From John Shiaondo, Makurdi:
Reactions have continued to trail the closure of 2,424 schools described as illegal by the Benue state government.
The illegal schools include 14 tertiary institutions, 433 secondary schools and 1,977 primary schools scattered across the 23 local government areas of the state.
Benue state commissioner for Education, Science and Technology Professor Denis Tyavyar, while briefing newsmen last Tuesday at the Benue People’s House , Makurdi, said the decision to close the schools in the 23 local government areas of the state was a deliberate step taken towards improving the standard and quality of education in the state.
The shutting down of the illegal schools, which are mostly private -owned is expected to also create a room for improvement of the education system in the state.
But while many people have commended the decision the state government has taken arguing that it will help cut proliferation of illegal schools, and other issues that come with it in the state, others feel the decision was ill conceived and blamed the falling standard of education in Benue and elsewhere in Nigeria largely on government.
They blamed the government for lack of attention and bad policies which has resulted in increase in number of private schools that now seems to be taking over public schools in the state.
But some educationists believe the negative effect of the illegal schools to the development of the education sector seems to be one of the factors that compelled the government to take a decisive action to close them down.
Commissioner for education Professor Denis Tyavyar ,in the press briefing had pointed out that the existence of the illegal schools in the state contributed to “alarming high degree” in the fall of the standard of education whereby some products of secondary school are unable to read and write.
According him, the illegal schools have also contributed to poor performance of students in both external and internal examinations and enhance massive examination malpractice in school.
He noted that the presence of the” illegitimate schools” in the state have resulted in the production of half-baked graduates, leading to the establishment of “miracle centres”, adding “we close any school known to be operating as miracle centre.”
The commissioner added: “We cannot toil with the future of our youths by giving them poor education, this is a major step to actualise the fission of governor Samuel Ortom at promoting qualitative education and securing a future for the Benue child as well as repositioning the education sector to attain the nations approved in education.
“I wish to specifically point out that this initiative is not intended to witch hunt anybody or organisation in the state but to purge the education system of illegalities and raise the standard of education in the state. “This exercise is for our collective good.
“How can somebody operate a school in a garage in his or her residential house and we take our children there and call it school? We must begin to do things right as a people in the 21st century despite our challenges. This closure of illegal schools this time must succeed! Top politicians and individuals alike must support this exercise to succeed. They can do that by not interfering with the process.”
He urged proprietors of such schools to abide by the closure or risk jail term, stressing that all the security agencies have been adequately mobilised to enforce the order while enforcement teams have also been constituted across the 23 local government areas of the state.
“Gentlemen of the press, ladies and gentlemen, I, Professor Dennis Ityavyar, Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology by the powers conferred on me by the Education Law (1982) Gazette No.1 Vol. 7 and acting on behalf of the Government of Benue State, hereby close Two Thousand, Four Hundred and Twenty-four (2,424) illegal schools in Benue State with effect from today, 15th August, 2017. This total is made up of 1975 Nursery/Primary, 435 Secondary and 14 Tertiary Schools.”
The Commissioner said by this closure, “Parents of wards of the affected schools are advised to take their wards into the nearby public and other approved private schools at the beginning of the 2017/2018 academic session for enrollment.”
Professor Ityavyar advised those whose schools are closed to come to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Headquarters to make inquiries on the procedure to re-open, stressing that those who open the schools without the ministry’s approval would face legal action.
Reacting to the closure of the illegal schools, a University don, and proprietor of Ashi Polytechnic Anyiin , Logo local government area, Dr. Terkura Suswam commended the state government for the decision saying it is the right step in the right direction.
He said most schools operating in the state and Nigeria at large were operating below standard, resulting to half-baked students and giving rise to the poor rating of Nigerian universities among others in the world.
Dr. Suswam who spoke with DAILY ASSET in Makurdi stated that the standard of education has been greatly compromised due to proliferation of the illegal schools some of which operate on streets with one block apartment, in premises of primary schools with others converting their private residents into primary and secondary schools or polytechnics.
He said, as a player in the education system and proprietor, he has no issues with government closing down illegal schools pointing out that some people who venture into building schools do it only for money
“Any proprietor that wants to veer into the education business should be prepared, because it is not just putting on a structure, it is not just putting on a thatched house and calling it a school, there must be the required infrastructure and amenities , the quality of lecturers or teachers that are there are necessary for operation of such school.
“The decision taken by government is not out of place at all, we are trying to sanitise , we are trying set a standard and improve the education sector in the state. “Most of these schools don’t have the substance to drive home what education itself is all about.
Dr. Suswam also called on other states in the country to emulate the steps Benue state government has taken through the commissioner for education to reposition the educational sector in the state and rid it of the decay it has experienced over the years due to activities of illegal schools.
He cautioned parents to always be sure of the kind of schools they put their children, noting that as a proprietor he believes that one must ensure standard when considering to establish any institution of learning maintaining that if standard is compromised it will amount to toying with the future of the Nigerian child.
“We don’t need to compromise true standard of education, there is no parent that want to give a stone as bread to his son or daughter, or give a snake that it is fish, what is good is good and what is bad is bad.
“Parents should understand that the essence of putting their children to school is for them to come out and be good citizens of this country.
“When you take your child and put in the school that is half baked , a polytechnic that is half baked a school that has no infrastructure, or equipment, an institution that has no instructional materials or good atmosphere for learning yo will be killing the future of the child.
“I don’t think the action taken by the government is meant to prevent private school operators from functioning but to make them do the right thing and fulfill all the essentials considered necessary to meet up the standard of such a lofty practical business,” he said.
It could be noted that schools of all sort are seen springing up almost on a daily basis even in residential apartment in Makurdi the Benue state capital and other towns across the state.
This proliferation of schools has been viewed by analysts as a result of the fact that owning private schools in Benue state and elsewhere in Nigeria is considered as lucrative business.
Business men, individuals, religious and even corporate institution have discovered investment in the education sector as one of the top among all the money-spinning business within the country.
Parent who are well to do prefer sending their children to public school today especially in the primary and secondary school level citing the fallen standard of education in the public school as the reason for their action.
Though some of them really operate on a better standard than the public schools, the others are just merely proliferation of schools and another way to make quick and cheap money.
Most of the privately owned institutions of learning take undue advantage of parents and guardians by extorting money from them due to the alleged decayed in education standard.
Such schools charge exorbitant tuition fees, uniforms, instructional materials and books, extra mural classes and lessons, collecting money for bus fares, for school developments among others on pretense of making the school a true center for academic excellence in all its ramifications.
One of the parents, Peter Iorhemba, from High Level area of Makurdi, who spoke to DAILY ASSET said some of them were compelled to put their children in private schools due to the poor attitude of staff and incessant strike action by teachers in public schools.
He commended the decision taken by government to close down illegal schools but said adequate arrangement should be made by government to absorb the high population of students in the illegal school.
He said: “we are tired of the exorbitant fees charged in some of these schools, but government is not helping matters because if proper attention has been given to these public schools, we would not have these issues.
“I put four of my children in one of the private schools, every day they keep coming home with different demands that have to do with money, but we have to bear it because, if I take them to public school, tomorrow they will say teachers have embarked on strike and they will be sent home.
“Now, if government decides to close down illegal schools it must also make adequate arrangement for the children displaced in the illegal schools to be absorbed, but honestly I don’t see that happening because they are only interested in what they can get.
Also reacting to the closure of illegal schools by the Benue state government, a proprietor of one of the private primary schools in the state, Mr. Terhemba Musa, in an interview with DAILY ASSET expressed worry over the decision of government which he said is aimed at extorting money from the school owners who he said should be commended by helping government provide one of the essential ingredient of human development – education.
He blamed government for the fallen standards of education, citing none payment of salaries to workers which has resulted to series of strikes, inadequate funding of the educational sector, bad policies among others.
He said: “Government is the one that is suppose to maintain the standard, right from the start, but the government has proven to be the biggest failure of all.
Public schools are the worse you can think of in any state you visit. Now schools are on break, but go to any public primary school when the session is on, teachers instead of staying in their class sit under trees to chat.
“We may not blame them because right now in Benue, for instance, they have not been paid for 8 months and that is what has resulted to series of strike in public schools; this is not what you find in public schools.
Take a walk to most public schools, you will find students sitting on Windows, and cement blocks, or writing on wooden slates, teachers writing on bare wall in the absence of black boards.
Yes I will agree that there are some issues with some private schools, but
Government after government have continuously turned their backs on our education sector, it has allowed the standards to fall, and when it should have acted, it has turned a blind eye.
Most of these schools tagged as illegal schools government has been collecting revenue from them, and some of them are doing far better than public schools. I am not against government making those wishing to establish schools go through the right process, but I must say that some of the schools have fulfil the necessary requirement and I wonder why they still been served closure notice as illegal,” he noted.
Nb; use pictures of Gov. Samuel Ortom; Prof. Denis Tyavya, Benue Education Commissiner, and Dr Terkula Suswam