SINCE late March, this year, schools at all levels in the country have been shut down due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease. Though public schools are not also spared, private ones are the hardest hit. Private school owners and teachers are reeling under the burden of lack of money, with school owners not having income and teachers not getting wages. In this interview, the Lagos State President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, NAPPS, Chief Amusa Olawale, spoke on some of the challenges confronting his members. Excerpts.
IT appears your executive committee that came into office about six months ago came at a trying period, what has the experience be?
No doubt, this is a very difficult period for everyone, especially our sub-sector, where our main source of livelihood has been severely constrained by the stringent measures that were introduced by the Federal Government to contain the spread of the Coronavirus ravaging the world since March, this year. Despite the challenges, we have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our cardinal programmes (VIEW-ME) agenda as promised during the electioneering period. We are venturing into diversified sources of income, improving relationship with government agencies and other business partners, we are enhancing the quality of education, providing welfare packages for members, and also engaging in membership drive.
What are some of the things you are able to do despite the closure of schools?
During this COVID-19 lockdown, we organised free online classes for students in Senior Secondary School and over 1,500 are benefiting from it. We also celebrated Children’s Day virtually and various gifts were given to winners of some of the activities during the event.
Your members, even your employees, private school teachers, are calling for assistance from government in view of prevailing situation, in what ways do you need help?
The leadership of NAPPS has been doing a lot in this regard. It was our efforts that led to the inclusion of our members among those to benefit from the N50 billion set aside by the Federal Government for SMEs. Our members who applied and were found worthy of being given the loans got some money. Some were given N1.5 million and some even got N1.9 million, depending on what people filled in the form. Forms were filled online and BVN used to do credit search to know those owing banks. About three weeks ago, beneficiaries accounts were credited.
Urgent attention is needed to prevent private education sector from collapse considering the hardship that private school owners and our numerous staff are experiencing, especially on salaries, loan repayment, taxes, and levies among others. We need assistance in the form of grants, one digit interest loans. We have barely worked for three months this year, we hope Personal Income Tax that we will be required to pay this year will take that into consideration. We are helping our society mould our children that are the future leaders. We should be encouraged and not discouraged.
What is the stance of NAPPS on school resumption?
I can say that most of our members are ready anytime schools are asked to reopen. We have made provisions to meet the requirements for reopening. We have set up Quality Assurance Committee that is going round to assess the level of preparedness of members. This will complement the team the government is also sending to assess schools.
When schools reopen, will things be the same?
Some things will change. I think we now have to embark on blended learning , that is mixing online with physical teaching and learning. This is because we may have to spend limited hours in school.
Advice for your members
I have a strong belief that it is well with you in spirit despite our present challenges. Let us be thankful to God for His mercy and protection over us. Let us endure a little bit more, do not give up. As believers, it it normal to have challenges of this nature just to test our faith, but all we need do is to find ways to cope and work as a team to achieve common goals. However, let us be calm and play the game by its rules. There is need for us to obey and observe all the requirements precedent to school reopening as prescribed by all relevant authorities. Our lives are more important at this critical time than the proceeds we are not sure of.
Our esteemed parents/guardians and the children, we implore you to appreciate the fact that there is a global challenge and this is not peculiar to Nigeria. We need to continue to educate our children on good conduct and attitudes. We need to complement the efforts of NAPPS to ensure that our children are productively engaged during this lockdown period.