Fred Ezeh, Abuja
On April 30th, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), begun a transformational project that would herald precise direction for Nigeria’s basic education sector.
Tagged National Personal Audit (NPA), the exercise was targeted at public and private schools, as well as other institutions that provide nursery, primary and junior secondary and related educational services.
The intention was to take record of all basic education facilities in Nigeria for the purpose of planning and implementation of education policies.
The Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, surprised journalists and other stakeholders when he announced that the project will extend to private schools as against the usual practice.
He confirmed that the exercise had hitherto focused on information about public schools. But it was discovered that focus on public schools never helped matters.
The observed short coming perhaps, informed the decision of the management of UBEC to consider the inclusion of private school facilities in the 2018 NPA project so the government could gather and also work with a reliable statistics.
But some proprietors of private schools seem to have rejected the effort of UBEC to produce a credible statistical document for local and international use.
Prior to the commencement of the exercise, UBEC boss told Journalists and other stakeholders that they have secured the support and cooperation of the private school proprietors through their umbrella body, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS).
To get first hand information as regards progress of the exercise in Abuja and environs, UBEC boss, alongside its governing board chairman, Dr. Mahmud Abubakar, led other senior staff of the commission to different locations to interact with the field officers in field.
The board chairman was deeply impressed with the exercise in locations visited as well as reports from field officers. He however registered his frustration with discouraging attitude of the private school owners.
He solicited the intervention of appropriate regulatory authorities at all levels to compelled the private schools to open their books to UBEC officials.
His words: “So far so good. Things are going well especially with public schools. Our headache is with some of the private school proprietors that seem uncomfortable with the exercise.
“Their thought might be that we are checking the quality of academic and non academic activities in their schools. But that is total misconception. We are collecting data for the purpose of planning. And this data will, obviously, not be complete without the data from the private schools.
“Preliminary report indicated that UBEC and other state officials are working in synergy for improved and credible result. But it seems private school operators have ganged up against us. Howbeit, we would still approach them politely and re-explained the concept of the exercise and its benefits.”
He said their hesitation to open their doors might not be unconnected with their lack of qualifications of their teachers, academically and otherwise, to teach in basic education schools.
The UBEC boss was, however, not surprised with the little resistance from the private school owners, being the first time, in many decades, that they are included in such exercise.
He was optimistic that they would have a change of mind after several meetings to come. “It is natural that each time new things are introduced, there are tendency that people would resist it at the beginning, in expression of doubt and fear.
“We recorded same situation in virtually all parts of Nigeria. But gradually, the private school owners begun to feel comfortable with us and they opened up. That resulted in tremendous success we recorded,” he said.
When contacted, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chairperson of NAPPS, Mrs. Olusola Bankole, said the position of UBEC regarding compliance of members was untrue.
She insisted that available records indicated that compliance level of NAPPS accredited schools are impressive contrary to comments by UBEC officials.
She said: “We received the forms few days ago and many of our members have filled theirs and submitted. We have observed that UBEC has shortage of staff. One or two staff are assigned to cover districts with hundreds of school. It is overwhelming.”
She admitted that there are many private schools that are neither registered with the government nor with NAPPS. These schools, she said, might have been responsible for the frustrations being faced by UBEC.
“For us, we need the data more than the government. Because it would expose the government to the great role of private schools in Nigeria’s education system,” she said.
She assured UBEC that all NAPPS accredited schools would collaborate with them to ensure the success of the project for collective benefit of all.