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Between Community, Voluntary, Private and Public Schools: The Dividing Lines

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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By Adamu Muhammad Nababa

In Education parlance, the four categories of Schools are aimed for the same purpose, to foster an efficient and effective delivery of education to a targeted age bracket.

And they are also more or less the purveyors of ensuring education is accessible and within reach of every citizen. And in this case, the context is global except of course, when looking at the incursion of colonialism and colonialists into Africa and other parts of the world, the history and evolution of such schools vary and serve different purposes and interpreted differently.

Whatever they mean anywhere, they stand to function always alongside the Government at all rungs. And to be sure, no Government can deliver education effectively to its citizens without opening up and work hand in hand with all of them. The more the Government make good use of them and put them to operate in tandem with its laws, the better for all.

The truth however, is that even the schools wholly owned by Government, must constantly be checked properly and regularly.

The States where Education Quality Assurance (EQA) has been elevated and operated as an agency, find it much easier not only each school is under the mirror, but they are easily seen to do the right things or anything otherwise, is brought under control very easily.

So far, only two states in Northern Nigeria, Katsina and Kaduna are said to be EQA compliant.

Historical Background

In Africa for instance, these Schools also abound but could perhaps be found in different forms and not necessarily how they are mentioned above.

Having some similarities in colonial conquest of African domains, and for which it is evident that colonialism came with Western education as it’s appendage, there are noted similarities between say, Ghana and Cameron, Nigeria and Liberia among others when talking about Community Schools that were at other times referred as Missionary Schools.

Prior to the Independence of Nigeria in 1960, as well as in other African Countries, there were no such appellation as Community or Voluntary Schools, indeed not even Public Schools because the earliest Schools were colonial schools established by colonialists to champion the spread and mindset as it was in the Western world.

If anything, contrary, as in Nigeria, or specifically Northern Nigeria, it was the Almajiri schools which flourished even before the colonial conquests.

Missionary Schools were to become Community Schools and Almajiri Schools metamorphosed largely into Voluntary Schools in an effort of integrating them with Western public (Government) Schools. But this was done with care and caution that integration will not pave way for westernizing or neutralizing the Islamic curricular well embedded in the Schools historically.

Thus, the earliest Schools established in Nigeria, for instance, though dubbed as Missionary or Community, were taken over by the Federal Government and they become public Schools.

Further Clarifications:

It is difficult in some situations to explain satisfactorily the difference between the Schools under reference here. But the differences are all the same, so glaring as they are in some situations very tacit to to understand. An attempt could be made for purpose of clarity and understanding.

Community Schools

These are Schools conceived, established and managed by a set of Community members primarily to promote education in their community. It is normally non-profit and not a monopoly of an individual. The purpose is to bring educational benefit to the community and everyone in the community share in moving the school forward.

In Kano for instance, Aminu Kano Commercial College and Kano Capital Schools stands out as secular in conception. There are also St. Louis Secondary School; St Thomas Secondary School and Ahmadiyya College who have strong religious affiliations.

Over time, all these Schools were not only bound by Government laws, they were for one reason or the other, taken over in part by State Government might, either to preserve the visions they were set up or to ensure the Schools do not go out of their ways to take advantage of their Sterling history to the detriment of the host community.

And for this, State Government willingly provide its workforce to serve these schools as School administrators or teachers as a way to ensure they don’t infringe state educational laws or the National Policy on Education. Many of such schools and Colleges abound in many parts of Nigeria as well.

Voluntary Schools

These are Schools established by individuals who willingly approach appropriate Government agencies on an agreed memorandum for support in staffing and student’s admission into various classes. They charge moderate fees as approved by Government and are carried along in all issues partaining to the implementation of education policies and laws.

In Kano, these are mostly schools that run Islamic curricular in line with provisions of Federal Agencies charged with the task of regulating Islamic and Arabic education.

Private Schools

Private Schools, as the name suggest, are schools largely established by individuals or even groups primarily for profit. They have no bench mark as to what to charge parents as school fees or related mattes of educational service they offer.

The Government will however require such schools to seek approval and pay huge sums of registration fee before they can operate. They are being constantly monitored to ensure they do not derail from the application of National or state educational laws.

Public Schools

These are Schools wholly owned by Government at Primary, Secondary, Tertiary or University levels. They are cheap, even if not so functional as private or community schools, but they are also more accessible, documented; and enjoy Federal, state or local scholarships or other Government support outlets for education pursuits. They are the major hope of the majority of the populace because Government injects huge sums of money into the sector through budgetary provisions for infrastructure, equipment and workforce.

The Interwoven Relationships

There is obviously an Interwoven relationship, as could be deducted from the above scenario, and at the end of the day, it is clear that the Government has the upper hand, to make or to mar the successful Management of these Schools. And this could be done by initiating the necessary adjustments in day to day running of schools, changing or reviewing policies from time to time to address the exigencies of the time.

Policies that tend to remain in place for decades without review could spell doom to the education system. Schools without funding or provision of equipment and facilities, or even furniture, sports and functional libraries may not yield fruitful results whatever such school is called.

Wastage and Leakages

Having established the fact that either way a school is owned or managed, the Government is always the centre of its focus. In the course of this, the Government always suffers huge wastages of staff and infrastructure due to poor tracking approach or poor maintenance culture.

Government properties are considered as nobody’s property, they are spoilt and left to rust or stolen with impunity. Staff evade doing their duties maximally because they know before the long hand of Government catches up with them, it would have been late, if ever at all.

Therefore, Government always pays more in its effort to fund education but really get less from those who should make the sector a productive one. These are instances found in Schools everywhere in almost every State of Nigeria. And no one seems to help the Government to force every one accountable.

Of course, it is the contrary in many cases, where a Government tries to ruffle its shoulders desirous of putting things in shape, it will be accused of being unable to meet people’s expectation. These accusations are basically motivated by political and related considerations. Where else could this be more explicit than Kano State?

Where after a full-blown declaration and implementation of Free and Compulsory Education for about two years running at Primary and Post Primary Schools, the Government is still accused of deliberate neglect and insensitivity to the cause of education in public Schools?

These issues as noted above ought to necessitate the State Government to review its educational laws and engagements with its key stakeholders.

The greatest threat to the implementation of Free Education is the erroneous public notion that everything education will be given gratis. It is not so; it has never been. SBMC and PTA; Old Students and Philanthropist have always been known to support Government and not to take away what it has provided for Schools or it’s Students. And if you established a School, for whatever reason, you ought to employ teachers and not to drain the teachers in Government payroll.

Last Word

The problem of education in one State in Northern Nigeria is a problem for all of them. As things are presently, the time has come to have a common front in conceiving and enforcing relevant educational laws.

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