Adviser shed light on issues as it affect the expected recruitment of 500 teachers from the over 6000 applicants for the job. Excerpt.
How do you intend to recruit 500 teachers out of the over 6000 applicants?
We intend to use a National Examination body to conduct an aptitude test for all those who want to be teachers in the State.
When this test is done, it would be clear to those who passed and to those who will fail.
We will then start the process of interviewing those who have passed. In the process, we will now bring in bodies that are responsible for recruitment of teachers and ensuring quality in teachers’ recruitment and retention in this country.
Namely, we expect that the Teachers’ Registration Council in Nigeria will be at our interview.
They will look at certificates presented by those who are qualified. The Teachers’ Registration Council would certify whether those interviewed are real teachers’ because they have a data bank of those who hold their certificates as teachers. Secondly the National Teachers Institute, Kaduna will be represented as well as other credible people who would be on the interview panel.
The Examination would be transparently handled by the National Examination body. Nobody in Kogi State, nobody in the Teaching Service Commission will have a say or idea of the question that would be set. We are not the ones that will mark the Examination. The results would be given to us and we will take over from there. We are doing this to have credible teachers ’because the teachers we are going to recruit are those who will teach our children for the next thirty five years. A lot of teachers we have on the field today are completely analogue. So we are now recruiting teachers who are digitally minded. Teachers that are on the same page with the children as it concerns using digitalized teaching aids.
The problem we have with our teachers today is that the teachers we have in the last thirty five years are those who were there before the advent of computer and all other modern digital accessories where put in place. These set of teachers are not familiar with modern technology. The system of education we have in the world is now computer driven.
Presently we have teachers who have no business with overhead projectors. Today, they have to use computers.
Our today’s students are digitally minded and our teachers are analogue in there approach.
You discover that we now want teachers that are digitally minded like the students they teach so that we can move Education forward in Kogi State.
EDUCATION AND TRANSFORMATION AGENDA OF CAPT. WADA?
What we have done is to lift every words of Capt. Idris Wada’s transformation agenda as its relates to Education.
We are implementing the transformation agenda of Wada’s administration and his approach to the Education sector. It is a reflection of the Governor and his Deputy’s concern for Education. They are the best we have for now who are driving the transformation that is desired in the education sector.
There passion for education is informed by the fact that the State Governor attended Government Secondary School Dekina while his Deputy, Okene Secondary School. These are all famous Secondary Schools in Northern Nigeria. For the first time, we have home grown leaders who have attended schools in Kogi State and have distinguished themselves in their various fields of endeavors.
They are a pride to those of us who are here and we would not want to kill their passion aimed at improving education in the state.
Okene Secondary School was named the Lion of the North by the Late Saduana of Sokoto because of the caliber of persons the produced. Secondly, if Dekina Secondary School, established in 1932 could produce, Capt Wada who distinguished himself in the School Certificate Examination by coming out tops in his class and to choose a profession that was challenging and unknown as at that time. I believe they have the passion to make our schools what it should be. So for us as education managers, we must make sure the Education transformation agenda see’s the light of the day.
We are inspired by the Governor and his Deputy’s commitment to improving the education sector in Kogi State. There support has now given us the direction we are heading towards. For Wada, Education is a priority looking at the investment he is making in that sector. So for those of us who are managers of Education, we are compelled and have no choice but to make sure that every word and letter of the transformation agenda as it affects education is pushed to its limits. So we want to restate that the expected recruitment of teachers will be transparent as it is in the spirit of the transformation agenda. I have been directed by the Governor and the Deputy Governor that nothing less of transparency should be left out in the recruitment process of these teachers because they want quality education for the people of the State. If we get the process of recruitment wrong then we are building on a foundation that will be faulty and that is exactly what we are avoiding and to do what is noble irrespective of the level of unemployment in the country and the amount of lobby people are putting on the commission to have their people get employed.
AS TECHNICAL ADVISER?
I was Commissioner of Education for five years in this State. The difference between my being a Commissioner and what I am now is a different thing all together.
As a Commissioner I had a pen in the hand. As a Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission and Technical Adviser on Education, I have a chalk in my hand. I am now in the classroom with my contemporaries to exchange the experiences that I have.
We have very many knowledgeable men teaching in our Schools while I as Adviser also has years of experience in the industry coming to exchange ideas with them.
In my responsibility is a marriage of experience and knowledge. The people of the field who are teachers have the knowledge and given the number of years of experience I have put into teaching and managing education,I now have the experience to put on the table for the system to benefit from.
So mine is basically a marriage of experience and knowledge.
In Northern Nigeria we have maintained a leading position in education over the years. Today, Kogi State is the leading Educational advantaged State in the North. We are the only State in Northern Nigeria that has been removed from the list of educationally disadvantaged States. So we by this rating compete favorably with our contemporaries in the South that are Educational advanced. If it comes to going to Federal Universities or Federal Government Colleges we are expected to do more than other states in the North.
Result released by WAEC AND NECO overtime,have shown that Kogi State has led over the years. In examination malpractices, we thanked God we are doing excellently well that we are now the second best reliable in this country where there is no Exam malpractices according to the 2011 ranking. So we are not doing bad when it comes to education and we must not and do not intend to down to relapse,now that the leadership is raising the bar and giving us the support. We want to keep the clean record going.
My being where I am is a continuation of doing what I know how best to do and I must thank my colleagues on the field because we have been doing it together. We have succeeded and will not let the people of Kogi State down.
NCE AND OTHER APPLICANTS?
If you look at teachers. There are two sides to a teacher. There are those who are already finished and trained as teachers. There are also teachers that can be trained. And of course, on the other side of it,there are also teachers who are not suited for Senior Secondary Education.
Yes, the national policy on Education says that NCE is for Primary Schools and Junior Secondary education.
Some of our secondary schools in Kogi State have not been dis- articulated. That is so say the start from JSS 1 to SSS 3. So those ones will need NCE teachers at the JSS1 to JSS 3 levels. If we have competent NCE teachers we will recruit. There are some Local Government Areas where you won’t get all graduate teachers. We will look at the quality of the NCE teachers they have and while they are teaching they can improve their skills by going on study leave or part time studies and become trained teachers.
So during the recruitment, we will also be looking at the quality of people we can train to be teachers and this government has since coming on board accorded training a priority. The Governor has said in his transformation agenda, we shall continue to train our teachers. With that zeal, we have no doubt in our mind that those we are recruiting well learned,others will who are qualified will learn to be good teachers and will put what they learn into practice.
I am sorry, that I may have really stepped on toes of people when I talked of Analogue teachers but that is the truth. We shouldn’t run away from the truth. Today we have teachers, that using their mobile phone that is a complete computer on its own, they can’t write a text massage.
But the students they teach are already browsing on the internet. So we now have students who are much more intelligent than their teachers and we have students who are much more exposed than their teachers. So all that a teacher has over his students is experience and even that experience is outdated.
That is why we are going into training and retraining of teachers to improve the quality of our teachers and put the learners and the teacher on the same page. For now the difference between the learner and the teacher is widening. There are teachers in my own generation who have never had the opportunity to touch the over head projector, one of those elementary teaching aids established in the early 50”s and 60’s and then the computers in the 70’s. Some of these teachers are still in the field.
There are teachers who have done school certificate examination even when the computer or calculator was not there. Today, they are still there on the field teaching with improving on their skills. This problem is not only in teaching, we equally have them in Medicine, and in all other profession.
Everything is changing and for us to remain relevant we need to continue to learn, especially in the field of Education.