Indications emerged on Thursday that parents looking for a reprieve in the nation’s public schools for their children might be disappointed, as Federal Government has cut admission quotas into its Unity Schools.
This comes as educationists expressed concern that the likely withdrawal of many pupils from private to public schools would lead to the overstretching of existing facilities in the latter.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the Federal Government had reduced admission quota into some of its schools by 40 per cent to prevent overburdening their facilities.
For instance, it was gathered that King’s College, Queen’s College and the Federal Science Technical College, all in Lagos, have placed a ceiling in the number of pupils to be admitted this year.
Findings show that while these schools admitted between 600 and 700 pupils last year, the highest quota granted the schools this year is 400 pupils.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Bem-Goong, who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Thursday, confirmed the development.
Bem-Goong, who admitted that there was an upsurge in the number of applications into Federal Government, owned schools this year, said the way out was for private schools to reduce tuition to prevent admission crisis.
“The withdrawal of pupils from private schools was reflected in the number of applications we received for unity schools this year. But, are we prepared to accept the large number of pupils from private schools? There is already a policy, which is being implemented. Admission quota has been cut so as not to overstretch facilities.
“As of last year, King’s College, Queen’s College and the Federal Science Technical College, Yaba, Lagos admitted 700 pupils each. But this year, the school with the highest quota has 400 pupils. That is the highest. A proprietor here in Abuja told me that almost half of her pupils have been withdrawn and I told her to review the tuition of her school. Yes, parents are running away from costs but the private schools will have to adjust their fees downward. That is the right thing to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, stakeholders on Thursday said that the inadequate and dilapidated structures in many public schools across the country might collapse due to pressure occasioned by overpopulation.
Rather than struggle to pay tuition, feelers from parents and guardians showed that many parents had concluded plans to enrol their children in public schools in order to save cost and beat the recession currently biting hard in the country.
For instance, the Vice-President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Chief Abayomi Otubela, said that some members of his group had formally complained about the withdrawal of pupils from their schools to public schools.
But some other stakeholders hold the view that structures in public schools may collapse due to lack of maintenance and upgrade.
According to the President, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Mr. Michael Alogba-Olukoya, the fallout of the recession in the country may fall on the nation’s public schools.
He said, “The education sector is not spared of the effects of recession. Private schools are closing shop and creating a threat to public schools. We see an upsurge towards government schools. Many parents are withdrawing their children from fee-paying schools.
“Personally, I don’t know how the public schools’ system will accommodate them. I have special pity for a state like Lagos. Education is free in Lagos and it is a mini Nigeria. Many people are likely to take advantage of the free education.’’
In a related development, an education service provider, Mrs. Bimbo Obasuyi, has called on the Federal Government to assist private schools in order for them to cope with the flight of pupils.
According to her, it can be counter-productive for the government to turn its back on private schools as they grapple with the effects of recession.
Saying that public schools across the states might have challenges in coping with the influx of pupils from private schools, Obasuyi added that the government must upgrade its facilities and extend assistance to private school proprietors to stay in business.
She said, “There is bound to be massive withdrawal of pupils from private schools but we cannot overlook their contribution to education and the economy. The government will need to assist private schools and private schools will have to drop all unnecessary bills. Lagos State Government may be different because it has upgraded its facilities. So, the situation might not be as terrible in Lagos as it may be in other states.
“We must help private schools to survive the recession. They are service providers and entrepreneurs in the education sector. Government and private schools must work together to lift the education sector. ”