There was drama and confusion on Tuesday at a public forum of stakeholders in the education sector when the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, and Permanent Secretary, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, differed on the purported increase in the fees of unity schools in the country.
While the minister denied the increase and insisted that he was not aware, Yemi-Esan admitted that there was an increase, which she said, was not up to 300 per cent.
The minister defended the recent shake-up in the education sector, particularly the sacking of the Registrar/Chief Executive of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde.
Both Adamu and Yemi-Esan differed during the inauguration and dissemination of the National Assurance Handbook for Basic Secondary Education in Nigeria, held in Abuja.
Incidentally, the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, who supervises basic education, was neither present nor sent any representative, thereby fuelling speculations that there had been a cold war between them.
The case became compounded when Adamu refused to acknowledge Anwukah during protocol.
But Adamu challenged anybody who claimed he was quarrelling with Anwukah because he (Anwukah) had been allegedly sidelined to provide evidence.
“I am not aware of the increase in the fees of unity schools. I am the Minister of Education and I am not aware. Well, you better try to find out. I am not aware that the Minister of State has been sidelined. It is not true at all that there is a feud between me and the Minister of State,” he emphasised.
Speaking on why Anwukah was absent at the event, Adamu said he was not aware.
He said, “I don’t know why he was absent because the last person I saw in the office was Professor Anwukah. I am not aware I didn’t acknowledge him in my protocol, maybe it was a mistake. The recent appointments into parastatals under the Ministry of Education is not one-sided.
“As far as I am concerned, everybody was carried along in the appointments in the Ministry of Education. The former JAMB Registrar (Ojerinde) was not fired, the tenure of some heads of parastatals tenure expired. We just replaced or retained some.”
Yemi-Esan, in an interview with journalists, however, admitted that there was an increment in the fees charged by unity schools across the country.
She said, “We should also be aware that these schools are tuition-free. What we increased is the boarding fees and it is definitely not up to 300 per cent. There is a breakdown of the levies in these colleges. You (journalists) are taking these things out of context.
“It was only the boarding fees that were increased. There is a long list of fees that are paid in these colleges. If you compare the fees they were paying and what they are paying now, definitely the increase was not up to 30 per cent.”
The PUNCH had reported that the National Parents and Teachers Association of Federal Government Colleges had protested against the increase in the school fees of unity colleges by the government, describing it as “commercialisation of education.”
The organisation warned that the new fees, if not reversed, would force parents to withdraw their children from the unity colleges.
The association had in a communiqué read to journalists by its National President, Dr. Gabriel Nnaji, at the end of its National Executive Council meeting, said the increment from N20,000 to N75,000 was untimely and insensitive by the government.
According to Nnaji, the fee was increased on June 1 by the government.