This wide-spread loss of confidence in public schools has led to the proliferation of illegal and substandard schools in different parts of the country including the city of Jos, the Plateau State capital.
The argument often against public schools include that of their appalling and dilapidated state of infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms, dearth of teachers and existence of unqualified teachers.
Other reasons include low educational and recreational facilities and most importantly, government’s mismanagement of allocated resources to the education sector.
However, the same argument is now made against some of the private schools springing up in various parts of the state. Despite their huge costs, private schools no longer live up to expectation in terms of their structure, manpower and education quality.
With large number of private schools springing up every year in Plateau State, it is becoming difficult for parents to pinpoint which is legal and which is illegal.
Presently, there are approximately 588 illegal schools operating in the state, even though the state Ministry of Education says it is still processing the different categories of schools within the state.
Documents available to Daily Trust reveal that between 2012 and 2013, 669 nursery, primary and secondary schools were approved and registered by the Ministry of Education while 1,161 schools under the same category were denied registration.
The northern senatorial zone of the state which includes Jos city has the highest number of schools during the period under review with 515 schools approved and registered while 694 others were denied registration.
According to the document, an estimated 88 nursery, 87 primary and 65 secondary schools are registered annually in Jos North Local Government Area alone.
The private schools, though rendering alternative services to many families since their introduction, their proliferation has however opened doors to new challenges facing the education sector.
Daily Trust observed that activities of illegal private schools in Jos are alarming. Most of such schools are divided along religious and ethnic lines thereby further serving to segregate the citizenry.
“The illegal schools are in categories in Jos; there are high quality schools among them but which have not been registered; then we have substandard illegal schools that have no facilities and may consist of a two bedroom building with a signboard that reads ‘International’, ‘Private’ or ‘Academy’ with at time only two teachers,” said James Amos a proprietor in Jos.
Having confessed to the existence of illegal schools, Amos explained that the requirement for establishing a school was difficult which forced prospective proprietors to lease property and start a school as opposed to owning one.
The Ministry of Education requires that one must formally apply to start operating a school and show evidence of a land that has been acquired which should meet the minimum standard depending on the location of the school. With the necessary structures put in place, the ministry will inspect the location before the school is considered for registration.
Plateau State Commissioner for Education, Dashen Athanasius Nanle, explained that, “when people go ahead to build their schools the way they want and start operating them without the necessary registration process, the school is illegal and we charge them penalty fees even when they later decide to register with the ministry. We charge them for defaulting before we even consider their application forms.
“Anybody who did not obtain our permission to start a school is charged penalty fees of about N200, 000 before we even start considering his application.”
But Ibrahim Alimi, the proprietor of Best Child private school in Jos says the benefit of operating an illegal school far outweighs the crime. “I have to consider which one is more beneficial to the community. Not registering my school is against the law, yes I know that but leaving thousands of children roaming the streets without access to education is worst. So I think by going against the law, I am serving my community better,” Alimi said.
Having established his nursery and primary school in 2012 without undergoing the necessary registration process, Alimi explained, “I know I am operating illegally but the registration fees is very high and from our calculation, we are expected to pay as much as N350,000 including fine since we started operations without going through the registration process.”
The Bsc holder in Engineering further said, “For instance, can you imagine a community as big as Anguwan Rogo where the population is in thousands, but there is only one government school? The same thing when you go to Anguwan Rukuba and other places, so how are we supposed to meet the educational needs of our children when the government schools are lacking in facilities and teachers.”
Daily Trust findings revealed that school fees in some of the illegal schools, including books and uniforms, go as low as N3,500 per term.
Malam Ado Ibrahim whose child goes to one of such schools in Anguwan Rogo said, “These schools you call illegal are better than the government schools. They are not as good as the expensive private schools you see in town but they at least give our children some level of education.”
But time is running out for most of these schools as Mr Nanle said the ministry was still processing a list of the schools in the various categories stressing that “when we bring out the list, we will advice the ones that are not registered to close immediately and if they don’t comply we will enforce the law.”
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