A little storm is forming up in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State of Nigeria where Mr. Boniface Nyam, the Vice- President of the National Association of Proprietors and Private Schools (NAPPS) is threatening to close down schools operating outside the guidelines. If the threat is carried out, it would not have been his action alone. He has allies in officials from the state Ministry of Education. Already, an emergency meeting called for him to read the riot act has ended in stalemate.
The Vice-President who happens to be a one-time Chairman of the local government with the reputation of compelling compliance at all cost met his waterloo in the members of school proprietors who are in open revolt against the move to raise standard practice by raising school registration fees and other dues for Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools in the LGA which Mr. Nyam says is a directive from the Ministry of Education.
He is referring to Registration form for Nursery/Primary school from the LGA Secretariat put at five thousand Naira; Registration form for secondary school from at N10,000; Registration for Nursery/Primary school at N300,000 while that of secondary school is N350,000. Other fees as well as documents to be presented include details of how pupils pay school fees; Health inspection reports which would cost about N15,000; Annual renewal for Nursery/Primary, N40,000; Annual renewal for Secondary school, N50,000 and local government annual payment for upkeep, Three Thousand and Fifty Naira.
At the meeting held a week ago, angry proprietors claiming a foul economic condition that has hampered payment of school fees told the Vice-President they could barely keep their schools running. It was a fierce challenge as some proprietors even opened up by saying they obtained loan to pay staff and to provide other requirements to barely keep their schools running. Declaring the initiative of the Vice-President as unrealistic, they declared him over ruled and the question of raising standards now as non-issue.
The number of schools in a section of the local government called New Karu rose significantly last year, a development which many traced to a strategy of hiding under school proprietorship to overcome economic hardship. The increase in number of schools is believed to have stirred up a fierce competition among school owners for pupils. Intervention has understood that the competition is such that proprietors hire marketers to go from house to house convincing parents to prefer their school for their wards on negotiated terms. For instance, it is possible for a parent with three kids to get a scholarship from his chosen school. The concessions could stretch up to the three pupils not paying school fees, enjoying free uniform, books and access to several other advantages in the school.
The other side of the trend is reduction in the quality of teaching as the race for higher school enrolment in one’s school enhances money making but not necessarily quality of teaching. Not only are many these schools operated in personal residences, parlour and two bedrooms divided with woods with at least three different classes (primary 1, 2, 3) mixed in a small classes, everybody learns as they go. If the trend in Karu LGC is in any ways a reflection of what might be going on across the nation, then the educational crisis in Nigeria might be just beginning. It would, therefore, be interesting to see how the standoff between the Vice-President and the school proprietors go in the weeks to come.