The New Headache

As schools resume for a new academic session, Federal Govt. Colleges worry about the fate of their PTA-employed staff, following the abolishment of development levies

Memo to students,  PTA staff of Fed. Govt. colleges

By Jet Stanley Madu

Reactions are still trailing the Federal Ministry of Education’s decision to scrap the Parents-Teachers Association development levies being paid in the 104 Unity Schools across the country, in a bid to checkmate what it sees as the overbearing influence of the body.
While some stakeholders describe the abolition as a step taken in the right direction, as the levies, in most instances, have become astronomical and too burdensome for parents to bear, others believe the move is one that may spell doom for the colleges as schools resume for next academic session.
What happens to staff, academic and non-academic, under the employment of PTAs? What happens to the uncompleted projects under their supervision in some of the Unity Schools? Who will pay the staff now that the Federal Government has, practically, abolished payment of development levies? Will the Federal Ministry of Education be willing to take over that responsibility?

Financial burdens of PTAs

Lamenting the situation, Mrs. Beatrice Akhetuamen, the chair of PTA, Queens College, Lagos, said: “I will use Queens College where I’m involved as a yardstick.There is gross shortage of teachers, especially in core subject areas like English Language, Mathematics and science subjects. When I came into office in 2013, I found out that the PTA was paying some of the teachers and some of the non-teaching staff like cooks, gardeners, and cleaners.”
Talking about the financial burdens borne by the PTA, Akhetuamen recalled that when her own led executives came in, they were paying close to N2, 000,000 (two million naira) monthly as PTA staff salary. “But I will tell you that, today, we’re paying over N4, 000,000 (four million naira) as monthly salaries from PTA purse,” she said. “We have a lot of teachers under our employment.”
She disclosed that the association has often appealed to the Federal Ministry of Education, to no avail, to absorb the PTA staff during recruitment. “We’d always pleaded that instead of getting new hands from outside, they should look inwards,” she said. “Even though these are government responsibilities, we make these efforts because no parent would want to see his/her child suffer lack in school.”
Speaking on the traditional role of the Parents-Teachers Association, she insists that, “it is not the role of the PTA to take up construction and provision of buildings or provision of fleet of school buses. For example, my PTA within a period of six months or so donated three buses –one coaster, two Hiace buses, to the College. Only recently, it constructed and handed over a four-floor building to the school. That gulped over N280, 000,000 (two hundred and eighty million naira). Such is not supposed to be the responsibility of the PTA.
“The PTA is to render assistances in little projects, such as when the school is financially constrained in a project. Then, the PTA can come in to render little help like helping in the feeding of our children. Because feeding is subsidized by the Federal Ministry of Education, at times, we can come in and say, okay, we are going to pay so and so amount per child to augment their feeding.”

Student population growth and needs
She explained that the population of student grows by the day. Yet allocation remains the same. “So, the facilities on ground cannot cater for our children. Recently, we had to employ more cleaners and cooks. And we had to increase their salaries because they were leaving at will, especially the cooks. They claimed the salaries were not commensurate with their tasks.  So, we had to add a little to see if they could stay because it’s our children that will suffer.”
Akhetuamen who lamented the shortfall in staffing in every department in Unity Schools, expressed the hope that the federal government will make good its campaign promises to employ more teachers. “It will help take the burden off the PTAs. Some people believe that the levies are for our own private pockets because they hear big monies.  Imagine where PTA pays close to N5 million every month for about 40 teachers and other non-teaching staff. We beg that they should please absorb the teachers and other workers that PTA is paying. For the children to have good environment and excellent facilities to study in, we just have to help the government out until it is able to meet up with its responsibility.”

Fate of PTA-employed staff
The Sun Education visit to Federal Government College, Ijanikin, Lagos, where staff and parents bared their minds shows that the fear of what may happen if the services of these PTA staff are dispensed with is a palpable one among the Unity Schools.
“Government is not doing what it is supposed to do,” a staff who did not want his name in print, said. “If they did what they were supposed to do, the PTA will not have any need to employ teachers. It has become a common practice in all schools and a necessity.”
Curiosity drove The Sun Education to enquire what will be the fate of the staff employed by the PTA now that a directive has been issued to stop the collection of development levies. All the PTA-employed staff who spoke on the issue expressed some fears. They lamented the fact that the PTA jobs are not pensionable. “They’re always drumming it into our ears that our work has no pension benefit,” one of them moaned. “So, government should absorb all the PTA-employed staff and convert them to government staff.”
At Federal Government College, Ijanikin, they have six drivers, he said. But only one staff was employed by the Federal Government while the rest five were employed by PTA. Not to talk of PTA-employed staff working in the kitchen, to help prepare food for students. “If the PTA staff should be removed from the kitchen, in fact, the students will suffer terribly,” he warned. “They will not last up to a month in this college before their parents will come to take them away. Look at the compound: we have eight gardeners. All the eight are under PTA. Federal government does not have one gardener staff here at Ijanikin. I don’t know of other colleges. But here, the federal government has no single gardener on its payroll.”
He maintained that the action will impact adversely on the students because they will be the ones to bear the brunt of the PTA staff exit should government stick to its gun.
“In fact, if teachers supervising students on prep should leave, who supervises the students during prep? Almost all teachers for prep are employed and paid by PTA. We have wardens in the dormitory. Apart from two, other staffs are from the PTA. Here, we have three matrons. With the exception of one, the rest two are PTA staff. It’s a very difficult situation we’re in now, a serious issue and a tough turning point. If the federal government says it doesn’t want the PTA levies to continue, fine. It has the final say in matters such as this. But I tell you the students will suffer.
“For instance, in the security department, there are 27 security staff and they run morning afternoon and night shifts.  Even we’re short of manpower because the 27 security staffs are not enough to cover all departments and units in this school. Out of that 27, we have almost 16 or 17 employed and paid by the PTA.  So, if all these people are sacked, there will be problem.”
His advice: “I will advise that all workers under the PTA should be absorbed by federal government. In some ways, they have become part of the system and learnt on the job. The whole place is empty. Government should recruit workers -teaching and non-teaching staff. It is long overdue.”

Meeting the demand for classroom teachers
Speaking on the consequences of the shortfall of teachers in schools and colleges, the Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical) Akoka, Dr. Shiju Bunmi Olusanya, held that having enough teachers to teach students should not be a problem in Nigerian schools, noting that the Colleges of Education and other tertiary institutions are training and churning out the numbers of teachers required.
“In this college, for example, we turn out graduate teachers annually, some with NCE (Nigerian Certificate in Education) and some with Bachelor’s degrees, in affiliation with Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMinna) and UNIBEN, and some through distant learning programmes,” he said. “So, I believe with the number of graduates that we have every year, we should be able to solve to a great extent, the problem of shortage of teachers if the government can employ them.”
Nkechi Nwafor is among numerous Nigerian youths who are earnestly waiting for the commencement of the recruitment exercise of teachers into unity schools across Nigeria. She was among the tens of thousands of graduating students who bagged Master’s degree at the last convocation ceremony held at University of Lagos, Akoka. This was after working for about 10 years, both in gainful and not-too-gainful employment.
She graduated from the Lagos State University, Ojo in 2004, with a Bachelors of Arts Honours in Religion (Christian Religious Studies). Nwafor who had, since after losing her job with a Lagos-based beverage-manufacturing company, been without a job, told The Sun Education that her greatest desire is to work as a classroom teacher.
According to her, all attempts at securing another job in the past two years had yielded no fruit. But when she got wind of news about Parents Teachers Association of some colleges employing teachers, she decided to send in her application to Queens College, Yaba.
But the young lady regrets that till date, nothing positive has come out of the effort. This notwithstanding, she said she will lack words to describe her joy if she would eventually get to making the list of teachers to be employed by Buhari administration.

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