Modupe George and Naza Okoli sought the views of stakeholders including parents and teachers on the restriction placed on PTA levies in Unity Schools by the Federal Government.
Recently, the Federal Ministry of Education, led by Mallam Adamu Adamu, announced the prohibition the development levies paid by the Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) in Unity Colleges across the country in a bid to ease the financial pressures on parents.
The prohibition issued by the ministry and signed on behalf of the minister by the Deputy Director (Press), Ben Bem Goong, in Abuja, was with immediate effect, that no unity school was allowed to initiate any development project without the express or written authorisation of the Federal Ministry of Education.
The new development, according to the statement issued by the ministry of education, is aimed at arresting the trend where development levies imposed on parents by PTAs are becoming higher than the school fees charged by government which established the Unity Schools.
The minister cited the cases of Kings’ College Lagos, and Federal Science and Technical College, Yaba where PTA collections for first term stood at N70,000 and N74,000 respectively per child and while the total fees charged by government for JSS1 students in the first term is N69,400.
Running additional organisations such as National Parents/Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges (NAPTAFEGC), Malam Alamu added, increases the burden on parents who hardly differentiate between government charges and PTA levies.
Meanwhile, the declaration by the Federal Ministry of Education has generated a lot of complaints and grievances from stakeholders one of which was the recent emergency meeting of Parents/Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges in the South-West, held in Ibadan.
They informed that the so-called PTA levy was used to engage and pay teaching and non-teaching staff, and to also provide scholarship for indigent students, adding that about 500 students were benefiting from the PTA welfare scheme.
The association then pleaded with the Federal Government to go back on its decision, saying that government’s insistence on its position would have unfavourable effects on the voluntary and communal developmental efforts in the Federal Government colleges especially in areas of academic performance and infrastructural development.
Speaking to Nigerian Tribune, the chairman, Federal Government Girls College, Oyo, Mr Ishaaq Bello, said the FG’s decision could bring down the unity schools.
According to him, “Most of the development we have in unity schools today would not have been if not for the PTAs; the unity schools cannot exist without the PTAs and I’m proud to say that.
“Sometime in the term we just ended, the students were asked to go on holiday compulsorily; this has never been in the history of the school. We expected them to vacate around April. They don’t vacate the same time with other students; but then, a memo was circulated that within two days that they should vacate and we got to know that the reason was due to the fact that the principals were not given the subvention that they normally receive from the Federal Government and the fund wasn’t adequate to run the system.”
Concerning the development levy charged, he said, “We use that money to assist the school in the area of development and in my own school it is just N2,500; all altogether the PTA levy per term is N 6,500.
“Let me give you the breakdown of the N6,500 that we charge, N2,000 is meant for the development levy, N 2,000 for the PTA’s staff salary, both the teaching and non-teaching staff, and then N2,500 is meant for the PTA fund. “
“This is a school founded in the 70s. I can say that any new structure that you see in the school today does not belong to the government. In fact, in the school, our assistance cuts across everywhere. In the kitchen, we supply them with coolers, cooking utensils, we even pay food subsidy. All of this is down due to the poor funding by the Federal Government.”
On the decision of pegging the PTA levy to N5000, he expressed fear that things may not augur well as a result of this decision in the long run.
“If the government insists on its decision, there would not be any problem so far it would be ready to take up to its responsibility.”
Meanwhile, according Mrs N. Olawumi, who is a parent at the unity school, said the PTA levy per term was on the high side.“Rather, the acclaimed N5,000 should be reduced; when the money is too much some people would be feeding on it. The Federal Government should rise up to its responsibilities at the unity schools level, if not these children would suffer,” she said.
Another parent, Mrs F. Folayan, felt the payment of PTA levy should be stopped. She noted: “Initially we were paying N3,500 before it was increased to N6, 500. I would be grateful if the levy could be cancelled completely, instead of it being reduced to N5,000.”
Mr A. Charles, a teacher at the school, said, “I know very well that the PTA levy is well targeted towards the school’s development. More so, I know very well that the PTA teachers are well paid and as at when due.”
According to Chief Emmanuel Oriakhi, Chairman PTA of King’s College, Lagos, parents saw the need to rescue the situation when it became clear that the Federal Government could not do “everything that needs to be done.”
“Our aim as parents is simply to maintain the high standard of the college. We don’t want it to get down to the level where other schools are. In order to maintain that, parents have opted to do so many things, because the government is not doing everything that needs to be done.”
“So we decided to step in and that’s why we are building a five-storey hostel project, and it is 80 per cent completed, and students are already using it as dining hall. It is a multi-million naira project that the PTA is about to complete. That is why we are a bit worried about the disruption of the system.”
Similarly, The PTA Chairman of Queen’s College, Lagos, Mrs Beatrice Akhetuamen, told Nigerian Tribune that no fewer than 45 members of the college staff were employed by the PTA. She further disclosed that the association disburses nearly N4 million every month to settle salaries and other recurrent expenses.
“At QC (Queen’s College) for instance, the few PTA buildings are where the school houses all the junior students,” she said. “That means half the population of that school. There is no water from any government tap that runs in the school; PTA took up that responsibility. We have 45 teachers in this school who were employed by the PTA. We pay them up to N1.7 million every month. The two drivers that have just retired, we had to employ them back so that the school can have enough drivers. So we pay nothing less than N3.97 million, every month, and close to N15 million is paid every term. There are many intervention projects that the PTA has embarked on.
“So, I wonder how we can continue to cope if the development levy is stopped.”