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Nigerian State Cracks Down on Unregulated Private Schools

An examination hall at one of several colleges closed in Kano for lacking sufficient resources. (VOA/ I.Ahmed)

In the northern Nigerian town of Kano, over 80 private nurseries, primary and secondary schools have been shut down and another 52 have been suspended for violating Kano State’s education law.

Meanwhile, a special task force on private schools there aims to close down another 700 institutions that are not meeting legal requirements.

Kano State’s 10-year-old Education Law says all schools must meet certain requirements. They must offer a conducive learning and teaching environment, pay appropriate taxes to government, provide a well-stocked laboratory, maintain functional administrative and academic records, and have a provisional certificate of approval to operate.

Baba Abubakar Umar, the Chairman of the Kano State Task Force on Private Schools, said, "the situation is quite pathetic; so many schools are operating without government consent, by extension without any kind of formal approval from the ministry of education. That is why the government intervened by establishing the task force to sanitize the entire private education sector."

The library at Prime College in Kano, Nigeria. (VOA/I. Ahmed)
The library at Prime College in Kano, Nigeria. (VOA/I. Ahmed)
He said part of the mandate of his office is to enforce a national curriculum for education, ensure the operation of laboratories with qualified teachers, and determine the location of the schools.

Some private schools are located near sites that negatively affect pupil behavior – like under high tension cables, or near market places.

There are over 4,000 nurseries, primary and secondary schools in Kano. He said that less than a thousand of them are registered – as required -- with the education ministry.

"So many schools have opened without government approval," said Umar. "We have actually embarked on serious scrutiny with a view to detect schools that are [what we call] “mushrooms” – [schools that are] not viable, not standard -- and flush them out to ensure and bring sanity and improve the standard of education in Kano state."

He said proprietors or schools that do not comply with government regulations governing the establishment and operation of private schools will be closed.

"Technically we have closed almost 80 schools," said Umar. "We categorized these schools into class [from “excellent” to very poor] or, A, B, C, D, and E. For those that have standard facilities, we encourage them to continue, and for those who have less standard facilities, we also encourage them to improve their facilities. But for schools that are mushrooms, that are operating in garages, and makeshift places or obviously we will flush them out."

He said government want to ensure that pupils are well taught, teachers are well paid and facilities are excellent for learning and teaching.

Hajia Tabawa Abdusalam, the owner of Badar Primary and Secondary School, and the chairperson of the National Association of Proprietors’ of Private Schools in Kano, said, "We are running private schools in Kano state, but some of us are not following the guidelines and the rules for operating a private school," she says. These standards have to do with the teaching and learning environment, qualification of the teachers, and the proprietor must have the quality to administer a private school."

A computer lab at PrIme College in Kano, Nigeria. (VOA / I. Ahmed)
A computer lab at PrIme College in Kano, Nigeria. (VOA / I. Ahmed)
She said her association supports the government’s effort to improve the educational system.

Abdusalam said some schools that were closed by the task force have resumed operation. Their owners had to meet deadlines for improvements, like installing toilets, and providing clean drinking water, classroom furniture, and equipment for a well-equipped laboratory.

Wakili Shehu Abubakar, the secretary of the Kano State Chapter of the National Parent Teachers Association, said, "Recently, the task force closed two or three schools on condition of increasing school fees without contacting the parent-teachers association of the private schools."

He said the guidelines for increasing fees recommend convening a PTA general meeting with representatives of the private institutions department and ministry of education. Two thirds of those in attendance must approve the proposal before it’s adopted and implemented.

Improving education is part of the agenda of Kano State Governor Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso. (VOA/ I. Ahmed)
Improving education is part of the agenda of Kano State Governor Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso. (VOA/ I. Ahmed)
Abubakar said before the creation of the task force, owners increased fees almost every term, making it difficult for parents to send their children to private school.

Education experts say the new efforts to monitor and regulate private schools should help to ensure that all children have access to education, develop as individuals, and improve their social and economic well-being. It should also help reduce poverty levels and enhance development.

Over 60% of individuals in Kano state live below poverty line. As a result, most people have limited access to quality education.

The government provides basic, primary, secondary and tertiary education, though others, including private investors, are encouraged to get involved. However, the same rules meant to ensure quality apply to every group involved in running the schools in Kano State.

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