‘Experts Must Agree on Fund Sourcing for Unity Colleges’

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Funmi Ogundare

A former Principal of King’s College, Lagos, Chief Oladele Olapeju, has appealed to the Federal Ministry of Education to quickly reverse its current directives and convene an emergency meeting of stakeholders to agree on the appropriate fund sourcing for federal unity colleges.

He described the recent legislation and pronouncement from the ministry on school fees, cancellation or ban of development levies for new entrants by the PTA and the unification of PTA termly levy to N5,000as a killer punch, saying that if not reversed, it would serve as a death knell for the total annihilation of the colleges.
Olapeju, who made this known in a statement, regretted the trend of policy reversals and summersault in the education sector, which has assumed a worrisome dimension for the country’s turnaround.

He said before any pronouncement is made, stakeholders ought to have been consulted and their opinions respected, adding that in an era of declining revenue from the federal source, parents are the most important alternative source of funding. “We have often said that all stakeholders including the government, developmental partners, parents, the community, the alumni and all other people of goodwill must contribute to the funding of public education. Education for all is the responsibility of all.

“It is not strange that when new administrations come to power, they tend to bring meaningful innovations into the administration and also engrave their signatures and prove they are not ‘follow follow’. This has been the trend over the years. Oftentimes, several policies are made and not implemented leading to stunted growth. The Nigerian child obviously becomes the victim.”

According to him, the only minister of education that deviated from the worrisome trend was Dr. Sam Egwu, who gathered together egg heads and technocrats and dusted all the past policies before the ministry and developed a roadmap for the sector.

Olapeju, who condemned the cancellation of the post-UTME screening, the lop-sided appointments and treatment of vice-chancellors and parastatals as office assistants to be hired and fired at will, said “the roadmap has been and remains the only living ‘bible’ for the education sector.

However, the recent pronouncements and policy reversals by the current leadership in the Federal Ministry of Education has assumed a very worrisome dimension that if not checked, the conflagration might consume the entire sector which serves as a fulcrum around which other sectors gravitate.

“These colleges remain the earliest contacts and models of excellence in public education for the citizenry. Bedevilled by gross underfunding and neglect, the 104 colleges have been gasping for breath and relevance. Apologists of the private colleges that they compete with, had worn so many stories and made several attempts to smear the colleges as mere aberration hence the call for selling them off. However, good reasons prevailed with the help of parents who resisted this unique national experiment and pride.”

The former principal recalled his experience in King’s College where he served as principal for six years, saying, “the success of my administration, apart from self-determination and positive vision and focus, could be attributed to the unqualified support I got from stakeholders especially parents and the alumni, and King’s College Old Boys Association (KCOBA).

“The level of funding of our colleges does not support quality education. For instance, with the support of the parents we had to recruit 50 graduate teachers most of whom taught the core subjects like English Language, Mathematics, Civic Education and the Sciences. Since the Obasanjo days, government outsourced municipal services, hence the cooks, stewards, drivers and cleaners were not in the government wage bill.”

He said the Parent Teacher Association (PTA)picked the bill of contracted-out cleaning services and supported in providing security staff, wardens and the cooks, adding that this was aside the capital project such as the construction of the five storey hostel accommodation at over N300 million.