• Published date: May 20, 2020
    • Nigeria

I must commend the federal/state governments including well- meaning Nigerian donors for all their combative efforts to contain the deadly Coronavirus pandemic which is ferociously ravaging world economies and taking dangerous toll on human lives. The year 2020 no doubt, will go down as a challenging year the entire world has ever witnessed in recent times with the outbreak of a novel Coronavirus otherwise known as COVID-19. Nobody could have thought that the outbreak of the Virus would have a lasting devastating effect on the education sector. As of now, the world is still battling to contain the spread of the deadly virus which has affected nearly 5 million people around the world with nearly 400,000 deaths globally as at the time of writing this article. In Nigeria, the number of infected is currently put at over 6,000 and deaths at almost 200. The unprecedented COVID –I9 pandemic has been compared to 1918 Influenza pandemic where about 500 million people got infected with the virus and the number of deaths estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide. To contain the spread of COVID- 19 pandemic, countries all over the world resorted to lockdown which is deemed to be the best containment strategy the world has adopted against the coronavirus which unfortunately has brought untold hardships on individuals around the world despite palliative measures introduced by different governments to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 on the populace.
Nigeria with an estimated population of over 200 million people is not immune to the ravaging effect of this pandemic with a huge deficit, low crude oil prices coupled with a crash in the forex inflow which has signaled the most difficult times for the government in addition to the vast majority of Nigerians who hold the opinion that governments at different levels have failed them in these difficult times.
Ever since the country announced its lockdown imposed by the order of the President to contain the further spread of Coronavirus infections, different sectors of the country have suffered tremendously due to the impact of economic shutdown brought about by this pandemic. Undoubtedly, these are trying times for every state government as practically all of them are still under varying levels of lockdown as the world faces its worst recession since the Great Depression of 1930 with loss of jobs reported in millions.
Education sector appears to be one of the worst-hit sectors by the COVID -19 pandemic due to abrupt closure of schools. It is reported at the height of the pandemic that over 1.2 billion children globally were out of the school system due to the pandemic with most of them resorting to remote learning as a strategy to meet up with the educational needs of the learners. In Nigeria, where private education contributes significantly to the education of the children, it has become worrisome that this vulnerable private education sub-sector whose income largely depends on school fees payment but has continued to bear the pains of the continued closure of schools will be neglected from palliatives programme of the government at this critical period.
It is therefore, in recognition of this fact that the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) which is the umbrella body for the private school owners in Nigeria with a membership that cuts across all states of the federation at different fora and avenues consistently clamoured for financial palliatives from the federal government to bail out the sub-sector from imminent collapse.
NAPPS as a foremost educational association has a lot to offer to the country considering our large population. The statistics below will endorse this claim:
2. POPULATION OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS ------------------------- 83, 524
a. (PRE-PRIMARY) –--------------------------------------- 119, 134
b. PRIMARY SCHOOLS -------------------------------- ----- 407, 110
c. JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL ----------------- ----- 244, 029
d. SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL ----------------------- 237, 070
The figure, one million, one hundred and forty three (1,000, 143) refers to teaching and non-teaching staff working assiduously towards transforming the lives of Nigerian students and ensuring that they are worthy in learning and in character thus complementing government’s effort at nurturing our future hope. These are also teachers in private schools who pay taxes to the government and undertake other civic responsibilities in the country. Furthermore, a wage bill of well over N24,713,785,000.00 (twenty four billion, seven hundred and thirteen million, seven hundred and eighty five thousand naira only) is realized monthly.

The request for palliatives has become imperative given the strategic position of the sector which has not only been providing succour in meeting the educational needs of a significant number of the Nigerian learners but also employers of labour to a vast number of the Nigerian populace who work as teaching and non-teaching staff. This is in addition to a lot of jobs indirectly provided through services rendered by school contractors, suppliers etc.
Based on the foregoing and the need to save this subsector, NAPPS recently made demands to the Federal Government to support the sub-sector through but not limited to the following;
1. EDUCATIONAL GRANTS: provision of educational grants by the Federal Government to private schools to cushion the effect of COVID- 19pandemic thereby ensuring private schools are able to meet monthly obligations to staff.
2. NON- INTEREST LOAN: This will ensure that private schools keep running during post lockdown as parents will find it challenging also to meet up with their financial responsibilities immediately schools are reopened.
3. SUSPENSION OF INTEREST ON EXISTING LOANS: NAPPS seeks the support of the Central Bank to suspend interest on loans attributable to private schools until when schools reopen.
4. SUSPENSION OF TAXES,DUES,LEVIES: We request various states governments to suspend all dues, levies, taxes, etc., for a minimum of an academic session. This will allow private schools to recover from the effect of the pandemic on our operations
5. Aside from the financial needs, NAPPS is also requesting Federal, State and other governmental departments to desist from converting public schools facilities into markets, isolation centers, etc. rather, this period should be used to focus on engaging stakeholders in education as well as health professionals to develop safety guidelines in schools to fight the spread of the virus within the school systems. It is also important that governments at all levels commence provision and installation of necessary safety amenities within our public schools environment in preparation towards resumption.
6. As an association, we suggest inter alia that governments, both at the national and state levels take over the payment of private schools’ salaries within the period covered by the COVID-19 lockdown. The reason for this suggestion is that in many schools, March 2020 salaries have not been totally paid or not paid at all. Again, second term school fees had not been completely collected before the lockdown.
7. NAPPS suggests the re-opening of schools in batches starting with the terminal classes – Primary 6, JSS3 and SSS3 to enable them be adequately prepared for their external examinations. It will be recalled that NECO (National Examination Council) has also suggested the recall of BECE/SSCE candidates for revision and examination. They suggested that only such students and teachers involved in the examinations should be recalled while at the same time social distancing with other safety measures should be observed.
8. Where reopening of schools all over the country at the same time is not feasible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we suggest that schools be authorized to resume in those states with no records of positive Coronavirus cases and in those with reduction in positive cases.
Moreover, for effectiveness, the regulatory bodies should act and supervise the implementation of the safety guidelines among both public and private schools before school resumes.
Both the Governments and Educational stakeholders must stop squabbling and agree on a plan to get children back to school in a safe, phased return.
The following, therefore, could serve as safety and prevention guidelines recommended for schools;
i. Provision of running water for handwashing
ii. Provision of Alcohol-based hand sanitisers
iii. Provision of Infrared thermometer
iv. Compulsory wearing of face masks for staff, students and visitors
v. Seating arrangements that take cognizance of physical distancing in classrooms and school buses
vi. Provision of a qualified nurse or health personnel in schools
vii. Regular decontamination of the school environment
viii. Cleaning of all surfaces, work tools, general areas (Reception, Classrooms, Car parks, Toilets, etc.
ix. There should be a signpost reminding people to wash hands, practice social/physical distancing & wear a face mask
x. Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (Face mask, gloves, etc)

It is worthy of note that the continued closure of schools due to COVID- 19 is already causing a major interruption in students’ learning process, internal assessments; assessments for qualifications etc. Presently, teaching has moved online in an untested and unprecedented scale. Also, students' assessments are moving online with a lot of trials and errors. While this could be a positive development in terms of adopting and adapting technology use to face the present challenge, it should be noted that it has also posed a lot of challenges to both parents and the school in addition to inherent risks associated with it in terms of exposure of learners to some negative contents. If the lockdown is not lifted, there is every tendency that child abuse, child labour and juvenile crimes may increase, and this, will not augur well for our nation and future generation.
In the same vein, private school operators are worried that the continued closure could spell dooms in terms of economic blows for schools that were already struggling before the pandemic and now, they have to cope with sudden, unplanned and undefined expenses and lost revenue due to continued closure coupled with unfulfilled loan repayment obligations.
Presently, several media platforms are awash with pathetic situations of private school teachers who have not been paid their salaries since March till this moment due to COVID- 19 pandemic, while the lucky ones may have to cope with pay cuts, some have lost their jobs already. In as much as nobody saw this coming, it behooves on governments to consider investors, workers from this sector in their palliatives programmes to save the sub-sector that has consistently supported the government in providing the much needed educational needs for the Nigerian learners.
Economically, a lockdown entails serious costs to society with the International Monetary Fund projecting that the global economy will shrink by 3.0 per cent this year because of the pandemic. It says 170 countries (Nigeria inclusive) will experience a negative GDP per capita growth in 2020. In particular, the IMF projected that Sub-Saharan Africa would experience a negative growth rate of -1.6 per cent. The worst fall since 1970. What does this portend for the recovery of the struggling Nigerian economy and education sector in particular? Certainly, the situation is bad for everyone.
The recovery for education will, however, take longer than expected once the nation has been given a clean bill of health and lockdown fully relaxed. However, in the word of the legal luminary, Afe Babalola, SAN and founder of Afe Babalola University Ado Ekiti, the Federal Government does not necessarily need to wait till all towns and villages in the country are free from COVID -19 before reopening of schools but schools could open in phases. Sincerely, the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools is strongly associated with the federal and the state governments, NCDC and other stakeholders in their drive to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. Equally, we pledge our unalloyed loyalty and unflinching support to all measures that will be put in place to save this country from the ravaging effects of this global vampire that is ruthlessly sucking life out of innocent people. However, NAPPS is of the opinion that while we are all in arms fighting this deadly monster, we should not allow certain essential institutions of state to suffer. Education is frankly a veritable instrument of advancement that will enable a country raise personnel for tomorrow. Therefore, every avenue should be judiciously explored in order to place the sub-sector on a very high pedestal.
The lockdown is a step in the right direction, but we really suggest that resumption of schools should be staggered beginning with the terminal classes. Private school teachers should be motivated through federal and the state governments financial and other forms of assistance. The federal and state government should consider easing resumption of schools so as to move this essential subsector forward. So far, the effect of the lockdown on schools, public and private, is devastating and needs the intervention of the state and federal governments.


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