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Free Meals Won’t Close Gap Between Private And Public Schools

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Dr. Vincent F. Oginni is the President of Kaduna State chapter of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools and Supreme International School. In this interview, he says the government’s free school feeding programme is affecting enrolment.

What is your position on government’s free education and school feeding initiatives?
The schools that are located in the urban areas are not affected by the policy but virtually all children in the rural areas ran to public schools because their parents cannot cope with payment of school fees in private schools. At this point, they no longer care about quality, whatever they see, they take.

The issue of feeding school children by the state government is a misplaced priority; the continuity of the policy is not certain because they will not have the wherewithal to sustain it. Feeding is not the way to make children come to school, when you attract children with food, when the food is no longer there, they will run away from school. Government should have concentrated on other areas like training the personnel. Teachers are not properly trained to teach the children; as such government should have focused on training of teachers and getting people to supervise the schools. There is need for government to look into the free feeding policy.

Some parents are complaining about high fees charged by private school?

Schools charge based on the facilities put in place; we have different grades depending on what has been invested. If you have schools in urban areas with all the available amenities, then the parents who send their wards to such schools should be able to afford them.  Again, no school increases its fee without due consultation with the Ministry of Education. Many proprietors invest so much in their schools to give the best quality of education, so whoever is going there should be ready to pay.

With the new policies and programmes of the state government, do you think it can meet up with private schools in terms of quality education?
The fact that government gives free food or education does not mean it can meet up; the gap will always be there between private and public schools. What it takes is supervision, which is not there in public schools. Although, some of the private school owners do not have the capital to build magnificent schools but they have the knowledge and what it takes to run a perfect school.
What are the major challenges facing private schools in Kaduna State?
Funding is a major challenge facing proprietors of private schools. Running a school is capital intensive and another issue is multiple taxation. We pay taxes including annual renewal fee, which ranges from N100, 000 to N500, 000 and above. We pay ground rent, personal income tax, KEPA, tenement rate, signboard, Commerce and Industries among others. So, what we collect we give back to government. The payment of the annual renewal fee is dependent on the various categories. Category A, B, C and D pay N500,000,  N400,000, N300,000, N200,000 and N100,000 respectively. These fees are paid to the Private Schools Board in the Ministry of Education. Even small schools are being forced to pay and that is why many of them are closing. We learnt that the state government is planning to increase the fee, which means that more schools will be closed. If the state government is generating money to fund education, why killing the education that is already in existence? School is supposed to be a social service as we know but government has decided to coin it as a business centre.

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 Public schools equipment are being damaged by miscreants, what do you think can be done to salvage the situation?
All this boils down to supervision. If you have students in a class and you monitor them properly, how can they destroy chairs, tables and other valuables? It’s because there is no attention, and there is what we call attention deficiency syndrome on the part of public school teachers. They don’t pay attention to even what they teach the students, they don’t write lesson note and even if they do, it is not efficient, all because there is inefficient supervision. This kind of attitude cannot be found in private schools because machineries to monitor both teachers and students have been put in place.

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