Story by Felix Khanoba
It was almost a show of shame on Thursday in Abuja when the leaderships of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and the Association of Private Schools Owners of Nigeria (APSON) engaged in heated altercations over who represents private schools’ owners in the country.
Trouble started when the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, during a courtesy visit to him by the two seeming rival associations, called on them to explain the reason for having two different national bodies of private schools owners.
“Is there anyone who can tell me why we should have two associations? Though there is freedom of association, it would have been better to deal with one central body,” the minister said.
Adamu, who was visibly miffed by some conflicting demands of the associations in their opening addresses, threw the floor open to the two leaderships, prompting accusations and counter-accusations from both NAPPS and APSON on reasons for operating as an individual entity.
While the President of APSON, Bishop Godly Opukeme, said his association was registered in 1995 as the only private schools’ owners body in the country, he expressed surprise that NAPPS decided to do things alone in 2005 when it came on board instead of working with APSON.
But the President of NAPPS, Chief Yomi Otubela, ‘fired back’ at Opukeme on his claim that NAPPS refused to work together with APSON.
“There is no truth in the statement that NAPPS did not accept to work with APSON,” he said, as some other members of the two delegations tried to outdo each other on the correctness of the statement.
Odubela told the minister that NAPPS was born out from a fusion of different bodies, adding that before it came into existence in 2005, multiple private schools owners associations were active in the country.
The minister, who was surprised over the heated argument, suggested the fusion of the two associations under a new name.
“I will want the President and Secretary of the associations and maybe two other members to meet us in my office. If agreed, everyone should lose its identity and come up with another identity,” Adamu said.
Earlier in his address, the NAPPS President pledged the association’s readiness to take more than one million out-of-school children from the streets.
“It is the unanimous decision of the national executives of NAPPS that each of about 40,000 proprietors in NAPPS shall oblige to award scholarships to a target of 10 indigent children per year for a consecutive three years.
“We, therefore, want to take over one million out-of-school children every year,” he said.
Otubela called on the minister to tackle the issue of multiple taxation as it affects private schools, adding that the problem had become a factor unsettling many schools.
On his part, APSON’s President pleaded with the minister to consider private schools in the distribution of teaching and learning facilities, while also including the private school pupils into the Federal Scholarship Programme.
Opukeme called for the provision of a payroll survival fund to schools nationwide and other areas of interventions to cushion the effects of economic hardship of teachers.