While Niger’s education unions are not opposed to teacher evaluation, they are criticising the Minister’s failure to listen to their advice concerning the form the tests should take and the consequences facing teachers’ careers.
The Minister for Primary Education, Literacy, Promotion of National Languages and Civic Education, Daouda Mamadou Marthé, announced on 8 February that both titular and contract teachers would be evaluated as part of a road map to restore quality education in Niger.
This decision comes on the heels of the results of the national plan known as the “Distance Training for Teachers Initiative,” which highlighted the low level of skills among the country’s teachers, as well as the results of the Analysis of Education Systems Programme (PASEC) of the 2014 Francophonie Education Ministers’ Conference (CONFEMEN), which showed that Nigerian students performed the worst out of the 10 Francophone countries concerned.
Contract teachers were the first to be evaluated, in two subjects, maths and French, at primary level. Some 60,000 of Niger’s 80,000 teachers are contractual, amounting to three teachers out of four.
Government did not listen to unions
The evaluation was based on a desk study, and not in a classroom situation as the unions had requested. According to the Minister, this was because of a lack of personnel (school inspectors and advisors) which meant they could not monitor all the contract teachers in the country during the school year. The content of the tests was defined by the Ministry for Primary Education, and no trade unions were consulted when they were drawn up.
An overwhelming majority of unions called for a boycott of this evaluation, asking members not to register for it, because doing so would mark the beginning of the evaluation considered illegal by the unions. The unions’ call for a boycott was largely ignored, principally because teachers feared they’d be sanctioned by the government.
Of the 56,000 contract teachers evaluated, 18,737 scored average or above average in the test, or 33.5 percent. Another 47.3 percent scored between five and 10 out of 20, and 19.2 percent scored less than five out of 20 in the test.
Following this evaluation, the Ministry decided that teachers who had scored three or less out of 20 would simply have their contracts cancelled. They would be retrained for other occupations however, such as cabinetry or tailoring, through the Ministry for Vocational Training. These teachers have already begun to receive notice of the cancellation of their contracts. Those who scored between three and 10 will have to follow remedial training to improve their skills, after which they will be re-evaluated.
Training or career change needed for teachers
During a meeting with the Minister on 18 August, Education International (EI) spoke out in support of its affiliates in Niger, namely SYNAFEN, SNEB, SNEN, SYNTEN and SYNATREB, and insisted that no contract teacher, whatever their level, should be dismissed.
They deeply regretted that the Minister had not sufficiently taken into account the unions’ warnings and recalled that if the teachers’ evaluation was to be a tool for putting training plans in place, thereby improving the quality of education, it should not, as in this case, be rushed, brutal or a means of exclusion.
The unions will remain vigilant to ensure that real training is provided for the contract teachers and that the career changes foreseen, if need be, are actually possible.