Preamble: Putting this piece together took a lot of courage and determination. This is because an article like this hardly attracts attention of the people who are constitutionally empowered to address it. Most times, it is mistaken for rantings of some frustrated fifth columists or an attempt by a faceless individual to seek pities and attention.
I decided, nevertheless, to pour my hearts and share some burdens whether or not it gets anywhere.
No doubts, so much has been said about Nigeria and the bane of bad leadership. However, in my humble opinion, I think we have a handful of political leaders in Nigeria who are still forthright, lucid and kind-hearted. The actions of some of our state governors in recent times affirm this. In the same vein, intelligent bills being sponsored and passed by some honourable members of most of our Houses of Assembly in Nigeria and distinguished members of the National Assembly revive my faith in this nation.
Some recent outstanding policies of the Federal Government of Nigeria also fired up my hopes in the rebirth of our dear country. There seems to be some of our leaders who are despirate to leave this country better than they met it. Hope is not lost for Nigeria. These are some of the intuitions that propelled me to put pen to paper.
Background: I became a private school teacher around March, 1992. I rose to becoming an administrator in 1995. I was administering four branches of the school with a substantial population until I started my own school on September 13, 2004.
As the administrator of the school, I joined association of private school owners in my city in 1994 as a proxy for my aged proprietresses until 2003. Then, it was not called NAPPS. I was always at meetings and deliberations with great minds like Mamas Omolola, Abimbolu, Anike, Baba Abidogun (Adisa), Mama Ajogbe and other big names; 80% of who have transited to glory now. As the youngest among them, I was regularly on any team going to Ministry of Education in Ibadan for meetings and deliberations. These confirm that I have been on this task for a couple of years.
NOW: By God’s grace, I am a Proprietor to a school of a relatively high reputation and population in Oyo State with a staff strength of one hundred and sixteen (116 teaching staff, cooks, cleaners, drivers, security guards, care givers, secretariat staff, bursary officers, sale operators and administrative staffers) apart from the Proprietor and the Proprietress.
NOW, YOU HAVE ENOUGH INTRODUCTION and those who like can call this a promo or credential hype…
THE PROSPECTS AND THE PROBLEMS
Having given enough introduction, I hope every reader can believe that I am qualified to talk on the subject matter.
Prospects of Private Schools in Nigeria:
(1). Government everywhere is not the only employer of labour. But for private organizations and corporate bodies, this country and, by extension the world would have been overridden by jobless criminals. We give some people prides of life by providing means of livelihood. Were this country to be a nation that attaches seriousness to database and empirical research, we should have a correct figure of the number of registered private schools in the country and, possibly the figure of workers on their enrollment.
(2). Private schools also provide qualitative education across all domains. This is one of the reasons private schools are still full despite the attention the government is giving public schools. A friend of ours conducted a research on public school teachers who send their wards to private schools. If you can plot the graph in your community, you will be surprised at what you will come up with.
(3). Private schools render impactful social services (social responsibilities). For instance, in my own case, ALL ORPHANS irrespective of tribe and religion are given FREE EDUCATION from creche to the most senior class in the college: SSS 3. In a branch of our school, the community enjoys FREE BOREHOLE water, which we have been powering with generator for many years. Several private school owners also have their areas of interventions, and some are bigger than mine.
4. Some of us have never and will never permit examination malpractices for whatever cost or inducement. We are determined but not desperate to make waves. Thus, we protect and project the moral dignity of our country and preserve the destiny of the students.
5. Mandatory Skills Acquisitions: Many of us compel students to acquire as many skills as possible side by side with their academic certificates and knowledge of ICT. This can be confirmed. I have many students living on the skills they acquired when they were in the secondary school and some funded their tertiary education from the skills.
6. We impact moral and promote physical/mental/intellectual developments through excursions, recreations, competitions and structured activities.
7. More importantly, we are MAJOR contributors to the economy of the state and, by extension the nation. We pay our taxes (personal income tax), registration fees, renewal levies, Staff PAYE, Developmental Fees, Signage, Business Premises, HACKNEY Permits, remittances from various external examinations, driver’s license for our bus operators etc… Some of us pay these as and when due; without delay or default.
THE PROBLEMS WITH OUR GOVERNMENT
I think the goverment sees us as competitors; not as contributors that we are. That is why all we hear is goverment clamping down on private schools and not one time since 1992 have I heard of any loan scheme for private school operators. Even, during this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been so very difficult for the government at all levels to invite us and cough out an easy loan scheme from our common wealth to ease our tension! Methink we do not exist in the calculation of the government until it is time to pay taxes and levies!
a. How many private school operators scaled through CBN 50b COVID-19 Palliative Loan? Our applications weren’t treated because they will tell you they are dealing with only critical sectors affected by the pandemic. So, ours is not critical???
b. How many private school owners got BoI (Bank of Industry) Loan? They told us they are focusing sectors that are “producing and manufacturing!” So, private schools produce nothing? Can bakeries, rice mills, furniture makers etc employ every jobless graduate on the street?
c. BoA is set up to finance agricultural practices in the country. I ask: Is it bad to have a scheme for the sector training these manufacturers and producing these producers? Can our mechanized farms, poultries, pigries, cashew nuts dealers and farmers engage all unemployed graduates on the streets?
TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) is a scheme established by FG of Nigeria in 2011 to disburse, manage and monitor education tax to government-owned tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The agency has about 3 or 4 intervention funds for public tertiary institutions: Normal, Special, High Impacts…
They are free grants for various capital projects.
The fund in that agency is huge and massive! It’s a pool of massive fund that belongs to all of us.
What stops the FG to open such window to registered private institutions? Ours, of course need not be a grant but a low-interest loan with flexible repayment plans and generous moratorium.
Why is the government not looking in our direction? 30% of the annual budget of NDDC (Niger Delta Development Commission) would be enough to strengthen private schools in Nigeria with visible results. Such provisions will reduce poverty in the country drastically!
Education is supposed to be on the front burner of every structured government. These funds are our collective heritage and we should not be onlookers. It’s high time we talked ourselves to global reckoning.
APPEAL TO THE GOVERNMENT AT STATES AND FEDERAL LEVELS
Many of us paid our workers full salaries during Ebola palava and pay salaries during holidays but this COVID-19 season has been tough and turbulent for Nigerian private schools…
I appeal to government and agencies to consider the plights of our workers and their families too. I’m not canvassing a grant really, but a low-interest loan scheme, very easy to access. It’s not the one that will push us around begging political office holders before we can appear on their slots. We are business executives in our own rights and should be so treated. Not all of us can grovel before politicians or traditional rulers to beg for what should rightly come to us. That’s the metaphor of our sorry state as a nation bedeviled by caustic bureaucracy, greed, nepotism and corruption. It is not good for our psychologies as key partners to the government. I know if this gets to our state governors and the presidency, they will give it a worthwhile attention. I’m equally sure that our distinguished lawmakers in states Houses of Assembly and National Assembly will be willing to back the scheme up with appropriate laws and regulations.
The goverment has direct access to our certificates of operations. That’s a good collateral in their hands. The goverment is free to take over any school that defaults in repayment of such loans.
We have a very progressive and pragmatic governor in Oyo State who can do this. Incidentally, His Excellency is coming from the organized private sector. We are blessed with a formidable House of Assembly, peopled by brave and great minds in Oyo State. We equally have some states in the federation who also have very dynamic, lucid and resourceful governors and lawmakers. The goverment may not be able to cough this out from her IGR but can partner with the apex bank or other bodies for the facilities. In recent times, CBN has proved to the world that she is willing and desperate to tame poverty in Nigeria. This is a cool leverage.
NAPPS is blessed with honest and erudite administrators who can partner with the goverment in managing this scheme. To some of us, integrity is our number one asset; next to it is skill. We are structured and organized and can be so trusted.
It’s not a gift, it’s a loan so both parties gain in the process. If all that the state gains in the end is stable economy and happiness of her people, the gesture is worth it…In my opinion, it’s a win-win situation.
Pastor Niyi Adebayo,
Proprietor, Zoe Schools
Ogbomoso North and Surulere LG, Oyo State, Nigeria.