The director of New Beacon International School, Apo-Dutse, Abuja, Emmanuel Ozigi, has attributed the mass failure recorded by candidates in the 2021 Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to the impacts of COVID-19.
Ozigi observed that many schools couldn’t afford to pay their teachers, even after the government opened the schools following the lockdown forced by the pandemic, adding that due to this, the school could not adequately prepare their students for the exams.
He said that operational costs became so high that many schools had no other option than to sack their teachers or shut down.
Ozigi, who fielded questions from journalists at the maiden graduation ceremony of his school for children leaving from SS3 to university, JSS 3 to SS1 and for the playgroup going to reception and primary 1 on Saturday, appealed to the federal government to come to the aid of the private schools in Nigeria.
He said that the sector needed palliatives to sustain itself.
The school director urged the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) authorities to ensure they monitor and evaluate operations of the schools to enforce educational standards.
He, however, said that his school was not affected by the pandemic as the management developed strategies to ensure students and teachers were taught and paid respectively.
He said: “Coping with COVID has not been easy. Part of the coping strategies which we expected that there should be palliative from governments. The private institutions should be supported. I don’t think that the initiative has worked because some of us have not been able to access some of those palliatives from the Federal Government. However, on our own as directors of the school and other partners, we put funds together to see how we can run the school without stopping.
“Even though with COVID, you would be surprised that we are still paying teachers. We paid them up to a certain level that we now have to pay them half salary, then eventually there was a lift in September. So, we did not allow them to go because we want to retain them. So we did not stop or sack anyone or terminate any appointment. And they are happy for the fact that it did not affect our calendar because we have a uniform calendar in FCT and at the same time.
“Our curriculum here is British-Nigerian Montessori Curriculum. Year 1 to 6 is Primary six. Year 7, 8, 9 is JSS 1 to 3. year 10, 11, 12 is SS1 to 3.
“If the government can support the private sector with some funding at a reasonable rate that we can pay back, you will see that we would improve more. Our product would be well improved in terms of capacity and performance. Even the teachers would be well-taken care of. The government should as much as possible send in monitors, strengthen the monitoring and evaluating system of schools and regulate it properly and ensure they have sufficient reports and feedback to know where gaps are identified.
“One of the reasons I am asking for this support is that the private sector is the basis for the development of any economy and the critical factor that we need to look out for is that they provide more opportunities for the citizens. So, if the government can put in the energy to support and financing the private sector, you will see a lot of opportunities would be open to the country in terms of employment generation. Teachers are employed, low-skill workers are employed, and it reduces unemployment, improves GDP, increases taxes. So, many things come with it that would assist the government in generating income too.
“Nigeria is still a very good country and regulatory system for education for us in the private sector is very standardized and is in line with best practice. I can assure you that most of our students perform far better in competitons with external students when it comes to external exams. The products we produce from Nigeria here are very competitive and if government can strengthen education, because this is the fabric of any development. If you don’t have a educational system, every other thing is dead. So, if government can put in more energy and resources to the sector, you will see the products that it will produce.
“The JAMB outcome is a worry to me because if you see, one, as you rightly said it is very difficult funding education. Now paying teachers and running all the operational activities has not been an easy thing. So, some schools that cannot afford it failed and probably they could not retain their teachers. Even those ones in the public, they may not have that much zeal and support for the school because they need to earn other streams of income. So, the time to be used to take care of the children they use it and other things thereby affecting the quality hours they need to use to take care of and tutor the children.
“Some of them might be the outcome you seeing as a fallout of the JAMB result. If you are not careful, it might still come up with WAEC. But we pray that it does not. But the few children we have here had very good grades in JAMB. They had over 250. So, we are happy and we believe that when they write WAEC they will have better results too.
“Government should ensure that the capacity of teachers are strengthened. And they should fund the public schools efficiently to be competitive with the private sector.”
Ozigi appreciated the efforts of the teachers in his school to ensure that the students were well educated.
“This school’s capacity is very large. It can accommodate up to 100 both day and boarding. We have accommodation for boarding which is about 500 pupils. We have the dining. We have the hall, the multipurpose hall that accommodates about over 1000 people. So we have all these facilities on ground and we are praying that people would use this opportunity to test our products.
“There are testimonies to these about the quality of learning that we have already imparted on some of the students. Some people could not read before now but now they can read. I want to praise the teachers for their strength and efforts.
“The school took off operations on the 11th of September 2018 and since then we have been expanding.
“One of the key things we are doing is that we are not compromising standards in line with regulatory authorities and in line with best practices. The minimum qualification of a teacher here must be an B.Edu and you must have teaching certificate. We do not recruit people who do not have requisite qualification that is the benchmark here. Our NCE holders are class assistants. We ensure we pay our teachers well, give them some welfare and ensure they are comfortable.
“For the graduating students, I tell them success is not something you make in a day. It is a journey and for you to succeed, you will fail, and when you fail you fall forward. So, we are praying that as they fall forward, they will continue to move and move with the challenges of life and we pray they have success at the end of the day,” he stated.