…400,000 students, 3,622 schools affected
The fate of over 400,000 students in about 3,622 unapproved and substandard private primary and secondary schools clamped down by the Rivers and Benue State Government, for operating illegally is in jeopardy
. Indeed, these are not the best of times for the owners and operators of private primary and secondary schools, as they will soon be out of business, if the closure order slammed on the schools by the respective state governments, is anything to go by.
Few weeks ago, the government of the two states had issued a matching order to the proprietors, directing them to close shops following the clamp down order or face the wrath of the law of the state.
The proprietors were accused of operating illegally, contrary to the state governments’ rules and regulations governing the establishment of private institutions in the states as spelt out by the respective Ministry of Education law.
Piqued by the increasing rate at which sub-standard and unapproved private schools are mushrooming in all nooks and crannies of the states, the state governments, said they had to wield the big sticks on the owners and operators of such private primary and secondary schools, for allegedly violating the terms of their operations, in order to rescue the system from quackery and poor quality.
“The schools are operating in utter deviance to the regulations and requirements for the establishment of private primary and secondary schools in the states,” the state governments said.
“The big stick is being wielded because some private school owners are operating in defiance to rules and guidelines governing their operations,” the Rivers State Government said, pointing out that majority of the schools are located especially outside the state capital, where education officers from the state Ministry of Education are not constantly visited to monitor the activities of the schools.
However, investigations by New Telegraph revealed that most of the affected schools are mainly concerned with profit motive, to an extent that, they pay very little attention to standard and quality of their environment, teaching and learning process, which was the primary reason why most parents enroll their children, who are withdrawn from public schools.
Despite, public schools, which charge less school fees with adequate well-qualified teachers and large school compounds that, make learning and teaching worthwhile. Following the government’s clamp down order, over 1,198 schools in Rivers State have been closed down for their sub-standard and for operating illegally.
The former Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku, while lamented the pitiable standard of most of private primary and secondary schools operating in the state, however, declared that such situations would no longer be tolerated and that measures would be put in place to checkmate the trend, and restore sanity in the operations of private schools.
At a meeting convened by the government with the private school owners, under the umbrella of the state chapter of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Ebeku said: “The establishment of private schools in the state is governed by statutory laws, which according to him, are Education (Private Schools) Law, 1987 (as amended), which came into effect on July 7, 1987, as well as Regulations and Guidelines of the Ministry of Education for establishment of private schools in the state. “Yet, it has been found out that there are more unapproved private schools operating in the state.
This is an archetypal failure by past administrations to enforce the relevant laws. I have the will and determination to insist that the laws must be obeyed to the later and will put all necessary measures in place and take all necessary steps to ensure compliance.”
He also lamented that some teachers are unqualified, are overburdened with works, while some schools pay peanuts to their teachers as monthly salary, and in some schools, teachers are owed several months by the proprietors. Besides, most of the schools lack required teaching-learning facilities and conducive enironment for the students.
“It is also disturbing to find out that school fees and charges by private schools are not regulated, thereby resulting to a development in which primary and secondary education are being over-priced beyond the reach of parents, who are seeking access to education in such schools,” the commissioner added.
Thus, the president of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Hon. Victor Green, in his response assured that his members would comply with the directives and abide by laws, rules and regulations governing the operations of schools in the state.
But, shortly after the warning, the state Ministry of Education announced the closure of more than 500 sub-standard schools, which according to the officials of the ministry are not only being run by unqualified personnel and teachers, but are operated outside the extant laws, rules and regulations of the state government.
The operators of the schools were accused by the ministry for not adhering to the rules and regulations governing the establishment and operation of schools.
Some stakeholders, who lamented the development, however, blamed the shortcomings on the private school owners, whom they accused of not adopting a uniform educational practices with public schools despite the fact that both “pupils and students in public and private schools are all members of the same society.
They also faulted a situation where private schools operate different school calendars in running their schools, insisting that some private schools are being run by churches which merely converted a section of their main auditorium or building to learning centres. A parent, whose children are in a school-owned by a church in Mile I, Diobu, said that he enrolled them in the school purposely because his belief that they stand the chance of acquiring qualitative education in a quality learning environment.
“These days there are all kinds of schools seeking attention and patronage. But I took my children to the same place where we all worship on Sundays and weekdays because I am more comfortable with the religious side of learning,” he said. parent, Mr. Ken Asinobi, who bemoaned the poor quality of the schools, recalled how the children were directed by his child’s school management to report to school early and wear neat uniforms the day the inspection team from the ministry of education would visit the school, in order to portray the school as standard.
He said: “When inspectors visited the school it failed to meet the standard requirements, but the ministry gave the school interim accreditation, and when the school missed the track the second visit, it was listed as unregistered.
“It is worrisome at the rate these schools are mushrooming, which has become fashionable in the state because the operators know that their schools could only be shut down if they want them to be shut it down.”
He blamed the Education Ministry Approving team for its attitude toward the approval and assessment of the schools, saying it is subjective that unregistered schools will continue to litter the state. However, the education ministry officials have exonerated the ministry from the crisis, insisting that over 300,000 students would be affected by the closure.
Consequently, there were unconfirmed reports that some of the affected school owners were said to have already started retracing their steps to secure approval from the ministry for the schools.
Similarly, the Benue State Government sledge hammer few weeks ago also fell on no fewer than 2, 424 schools, which were ordered to close shop for failure to meet the minimum standards, spelt out by the government for establishment of private schools.
The state government-led by Governor Samuel Ortom, said such move had become imperative to halt the proliferation of substandard schools, with a view to sanitising the system and rescue it from further collapse.
According to the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, the government took the urgent step to sanitise the state’s education sector since the 2, 424 schools failed to meet the minimum standards, spelt out by the government for establishment of private schools.
Giving the breakdown of the affected schools, he said they comprise 1,925 nursery and primary schools, 435 secondary schools and 14 tertiary institutions located across the three senatorial districts of the state.
“The state government’s action has become imperative if the quality of the system is to be ensured in order to pave way for the delivery of qualitative education, as a departure from the present situation in which most operators established the schools to make profit and at the expense of offering qualitative education in a congenial teaching-learning environment.
He said the affected schools failed the certification by the ministry in satisfying phase two of the approval process.
The commissioner, however, regretted what he described as the alarming rate of illegal schools which he said had continued to constitute a clog in the wheels of progress in the state’s education sector with rising figure of half-baked students being produced yearly.
Consequently, Itavyaar said that these illegal schools had been responsible for poor performance of our students in both internal and external examinations, even as he added that the state ranked 14th in the last West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
While insisting that such placement was not good enough, the commissioner hinted that since education is the only industry in the state, the governor had been so passionate to improve the sector.
Besides, the state government frowned over the level of decadence in moral and social norms and value among the youths, which it attributed to the function of the education they received.
Towards this end, the commissioner pointed out that the closure of the schools was a deliberate move to revamp the state’s education sector.
Echoing the position of the state government over the closure of the schools, the Proprietor of Ashi Polytechnic, Anyiin, Dr. Terkura Suswam, who has thrown his weight behind the action, however, lauded the action of Governor Samuel Ortom-led administration for clamping down on illegal and substandard schools in the state.
He described the move as a right step in the right direction, as it would go a long way in checking the proliferation of substandard institutions in the state.
Terkura, who lamented the bastardization of the establishment of schools in the state by some shylock school proprietors, wondered that due process was not usually followed, thus leading to ineffective teaching and learning, with attendant production of poor quality students and pupils.