Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 22 August 2016 | 2,875 times
There appears to be no end in sight to the face-off between the Federal Ministry of Education and the Parents-Teachers Association of the 104 Federal Government Colleges also known as Unity Schools, as the latter has accused the ministry of planning to privatise these schools by hiking their fees by about 300 per cent.
The cold war between the parties developed with the introduction of N5, 000 compulsory insurance for all students which the parents kicked against and fought hard to get the ministry authorities to make the insurance optional.
When there appeared to be a rapprochement, the ministry in June this year, announced an increase in fees in the unity schools from N20,000 to N75,000 per term. The PTA cried blue murder and protested the alleged fees hike, arguing that it negates the principles for which the school was established, including making education accessible and affordable by the poor.
In fighting back, the ministry banned the collection of development levies in Unity schools by the PTA. This prompted the PTA to embark on explanation of the necessity for the levy, saying it has helped provide critical infrastructure in these schools.
National President of the PTA, Dr. Gabriel Nnaji and National Legal Adviser of the body, Lawal Hussien, in an elaborate statement, warned, among other things, that the scrapping of the PTA development levy has made the future of unity schools uncertain.
Below is their comprehensive statement as made available to News Express:
"The Parents of unity colleges, under the aegis of The National Parents and Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges (NAPTAFEGC), are respectfully calling on the Honourable Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, to make a categorical and comprehensive statement over the approved school fees per student of the 104 unity colleges, for first term of 2016/2017 academic year. This has become imperative, now that the resumption date is drawing near.
“We want to state, and very categorically, that NAPTAFEGC is not against the abolition of development levies. And for those who don’t know, development levy is the levy that is paid by JSS 1 students, as they gain entry into the unity colleges, and it is done once in the entire duration of their six years academic calendar.
“The levy also varies from college to college, according to the burning needs of each college. It is not paid each term or annually, as erroneously perceived in some quarters.
“We want to likewise state, and very clearly too, that the alleged abolition of development levies in the 104 unity colleges will be a welcome financial relief for parents, who have long been made to spend so much in providing basic infrastructure in the 104 Unity Colleges. We have nothing against it. We are rather very glad that these facilities we have for decades put in place in these colleges, plus the on-going ones, will have to be discontinued or abandoned. We believe that they would now be fully inherited or taken over and funded by the Ministry. This is indeed good news for Parents and NAPTAFEGC.
“We are equally waiting to be asked to sack our more than 5000 teaching and non-teaching staff in the 104 unity colleges, through the abolition of PTA termly levies.
“It should be well emphasised that development levies are specifically used to provide basic, but unavailable and indispensable facilities in the colleges, namely – construction of classroom blocks, hostel accommodation, drilling of water bore holes, stanchions and water reticulation, clinics, canteens kitchens, perimeter fencings, installation of security and electrical systems, purchase of electric generating sets, just name it.
“It is incontrovertibly correct that the Unity Colleges have for some time been starved of funds, which has led to several infrastructural decay in most of the colleges.
“In fact, without the active intervention of PTA, many parents would have long withdrawn their children from these colleges, occasioned by inadequate facilities, teaching and non-teaching staff. We are also very aware, that the statutory subventions sent monthly to Principals to run these schools hardly get to them as at when due. Some of them claim that they are yet to receive their May, 2016 subvention.
“For the benefit of the reading public, we want to emphatically state that NAPTAFEGC which is an offshoot of National Association of Parents of Federal Unity Secondary Schools (NAPAFUSS) was founded in 1992, and incorporated with the Corporate Affairs Commission. It was changed to NAPTAFEGC, under the active machination, supervision and direction of the Federal Ministry of Education, under the leadership of the then Minister of State for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike, now the Executive Governor of Rivers State. It was actually the Ministry that directed the change of name from NAPAFUSS to NAPTAFEGC, to enable teachers become active officers, at the three levels of the Association. This Association has indeed continued to play potent and unifying roles in the development of the 104 Unity Colleges. It should be well stated that it was the Federal Ministry of Education that sent their representatives to monitor and supervise the national election of NAPTAFEGC that produced the present National Executive Members. It is therefore so strange for the Ministry to see us as an illegal association. This is indeed very laughable.
“It should be stated that the future of the unity colleges is indeed pregnant. The Principals who run these schools know the implication of the decision that the Ministry has taken or about to take. Parents also know what to expect soon. The school management and staff equally know what will befall them soon. The signs that the NAPTAFEGC is getting from the whole episode is that this is purely a subterraneous move towards the complete privatization or commercialization of the Unity Colleges by Federal Ministry of Education. This is the same way the Ministry tried to sell off these colleges a few years back, but the NAPAFUSS resisted and stopped it.
“We want to use this medium to state again that the genesis of the face-off between NAPTAFEGC and the Ministry, is all about the imposition of the controversial Insurance levy of N5,000, payable by each student of the 165, 000 student population of the 104 unity colleges, which this association comprehensively resisted. And today, common sense has eventually prevailed, as the insurance levy has now been made optional by the Ministry.
“It is rather very unfortunate that the Ministry has refused to hear and dialogue with us, even when we have withdrawn the court matter we instituted against it because of the insurance levy. We have indeed done everything humanly possible, through personal visits, letter writings, telephone calls and text messages, to get the Ministry to hear our own side of the story but all to no avail.
“This Association very passionately and respectfully plead with President Muhammadu Buhari, to consider making education at the Basic and Secondary levels, especially in the Unity Colleges, free of charge and absolutely compulsory. This should serve as one of the legacies that this administration would bequeath to the present and future generations.
“NAPTAFEGC equally and very respectfully advises the Hon. Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, to take an official tour of the 104 Unity Colleges, to enable him be acquainted of all the projects and services that PTA has executed in these colleges for decades now. We equally solicit him to take full charge of the Ministry’s affairs, not relying solely on what some of his bureaucratic officers tell him. We think it is very embarrassing for the Ministry to be incohesive in its utterances, as per the Unity College students’ bills.”
•Photo shows Adamu Adamu.
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