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Mixed reactions as stakeholders await FG’s stimulus package

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Osinbajo

Stakeholders have expressed mixed feelings over the Federal Government’s approval of stimulus package for low and medium business owners, including school proprietors.

While many lauded the government for the idea saying it would save the sub-sector from collapse, others expressed doubt on the sincerity of the government to fulfill its promise.

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Since the lockdown of schools occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, the education sector has been battling several challenges. Private school owners in particular have found it difficult to meet their financial obligations to teachers and other members of staff.

To mitigate the hardship, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela had written the Economic Sustainability Committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, seeking government’s intervention to save the sub-sector.

The body also urged the government to provide loans at single-digit to help them with overhead. 

Otubela’s appeal led to the inclusion of NAPPS in the N2.3 trillion stimulus package approved by the Federal Government for small and medium business owners.

But school owners and teachers are worried that since the announcement, they are yet to receive the stimulus package.

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Director of Grace Schools, Gbagada, Tokunbo Edun lamented the losses incurred by school owners saying the economic impact would still be felt in the next two years.

She noted that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be likened to a country in the midst of a war situation, saying the only difference is that in this war, there is no physical destruction of buildings and infrastructure.

Reacting to the planned intervention, Edun said: “When the Government announced that they would be giving financial help to private schools, I was skeptical. The government has never in the history of private education in this country, given private schools subventions as it is done in saner and more developed climes, where states see private schools as partners in progress, helping them to provide education to its citizens. This is because they realise that the government cannot possibly do it alone.

“Here in Nigeria, private schools are seen as rivals, ridiculous taxation are imposed on them. The ministry of education and tax officials comes to harass private schools. The tax officials see private schools as money-making, which should be milked dry.”

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On school resumption, she said the implementation has been very difficult for proprietors.

“The fumigation, the construction of handwashing units, sanitisers, and so on. Lots of money was expended on this by private schools. The government could have helped by assisting with the fumigation expenses, and paying for all resuming staff and children to be tested for coronavirus. This was what was done in some foreign countries.

“Waiting for government in Nigeria to help private schools at this time, is like living in a fool’s paradise. The government’s antecedents speak volumes. Stimulus package will be full of traps. Like most things in the country, it will be given to those who can pull the strings and those who need it the least.

“We know we can’t get help from them. What we want is for government to reduce taxation and quit harassing us. This period has been tough on schools financially. No income is coming in. In a school, the income comes in thrice a year that is, termly. This is like nine months income to be judiciously managed for 12 months.

Edun added, “It is laughable that a government that could not offer palliatives to its own citizens, can be offering financial help to private schools. What happened to the billions of naira of the supposed palliatives meant for the citizens?

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“Majority of these so called packages might end up in the pockets of civil servants who are supposed to distribute them. This might sound ridiculous, but this is the situation we have found ourselves in this country. The general populace are just statistics to the government. They don’t exist!”
Another, proprietor, Mrs. Nkechi Amaji of De Vessels Nursery and Primary School, Ijeododo, Lagos, said the sector may suffer certain setbacks as many of the teachers have taken to alternative jobs to earn a living and may not come back when schools are fully opened.

Amaji who said she relied on her husband’s pension to survive, as most parents are unable to pay fees expressed hope that the government would fulfill its promise to school owners and speedily release the stimulus package to cushion the effect of the lockdown.

A private school proprietor in Lekki, Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lamented that schools had to source for funds to meet the education ministry’s guidelines on conducting exams for students in exit classes aside payment of staff salaries.

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He urged the government to make good its promise and speedily make the funds available to revive the sub-sector.

Mrs. Toyin Falusi, a secondary school teacher said most of her colleagues have diversified into other areas to survive.

Falusi expressed hope that government’s plans for the sub-sector would come sooner to help struggling teachers and proprietors.

Otubela, while commending the government for the gesture, appealed to them to fast-track the implementation, saying the earlier this is done, the better for the country’s education system.

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