LEVIES: GOVT AGENCIES STIFLE PRIVATE SCHOOLS' GROWTH – PROPRIETOR

By NBF NEWS
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A school proprietor, Prince Gbadebo Adeyeye, in this report by Olabisi Deji-Folutile, identifies multiple levies as one of the factors hindering the operations of private schools in Nigeria. Although education enjoys a charitable status in most developed countries, a school proprietor, Prince Gbadebo Adeyeye, has said that multiple levies imposed on private education providers by government agencies in Nigeria is stifling the growth of the sector.

Edo State has just abolished payment of infrastructural levy of N1,500 per pupil of private schools in the state.

Adeyeye, who is the proprietor of Crown Heights College and Crown Heights Primary School, both co-educational institutions in Ibadan, Oyo State, said government agencies in Nigeria see private schools, especially primary and secondary schools, as veritable sources of revenue and therefore impose different multiple taxes on them to generate revenue.

In an interview with our correspondent in Ibadan on Wednesday, Adeyeye observed that in normal societies, 'Government provides funds through tax rebates to support the nutritional needs of the children in private schools.' Most governments, according to him, also provide free education in public schools and encourage private school providers by granting them charity status to reduce the burden on parents.''

He lamented that the situation in Nigeria was different. 'In Nigeria, they ask private schools to pay different kinds of levies. The levies are increased without notice; it's like government is just out to frustrate private school owners. Government needs to review its activities to make education more accessible to children from poor homes.

Asked to share his experience in running private schools for over a decade, he submitted, 'It is not easy to run a private school in Nigeria; some parents don't pay.''

When reminded of the existence of some private school operators with pure commercial intents, and one of the reasons why a country like India shut its doors to 'for profit' schools, Adeyeye said not everybody was in the school business for the purpose of making profit. 'Those doing it genuinely are doing it to help the society,' he said.

On how government could identify schools that are genuinely interested in lifting the education standards, he said, 'Government could check out the way the schools are run to discourage commercialisation. Government in other countries know the value of education and ensure that kids stay in school.'

To help indigent pupils, he said, Crown Heights assists in sourcing for scholarships for its pupils. According to him, the school has so far obtained scholarships for six pupils, with one of them studying Pharmacy at the University of Ibadan.

'I pick children from the village and look for sponsors for them,' Adeyeye said.

For more than five years, the school has maintained a constant tuition and boarding fee of N180,000 per session. This is contrary to what obtains in the industry. Usually, private schools review their fees upwardly on constant basis.

But Adeyeye said Crown Heights would maintain its tuition for some time to enable many pupils to have access to quality education.

'Our aim is to ensure that children have access to education. If we have to charge fees based on the facilities we have, the fees will be outrageous. But we are doing this as part of our contributions to the development of education in Nigeria. Even if we have to increase our fees, we will still be considerate on parents. We won't charge anything that will kill the parents,' he said.

Ironically, Crown Heights is still one of the schools whose pupils obtain good grades in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination and the National Examination Council, despite the general mass failure of pupils in these examinations. In the 2009/2010 WASSCE, the school recorded 99.9 per cent success rate.

This feat, according to Adeyeye, is the product of the personal touch that the school gives to each pupil. The school also keeps contact with its former pupils by maintaining regular communication with them, including those outside Nigeria.

Some of the school's alumni, according to Adeyeye, are in institutions such as the State University of New York, University of Chicago and City University of New York. 'They perform very well wherever they find themselves. They compete well; some of them are in England,' Adeyeye added.

He said he would like to see the school's pupils competing successfully everywhere they go and being the best. 'I want to make this place a special place of learning for Nigerian children. I want to make it a place where they can acquire adequate wisdom that will help Nigeria. We don't want to make money a priority, but we focus so much on integrity. We want to make this place a unique place different from the rest of them,' he said.

He observed that most of the problems in Nigeria were man-made. To improve the output from Nigerian schools, he said, education should be more organised in a refined way in order to build a sound society.

In addition, he said, Nigerian youths should cultivate the habit of responsibility. 'Many of today's graduates are difficult to motivate. They don't do the right thing at the right time. This does not work well in a competitive world.'

According to him, Crown Heights is known for integrity, sincerity and hard work. 'We believe in hard work and don't believe in doing things the Nigerian way. No exam malpractice. We can't compromise discipline. This is very uppermost to us,' he said.