The Joint Committee of Private and Voluntary Schools Associations in Kano State, Northwest Nigeria, has rejected the directive by the government that its members reduce school fees by 25 per cent.
The group said members could only afford to cut the fees by five per cent considering the negative impact of COVID-19 on their operations.
The government on Monday made public a directive to private school owners to reduce fees by 25 per cent.
At an emergency meeting on Monday following the directive, leaders of the Joint Committee of Private and Voluntary Schools Associations noted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused serious damage to the school system.
Public and private schools in Kano State reopened on Monday, October 12, 2020, for academic activities after a seven-month shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And on Sunday, November 1, 2020, the Association of Private School Owners of Nigeria (APSON), Kano State chapter, agreed with the state government on 25 per cent school fees reduction as a measure to ease the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the parents.
The Joint Committee of Private and Voluntary Schools Associations said that it had earlier made suggestions to the government on the way forward after wide consultation.
It said in a statement, “…we consulted widely and despite the challenges faced by our members, in addition to the usual assistance, our schools offer to parents, we submitted our response to the Kano State Ministry of Education on Thursday, October 22, 2020, where we proposed three options.”
According to the association, it has requested the state government to “allow school owners to discuss with the parents and arrive at an agreed discount and a flexible means of collecting the school fees that will be applied to all parents in the school.”
It also suggested to the government to “allow schools and parents who have special challenges to discuss and agree on a case-by-case basis as it has been the practice in all our schools.”
The association said that the third option was that members implement a maximum of five per cent discount for all schools, in the third term 2019/2020 session only.
However, the government through Nura Sani Yakasai, the Director, Kano Educational Resource Department (KERD), had in a letter rejected the proposed five per cent school fees reduction but that all schools adopt the 25 per cent fee reduction.
The association said members were taken aback when they received a directive on Wednesday, October 28, from the state government to reduce fees by 25 per cent at a time when they were already implementing the five per cent reduction.
“Schools are already in session and some parents have started making payments, many of our member schools started implementing the five per cent discount, or discussing and grappling with how to implement it, while handling those who have already paid their fees in full,” the association pointed out.
“However, on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, around 3.30 p.m., we received a letter from Mallam rejecting our offer of 5 per cent discount with a further instruction that we should reduce (by) 25 per cent instead. We were requested to respond within 48 hours, else the 3rd Term 2019/2020 session will be cancelled.
“Few hours after receiving the letter from KERD, the social and conventional media was flooded by a press statement from Kano State Ministry of Education that “Kano threatens to cancel 3rd term over high school fees charges” and that “if by 1st November 2020 there is no positive response from us the ministry will be left with no option than to cancel the 3rd Term of 2019/2020 session,” it stated.
While noting that members had not received any financial assistance from the government, it said that it had made a passionate appeal to Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the Governor of Kano State, through Muhammad Sunusi Sa’id Kiru, the State Commissioner for Education, to intervene.
“Though on Thursday, October 22, 2020, we submitted a passionate appeal to the Kano State governor, through the Commissioner for Education but we are yet to receive any response from the government, ” it said.
Representatives of different associations who attended the Monday meeting were Bashir Adamu Aliyu of the Association of Model Islamic Schools, Muhammad Mallam Adamu of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Fatima Bello of the Independent School Proprietors Association Kano and Murtala Hussaini of the Association of Private Schools Owners in Nigeria.
Some parents who spoke to HumAngle on the development appealed to the association to accept the 25 per cent school fees reduction proposed by the state government and others called for a compromise.
Auwalu Aminu Gezawa, a civil residing at Sharada in Gwale Local Government Area, pleaded with the association to consider the harsh economic situation in the country and accept the 25 per cent school fees reduction.
“Well, as a father who takes the burden of settlement of children and wards school bills, in my personal opinion, the APSON should collectively adhere to the Ministry of Education’s directive on the reduction of school fees by 25 per cent, looking at the prevailing economic situation coupled with the uncertainties and hardship brought by the lockdown resulting from COVID-19 recently,” Gezawa said.
He suggested a total review and regulation on the payments of school fees and the education standard in the state.
But Musa Muhammad Dona, also a civil servant and a resident of Danladi Nasidi Qauters, Kumbotso Local Government Area, said it was not fair for the State Government to ask school owners to embark on such reduction while it had not supported them in any way.
“It is unfair for the State Government to ask proprietors to slash school fees without giving them any form of assistance to help them recover from the loss they suffered as a result of the pandemic,” Dona said.
“If the government wants to help, it should assist these private schools with funds so that they can pay their staff. Most of these schools are struggling to pay their teachers even with the full school fees so how do we expect such schools to cope?” he asked.
On his part, Garba Ibrahim Uba of Gezawa Local Government Area, suggested that both the government and the school owners must reach a compromise on the issue of reduction of fees in the interest of poor parents.
He said the government should provide palliatives to the schools since they already suffered seriously from the COVID-19 pandemic.