Let us leave all the cascading news on the national front aside this week and consider an innocuous development that has the potential to worsen the plight of a vulnerable segment of the society in one of the states in the country. In Ekiti State, private schools last Monday began a three-day strike to protest the imposition of a N1000 education development levy per term on each of their students by the state government. The government was said to have initially imposed the N1000 levy on public secondary students while primary school students were asked to pay N500 per term. But the state’s Ministry of Education, in a recent circular, extended the payment of N1000 education development levy to the private schools.
The National Association of Proprietors and Proprietresses of Private Schools in the state has kicked against the levy, claiming that it runs contrary to Section 42 (1) (a) and (b) of the Nigerian Constitution. The president of the association, Alhaji Saka Adeleye, says the association is against the levy on account of the fact that the schools do not enjoy any benefit from the government. The president said the schools were already paying 12 different taxes to the state, among them Annual Renewal Fee, Personal Income Tax, Pay As You Earn for Staff, Personal Development Fee, Registration of Business Premises Fee, Environment Levy, Vehicle Permit Fee and Tenement Rate. He argued that there was no infrastructural development for private schools in the state even as they do not enjoy any of the benefits given to public schools, such as laptops and the Ebola kits that were distributed to schools during the Ebola Virus outbreak. The private schools have urged the government to withdraw the circular and desist from imposition of development levies on their students.
Ekiti State is not alone on the issue of imposition of all manner of levies on private schools. In many other states in the country, private schools have also been strident on the undue financial burden clamped on them by their state governments. Instead of state authorities seeing themselves as partly responsible for the maintenance of standards in private schools through intervention projects and other assistance that they could offer the schools, the schools are, rather, seen as profit centres to be milked at will by the various governments.
The same scenario, unfortunately, plays out at the university level where private universities are shut out of intervention projects being done in public universities by the Education Trust Fund (ETF), even when the taxes of their parents are among the funds accruing to the ETF for these projects. Many Vice Chancellors of private universities have at one time or the other cried out over the crass neglect of students in private higher institutions but the argument has always been that government cannot fund projects in private institutions.
I see no reason why government cannot fund development projects such as libraries in private universities, unless it wants to argue that any student that is not lucky to attend a government university is less a Nigerian than those in the public universities. As a matter of fact, when the huge amount of money that the federal and state governments spend on students in their public schools is considered, it only makes sense for something to be done for the students who are not in these private schools, if only to give them a sense of belonging and to reassure them that are a part of the Nigerian project. I have thought over this issue many times and I am yet to understand the reason why students who are privileged to gain admission into public universities will pay school fees that are below N20,000, while others who could not get admission into the public schools on account of shortage of admission space that has been acknowledged by the government itself, will have to pay N400,000 for education in a private university. And even then, the proprietors of the institutions are not being assisted in any way, but are being milked by the authorities as if their students are aliens.
I support the Ekiti private schools in their protest against this development but it is debatable if the decision to close their schools for three days is the solution to the problem. They have said they have been trying to meet with Governor Ayo Fayose on this matter to no avail. Let the government meet with them and address their grievances. Private schools should not be treated as cash cows to be milked by education authorities. They should rather, at all levels, be seen as partners who are contributing their quota in the effort to educate children in the overall interest of the country.
Re: Ese and the shame of a nation
I have read the numerous accounts of Ese’s saga and none has captured the essence as much as yours. I am particularly happy that you highlighted the physical transformation of a girl with a very beautiful face while in her parents’ custody to the very hard and ugly face of a suicide bomber in the den of religious jihadists. The defence lawyer who claims the matter is that of lovebirds will get God’s judgment and his own daughter will find a similar lovebird at thirteen years of age.
Onosike, Lagos, 08034264868.
You need to visit Bayelasa State and some parts of Delta state to see how parents have failed in taking care of their children. The female ones at tender ages are allowed to breed kids like rats while their male counterparts are encouraged to be strong in drugs and other criminalities. The parents of Ese are bad parents. Yunusa only capitalised on their carelessness.
Greetings and peace of the Lord to you. A big thank you for your write up last week on Ese. We so much appreciate it. So many people in this nation are above the law. The North has vowed to keep victimising the South. One of their foremost traditional rulers promised their youths that any one of them that gets married to a Christian will get a car and N500,000. Will it stop? Ask all their leaders. God will deal with them soon.
It is a Northern agenda. We are set.
Eva from Bayelsa, 08023889617