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Why proposed 5% tax on private schools may end on parents

The recent decision by the FCT Educational Secretariat to review private schools’ operational charges has received serious knocks from school owners and parents. The decision,…

The recent decision by the FCT Educational Secretariat to review private schools’ operational charges has received serious knocks from school owners and parents.

The decision, according to them, is coming at the wrong time – when both private schools and parents are battling the harsh economy in the country; with the former losing their students to either low-paying schools or public schools and the latter struggling to meet feeding costs and fees.

The review, which was contained in a letter signed by the Head of Account, Mudi Mohammed, for the Director of Quality Assurance and seen by Daily Trust, reads: “Under the new review rate, each school is billed according to tuition charged and number of enrolment. As a consequence, each school has its peculiar bill. You should also note that all application(s) are now N40,000.

“In light of the foregoing, private schools are advised to check with our Zonal revenue desk officers where their school is located to know the bill payable for their institution(s).”

It further said: “The Minister of FCT may, on the advice of the Secretary of Education, give general or specific directives on fees chargeable for all registration and accreditation of services in schools in the FCT.

“Please note that the payment of annual charges by private schools in the FCT starts with effect from the date of registration. In light of this, you are by this letter, please requested to check your records and pay your outstanding dues (if any),” the letter read.

However, prior to the issuance of the letter, Daily Trust gathered that the secretariat had invited school proprietors in the FCT and proposed to charge a 5% tax on tuition fees for each student in private school.

The secretariat proposed a new system of charging private schools annual dues as against the previous amounts schools paid to the Department of Quality Assurance, which ranged from N75,000 and N300,000 per annum, an amount many low-income schools could not afford, Daily Trust learnt.

The proposed 5% charge on tuition fee per child per term means, for every child whose tuition fee is N200,000 termly, the school will pay N10,000 to the secretariat and each school will pay the percentage for the number of enrolment it has.

Proprietors’ reactions

The proprietors are vehemently opposed to the proposal, saying it was unlawful to impose charges that are not backed by law and demanded that it should be cancelled.

One of the proprietors who does not want to be mentioned said right from the invitation to the meeting and to the proposal, everything seems fishy.

“Initially, they invited us verbally and we rejected and asked them to do it formally which they did. They asked us to come and discuss how to improve on education digitally, but we got there only to be presented with such an awful proposal which we vehemently rejected,” he said.

According to him, “The director chairing the meeting said, how can the minister ask you to pay charges and you are refusing. Can’t you see that the minister is building roads and other projects, where do you expect him to get the money from?

“Imagine what they said; this is so wrong and we rejected it knowing that the parents will be at the receiving end. And following our refusal and failure to come to terms, the meeting was rescheduled,” he said

The proprietor said the second meeting also ended in deadlock as both parties failed to agree.

He said: “Government has been suffocating private schools whose intention is to complement in providing access to education. We are being overtaxed in FCT and many schools can’t even meet up with the numerous taxes because they are low-income schools and now the harsh economic realities may likely fold up and deny many children education.”

Another proprietor said even the N75,000 is still too much for many small schools in satellite towns.

“I told them that they don’t even need to waste their time coming to close low-tuition schools for non-payment of N75,000 annually because such schools will even choose to close on their own because where do you want them to get N75,000 every year with fumigation, AMAC Taxes, Signage, waste management, etc?”

He noted that schools don’t need any payment higher than N25,000, saying, “I told them that government should be thinking of giving low tuition schools some grant to support them survive rather than placing heavy taxes on such struggling schools that are helping government in the education sector.”

He insisted that N75,000 is not acceptable to schools whose tuition is between N5,000 to N20,000.

Another proprietor said it is unacceptable as the taxes are also telling on parents who may likely bear the transfer of the burden, adding that it is crippling private schools.

She further said they should be considerate knowing the economic situation in the country right now as many parents are struggling to pay fees.

“In my school, I have received countless parents who came to seek more time while many pleaded and paid half the fee. It is a scary situation and yet the government that is supposed to bring relief is creating more avenues to increase pain on the people,” she said.

Another proprietor challenged the school owners, saying it was their docility that led to other institutions being taken advantage of by others.

 “You start a business like others; go through the teething problems of growing it and suddenly one other institution wakes up to reap where they didn’t sow, and you allow it,” he said.

He said for older schools with large intakes, it is for them to share with them whatever profits accrued.

“After all these evil acts, they will still visit schools and expect fat envelopes, BECE registration, SSCE registration and all sorts. Please we need to sort all these issues; it’s no longer funny, with this harsh economy,” he added.

Another asked “What do they even contribute to us? I’ve always wondered why we take a lot of rubbish from some of these agencies. So I don’t blame them because they and their cohorts have always gotten away with rubbish.”

“How ‘Private’ schools succumb to policies that we know are arrant nonsense, I will never understand. They recommend some rubbish textbooks with a horrible ancient curriculum that doesn’t even see a child stand by his counterparts around the world and insist you use it otherwise your children will fail their exams and we can’t say much. I don’t blame them,” she said.

Parents speaks

A parent, Victoria Abel, who is also a teacher said this is not the right time for the government to review charges or increase fees in any school because people do not find it easy to even pay for the charges on the ground.

“Whatever charge they add to the school will definitely get to us because the school will not bear the burden alone as they will add it to be part of parents’ payment plan,” she said.

She pleaded that the FCT minister should reconsider and shelve the plan of reviewing any fees because Nigerians now are talking about food to survive and any attempt to frustrate schools will mean many students dropping out.

Another parent who wants to be addressed as Mr Kelvin said it is unimaginable how the authorities are coming up with plans to frustrate Nigerians the more.

 “How can you, at a point where people can no longer comfortably feed their families, pay fees and other responsibilities yet you are coming up with policies that will further worsen the situation. It’s wrong and untimely and so they should shelve it,” he said. 

 

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