Hon. Boniface Iornumbe is the Chairman of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Nasarawa State. In this interview with FRANCIS NANSAK, he speaks on the contribution of private schools to the educational development of the state and expresses concern that some of the schools may not survive various charges being imposed on them.
Asked on the contribution of private schools in educational advancement of the state, Iornumbe, who is the Director, Bill Clinton Montessori Schools & Brainy Emmanuel Academy, New Nyanya, said the input has been massive.
“I am confident to tell you that private schools have contributed 55 per cent in the educational advancement of Nasarawa State.
“This is due to the performance of the private schools in external examinations. There is also a reasonable increased in registrations in WAEC, NECO and BECE, all because of private schools. Enrolment has increased at all levels of education in the state.
“Nasarawa State at the national level is no longer classified among the educationally disadvantaged states. WAEC in 2016 or 2017 was encouraged to bring their state office to Lafia out of the Jos zonal office. By this, we no longer travel to Jos for registration. I want to appreciate the state’s Ministry of Education, ANCOPPS and NAPPS for making this possible.
“Other contributions of private schools operators include the provision of infrastructural facilities like drilling of boreholes, construction of culverts and drainages, grading of roads especially in Karu LGA, provision of transformers, among others.”
On steps taken by NAPPS to tackle proliferation of substandard schools, the onetime Local Government boss and graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has this to say.
“The association is doing its best especially within the few months I stepped in as the state chairman. I have personally issued a radio announcement about the commencement of this academic session to all intending private schools in the state to ensure to follow due process by registering through the ministry of education. We went further to set up monitoring teams to check those who will violate this directive and report to the ministry of education for proper sanction.
“But you know our responsibility is collaborative, we don’t have the mandate and instrument to shut down any illegal school at our level. The Ministry and all the Area Evaluation and Quality Assurance Officers of Education can attest to this commitment on the part of the association.
“I want to appreciate the Ministry of Education for performing creditably well in regulating school activities. The ministry and all the Area Evaluation and Quality Assurance Officers are working under very difficult conditions and still doing their best. I will, however, suggest that a permanent solution to the proliferation of schools is for the Ministry to come up with a four-year policy or so for a ban on registration of private schools . Within the period, all existing and unregistered private schools will be made to fulfil the minimum standard of operation and get registered.
On the effectiveness of the association in charting a collective path for members as well as getting the needed support from the school owners, Iornumbe said such support has been coming but there are still persons that are yet to key into the vision.
“We still have some private school owners that are still passive on the activities of NAPPS, especially those school owners that are government officers and highly placed individuals in the society who only came in to invest in private education as a preparatory ground for retirement. Those representing them tend to take instruction from such top officials in most cases not to comply with the association.
“But under our administration, we provided free incentives that made schools that used to be passive to come out of hiding and that also made us to arrive at an estimated number of schools in the state. We came in June this year and ahead of a new session in September, we produced over 30,000 free school registers that were distributed to our schools and we made it compulsory for our chapters to submit names of schools under them before collection. Through this we were able to capture a total number of about 2400 schools across the state. But other chapters are yet to submit their complete names, one month into free distribution of registers.”
On levies being charged school owners, he said : “Private school owners are registered and regulated by the Ministry of Education. We pay establishment approval and annual renewal to government. Establishment approval used to be N50, 000 for secondary and N 40,000 for primary for about 10 years and annual renewal N 15,000.00 and N 10,000.00 respectively. Then PAYE of our staff as well as NHIS is usually 1 per cent of staff salary per month. But between 2017 and 2018 owing to the shortfalls in government revenue, the government reviewed upward the establishment approval to N 600,000 for secondary and N 500, 000.00 for nursery and primary while annual renewal was reviewed from N 15,000 to N 100,000 for secondary and from N 10,000 to N 80,000 for nursery and primary school. After much persuasion and lobbying from the association, the governor graciously reduced it to N 300,000.00 and N 250,000.00 respectively while annual renewal was reviewed down to N 50,000 and N 40,000 respectively.
“What brought the worst outcry and is still hunting private school is the activities of local government chairmen in the state, to be specified Karu. In Karu you have over 1,000 private schools. Apart from the Ministry’s charges and others we are paying, the local government introduced what is called harmonized levy where the least charge to a school is from N 80, 000 and the highest is N 350,000 and N 450,000 respectively and payable annually.
“The Local Government Health / Environmental Department has also introduced what is called Public Health / Pest Control / Fumigation / Disinfestations – demand notice ranging from N 40,000 to N 350,000.00 .There is also a task force on gaseous emissions and adverts, parking and signage. This one, youth are recruited and are at Maraba Flyover to impound any school bus without their papers and that cost N 28,000.
“Yes, we owe government a responsibility to pay tax but any tax that cannot sustain the source of payment is also not acceptable. We have taken our appeals to the Ministry of Education and we are using this medium to appeal to our calm and listening Governor, Engr. A.A. Sule, that we are responsible school owners, we are ready to comply with relevant revenue bodies but apart from the statutory Ministry of Education and Board of Internal Revenue taxes which are already defined, all other charges by other tiers of government should be harmonized in a single template and to be made affordable for private school to pay, not a situation where a consultant advances money to councils and collect authority letter as well collude with the judicial system at the Local Government level to intimidate, harass and prosecute school owners randomly with demand notices.”
On recent celebration of 14 October, 2019 as NAPPS Day, he said the event was approved by the association’s National Board of Trustees.
“12 October every year is actually the day set aside by our Board of Trustees to be observed and celebrated by all private school owners across the country. But for the fact that, this year’s celebration falls on Saturday, The National Executive Council Members led by the National President, Dr. (Mrs.) Sally Adukwu Bolujoku directed that the Day should be observed on 14 October. The aim is to create awareness and bring our activities closer to government and the general public. The theme of this year’s celebration was “Revamping the ailing educational system for National Development and well – being.”