There is a running battle between the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Niger State Chapter  over the employment of teachers to teach Christian Religious Knowledge in public schools across the state. The battle has been on since 2003 as successive administrations  from the time of  Abdulkadir Kure played politics with  recruitment of CRK teachers. Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State Almost one year since the  administration of Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello also came to power, the story has remained the same despite the commitment given by him on the issue during his campaigns last year. Chairman, Christian Religious Knowledge in Niger, Reverend Joseph Tokolo, in an interview on the matter, said as at 2004when there were about 152 schools, CRK teachers were only 120 across the state which he said was groosly inadequate. “In 2004 when we hosted the National Conference of CRK Teachers, the ratio of Christian religious teachers across the state including the borrowed ones was not even up to one teacher to a school. In 2014 when the state hosted another National Conference, the figure given to us by government was 220 CRK teachers and this also includes the non-career teachers and, as at that time, we had over 450 schools and the ratio is not even up to half up to date because there has been no new recruitment to replace the retired ones”, he stated. According to him, CAN saw this as a big challenge and therefore engaged volunteer teachers and paid N6,000  to fill  the gap. While the Christian child is denied this right to basic religious learning, it is not the same in the Islamic Religious Knowledge as schools have qualified teachers to teach the subject in most of the schools in the state. The question being asked by stakeholders is,  are there no qualified CRK teachers in Niger? Tokolo made it  clear that the problem is not one of lack of professional CRK teachers but a deliberate attempt by the past administrations to discourage the teaching of Christianity in its schools. Though CAN met with the past governors on the matter, the struggle will continue until the right thing is done. “I am appealing to the present state administration to revisit this issue”, Tokolo said. The state CAN Chairman, Rev. Musa Dada, in an interview, expressed sadness over the issue, saying it is clear that the previous administrations in the state played politics with the Christian Religious Knowledge. His words: “I feel so sad that top on my agenda when I was voted   in as the CAN Chairman was, how to solve the problem of lack of CRK teachers in public schools in the state in collaboration with the state government but from all indications government failed me. “When I had the opportunities to meet with the governors on several occasions, I presented our demands to them with convincing reasons on the need for immediate recruitment of CRK teachers.  Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu particularly gave me his word on the issue and even directed me to personally look for qualified CRK teachers from anywhere which we did and 100 names were shortlisted and submitted to the government but  nothing came out of it”. The CAN Chairman said the state needed nothing less than 300 CRK teachers to take charge of the over 300 schools and that would be an average of one teacher to each school. “We are not even insisting that the entire 300 should be recruited at once but government should be seen to   be starting from somewhere. “If government wants justice and fair play, it should employ nothing less than 250 CRK teachers. The entire scenario between CAN and the previous administrations was nothing but playing politics with   religion because, at the initial stage, I thought government was serious and sincere with us on the issue but they fooled us because, at the end, all was political language”. Dada said dialogue had started in the issue even before Governor Bello was elected. According to him, during his campaign to CAN office last year, the issue was top on the association’s agenda and he promised to make it a priority if elected. “This is the statement I as CAN Chairman and all the Christians in Niger  are holding on to now because he made the promise at the CAN secretariat during his campaign just last year and now that God has given him victory, we are looking forward to him to fulfil this promise because he is one year in office and these vacancies are still there.”

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