Ibrahim Danjuma Abdullahi is the chairman Board of Trustees (BOT) of the National Parents and Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges (NAPTAFEGC). He speaks on the recent increase in school fees and other issues.
The Federal Ministry of Education recently said it would not recognise the NAPTAFEGC but would rather work with schools’ PTAs. What is your reaction to that?
My reaction would be that this is a very unfortunate pronouncement. It is just like saying you will not work with me but you will work with my son. Does that make sense? I expect them to find out the structure of the national PTA.
The PTA they are referring to at school level, each of the chairmen is a member of the national body which is the NAPTAFEGC. There is no official at the national level who is not a chairman of a school.
It was shocking to me to hear that kind of pronouncement because all other associations that you find in this country operating at the national level have branches. Did you ask the minister who made this pronouncement what his reasons were for saying so?
I learnt that they are talking about overburdening parents with development levy, PTA levy and what have you. In fact, PTA operates one of the most efficient democratic systems at school level because no levy is ever charged by the PTA without the consent of the congress. It is the congress that approves the development levy.
From the school level we have PTA at zonal level, and in each of the geopolitical zones we have zonal NAPTAFECGC and from zonal NAPTAFEGC there is a delegate to the national level and all these people are chairmen of their schools’ PTAs.
It is a very sad thing that one would just wake up and make this kind of careless pronouncement.
PTA members are not just there; they were elected to serve. If you have any issue with them that you need clarification on, they are readily available. I really couldn’t understand this. Probably when we sit down and discuss, otherwise I do not understand.
The PTA exists in unity colleges and they are paying their dues to unity colleges because the unity colleges are not well funded. The principals of these colleges are the ones complaining to us that they don’t have this, they don’t have that. The PTA prioritizes and looks at what they want and then draw the attention of parents, and parents will willingly contribute and that contribution is what you see all over the Unity Colleges.
The name NAPTAFEGC was given by the Federal Ministry of Education during Nyesome Wike’s time as minister of education to get teachers involved in our operations and we agreed. Why would another minister come and say we don’t exist? Don’t they want the partnership? Why? Is it the insurance policy the parents said they don’t want that brought about this? I think it’s something that can be discussed but for the government at this particular time, when all Unity Schools are struggling to survive, no good feeding, no funding, nothing is coming from the government, to say that they have cancelled development levy, they don’t want PTA, they have banned this and that…, I think is ridiculous.
Government alleged that the PTA charges exorbitant fees, what does it do with the money?
Well, they cited examples with Queens and Kings Unity Colleges in Lagos but when you want to say that the charges are exorbitant don’t look at Lagos because Lagos schools have been operating like that for a very long time.
The parents in those schools don’t want any slightest fall in standards and that is the reason they always insist that standards must be maintained, that is why they don’t mind paying anything.
This levy is not an imposition, it is willingly agreed upon by the congress of the school PTAs. So, the N70, 000 to N80, 000 you are hearing is only applicable to Lagos. Out of the 104 Unity Schools in the federation, only are probably decided that they do not want the standard of the school to be low because they have the capacity to help the government.
What I used to know is that the PTA levy was usually N500 but PTA development levy depends on individual school’s needs. Like the ministry cited Kings and Queens Colleges, apart from these two, go to other schools, the projects done with the development levy are all over the place for people to see.
There is no Unity College in Nigeria today that does not pay PTA teachers on monthly basis. There are schools with 20 PTA staff, some 30, 40 and so on, on the pay roll of the PTA. Where do they get the money to pay all these PTA staff? It is from the PTA levies.
If you cancel it, then employ teachers to bridge the gap. That is all we want. Before you cancel any effort by a stakeholder, you have to make sure that you have given better alternative otherwise you are not helping the system.
How will you assess the recent increase in boarding fees by the government?
I think that is the crux of the matter. The boarding fees have been increased to N15, 000 from N4, 000 or N6, 000. The point here is that the Unity Colleges are no longer for common people because the approved bill for 2016/2017 session is between N40, 000 and N80, 000 depending on the stream. If you are a new student (JSS1) you are going to pay N80, 000.
The issue is not even about the bill, they have about 20 items on the bill among which we have insurance of N5, 000 and security fee N1000. What is the ministry trying to say? That parents should be responsible for payment of security for children in school? That is why they are charging N1000 security fee per child? Is it not ridiculous?
What are the major challenges facing the Unity Schools?
The challenges have been there; that is why you see parents being up and doing because they are stakeholders. Anybody who has a child in a school is a stakeholder and they are concerned, which is why they are doing their best to address some of these challenges in collaboration with the principals. But this unnecessary and unguarded pronouncement is not helping some of the challenges the schools are facing.
The major challenge is funding. There are Unity Schools in the North-East that have been closed down, with some of the students distributed to Kafanchan, Keffi and other places. And there is a directive that these students should be given free education and you have not provided for it, and the PTA at the national level is doing its best to see that these children are taken care of adequately and then you turn around to cancel development levy.
It is also absolutely wrong for the minister to say that the PTA is like a government within government. Let them substantiate that kind of allegation. After all, that is the reason why the PTA has hierarchy; the school PTA, zonal PTA and the national PTA and the board of trustees who are the owners of the association.
If the government receives any petitions against any school PTA or any member of the PTA, they know what to do. That is why we have these three hierarchies. If they consult with the national level and couldn’t find a solution, the BOT is there and that is the essence of the partnership.
Source: Daily Trust