The influx of non professionals and investors into the private education sector is becoming a subject of concern to stakeholders in the sector. This development has been perceived as a hinderance to the attainment of quality, standard and value added private education.
It is important to allow those who have the passion and platitude for Education to handle it rather than the money platoons who can meet up with the various taxes and levies even faster than the rightful people for the task.
An educationist and proprietress of St. Marcs College, Ejigbo, Lagos, Mrs. Deola Marcus spoke in a recent interview and bared her mind on what should be done to check the trend.
She described secondary education as the stage that would determine the academic career of the child and should be given proper attention.
Mrs. Marcus who holds a Masters degree in Education Counselling also commended the Ministry of Education for giving adequate inspection to schools. Below are excerpts:
What is your vision for secondary education?
Before setting up St. Marcs College, I have had good teaching experience, particularly in the secondary education tier. T have been privileged to have practical and highly impactful exposure to the grooming of children at this level.
And, I have therefore come to terms with problems facing children at that level. This was what informed my establishing a private college where, we have successfully realised our vision of producing students that are academically sound and morally balanced.Â Â Â . .
Personally, experience has taught me that adequate funding that will attract the best human and material resources, is a very vital factor. You need good fund to recruit experienced and seasoned teachers, put in place the necessary infrastructure and design a good academic and co-curricular package for a standard secondary school.
So we had this at the back of our minds before embarking on this mission. We arc however fulfilled that over the years, the vision has become a reality.
How would you assess Lagos Stateâ€™s policy on private education?
In the past, private schools were seen as those doing good business simply because we collect school fees, fees that are not even enough to meet the overall operations of the school. The impression has lingered to the extent that series of levies are imposed on us.
Apart from the high annual license renewal fees paid to the state government through the Ministry of Education, the Local Government Authorities in which we operate also saddle the schools with the heavy burden to pay all manner of levies, and not without doses of threats, while the Lagos State Signage Agency, LASAA is not helping matters for apart from removing our signboards, I mean those we did and those erected by corporate organisations, the Agency had also embarked on the collection of advert fees for things written on our school buses.
These are areas that we want the Fashola administration to look into.
While payment of taxes is a major way of generating revenue, and a normal civic responsibility of any citizen, there should be a toning down of the amount of levies.
The government should not so tax schools that the running of schools is now left in the hands of money platoons.
Therefore, Governor Fasholaâ€™s Administration which has been doing a lot of good job and have made commendable impact on Education, should please embrace the contributions of the private sector and assist them to move forward in their good services to the state and Nigeria.
On our part, we have been operating strictly on the federal and state policies on education while we also abide with the rules and regulations on private education.
We sincerely hope the state government should reciprocate this compliance by creating an enabling environment for private education. The state government should appreciate the fact that we are partners in progress and that we have contributed in no small measure to the development of the education sector of the state.
What do you suggest will make private education grow in the state?
Most importantly, we need round pegs in round holes, the government should review its guidelines on the criteria for establishing private schools to include the professional qualification of operators.
Experts and professionals in education should be the ones to be approved and accredited to run private schools. Schools should be run by those who have passion for children, quality learning and value added education. The sector is presently invaded by money bags who are mostly interested in making all the profits but without the interest of the children at heart.
Private school operators too should not cut corners by employing less qualified teacher on meagre salaries. Rather, they should engage well trained teachers to teach at both the Creche, Nursery, Primary and Secondary levels. This is the only way to enhance standard and give parents value for their money.
Lack of standard has encouraged examination malpractices, a problem that is besetting secondary schools and higher institutions presently. Cheating in examinations should be discouraged in all its ramifications.
The serious dearth of good teachers calls for thorough training of teachers by government and retraining of the teachers through seminars, skill acquisition programs (etc) by the school and the teachers jointly, while on the job.
These is the need for a follow-up on trained teachers from Lagos State College of Primary Education (LACOPED) and Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education AOCOED and other institutions to be sure that they remain in the profession and minimize de-camping to join the banking sector or other sectors.
Teachers should therefore be encouraged even inspite of their passion for the work. The state government should sec private school operators as partners in doing a social service and not competitors or business men.
What does St. Marcs College represent and what has been its contribution towardsÂ the development of education?
In line with our collegeâ€™s motto which says, â€œCultivating the total childâ€, we have put in everything to achieve this, we have been providing quality secondary education that will not only prepare the students for a promising academic and professional career, we have also introduced some non academic programmes that will mould the studentsâ€™ character and make them appreciate societal values and leadership qualities.
Such programmes which hold at regular intervals include seminars, workshops and orientation programmes. These have helped in no small measure to give the students a sense of responsibility.
Our teachers too are not left out of these programmes because we do a lot of trainings and retraining for them so as to sharpen their skills. Because of our passion for quality education, we have not been bothered by what it costs us financially to go this extra mile. We hope to maintain this trend so that we can establish a distinct legacy.
For instance, at the 2009/2010 Orientation programme that we just had, the students were given series of lectures on leadership, career and good moral values.
The students were also given talks on success principles, financial education, character/courtesies, lime management, evaluation systems and the place of God in education. We also used the occasion to take the matriculation oath and inaugurate the new prefects.