A potential crisis is brewing in Unity Schools as parents grapple with the recently raised school fees.
Additionally, the recent posting of school principals has caused unrest within the education system, raising concerns among the nation.
However, Dr. Yusuf T Sununu, the newly appointed Minister of State for Education, has the opportunity to address these potential threats before schools resume in September 2023.
A circular issued by Mr. David K. Gende, the Director of Human Resource Management at the Ministry of Education, has sparked discontent among the 110 Federal Unity Schools in the country.
The circular, marked ADF.170/S.5/55 and dated August 14, 2023, is titled “Approved Deployment of Principals that have Completed Six (6) Years Tenure & Some Directors in FEQAS State Offices to Federal Unity Colleges (FUCs).”
The circular directs certain school principals, who are senior directors benefiting from former President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy allowing teachers to retire at the age of 65 or after 40 years of service, to now teach in classrooms under their junior officers. This directive is seen as absurd and contrary to the intentions of the lawmakers when the law was proposed.
Specifically, Mr. Gende’s directive for some affected school principals to serve under their juniors has caused tension within the educational sector.
Investigations have revealed that Mr. Gende’s circular was issued two and a half months after he was supposed to proceed on pre-retirement leave. He is due to retire from service on September 1, 2023.
Civil servants are expected to take pre-retirement leave three months before their retirement date.
Sources within the Ministry of Education suggest that money may have played a role in the posting of the new principals, although there is no confirmation regarding the recipients of these funds.
Coincidentally, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. David Andrew Adejoh, is also set to retire in November this year.
Experts in Ministry of Education affairs argue that some of the principals affected by the extension of service years, as approved by former President Buhari, should have been assigned to the Federal Evaluation Quality Assurance Service (FEQAS) as evaluators, utilizing their wealth of experience.
Sending them to classrooms to teach is believed to be ineffective, as they would be serving under their juniors, and the school principals may find it challenging to direct their seniors.
When contacted, Mr. Ben Bem Goong, the Director of the Press and PR Department in the ministry, stated that the decision to post 60-year-old principals to classrooms to teach aligns with government policy and regulations.
Regarding the non-observance of the pre-retirement leave policy by both the Director of Human Resource Management and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Goong explained that pre-retirement leave is optional and not compulsory. He also mentioned that bosses have the authority to recall employees from leave.
Mr. Goong dismissed any claims of inducement in the posting of principals to Unity Schools, stating that it is expected for people who lose out to express dissatisfaction.