Neglect of public schools

Recently, the President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Dr. Sally Bolujoko, ruffled feathers in the nation’s educational circle when she enjoined political leaders and civil servants to enroll their children and wards in public schools in spite of the fact that they constitute the largest number of their patrons in private institutions.

Dr. Bolujoko made the call in Abuja during the public presentation of a book entitled “Hello Phonics: A New Model in Reading” authored by Taiwo Adekanye.

She argued that having the children and wards of political leaders and civil servants in public institutions would compel them to increase education budget and monitor development in the sector.

Dr. Bolujoko regretted that government had abdicated its responsibility of educating Nigerian children as evidenced by the deplorable condition of public schools all over the country. She stressed that government at all levels should put more money in educating the children.

“Nobody will embezzle the money when they have their children there,” she argued.

Dr. Bolujoko’s plea is not new. Other concerned Nigerians had made similar calls in recent years. However, what makes her appeal significant is that it came from the leader of an association that profits from the neglect of public institutions in the country.

The neglect and eventual decline of the standard of public institutions began way back in the late 70s. Prior to that time, public schools existed pari passu with mission schools. The latter placed premium on quality and charged moderate fees.

But the takeover of the faith-based schools across the country by government and the eventual neglect they suffered led to a swift decline in quality. The liberalisation of the sub-sector also threw up all manner of private schools, with some of them taking off from shops, metal containers, garages in private homes and make-shift structures. Among them were several illegal ones.

Many Nigerian parents began to withdraw their children and enroll them in such private schools. The fad caught on fast and having kids in private schools became a status symbol. Those who could not afford the luxury of enrolling their kids in private institutions because of the high fees were classified as lower class citizens.

But several years down the line, the quality of teaching in most private primary and secondary schools began to decline because many owners see them as commercial enterprises that ought to yield good returns. Most of them engage non-qualified teachers. Some school owners do not possess any good knowledge of the business they run other than the resources at their disposal to set up such institutions. They put up attractive structures to advertise their schools, fitting them with inadequate materials for teaching and learning while charging high fees. Some wealthy parents are of the opinion that the higher the fees, the better the quality of education served to their children.

Government’s neglect of the critical sector of our educational system has had a domino effect on the quality of education at the higher level especially in public institutions. It is this state of affairs that drives many parents into sending their children to overseas institutions at prohibitive costs, even though some of them end up in substandard schools.

However, the economic realities have pushed many parents to withdraw their kids from private schools in different parts of the country in recent times. States like Delta, Bayelsa and Kaduna are witnessing such about-turn. The Kaduna state Government has even gone a step further by recruiting PhD holders to teach in public institutions across the state, ostensibly to shore up public confidence in public schools. Government at all levels should improve and upgrade the standard of public institutions to be at par with the private ones. In doing so, they would leave parents with choices.

Be that as it may, Blueprint commends Dr. Bolujoko for her courage and altruism, even though her position would be seen as shooting the NAPPS in the foot.

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