Private sector education did not suffer under Buhari – Ekama Emilia Akpan, CEO of Showers Int’l Schools
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By Ignatius Chukwu
Kidnapping affected some schools especially those located at the outskirts of the cities. Recession forced many companies to shut down and lay off workers resulting in withdrawal of children from high fee schools.
Proprietors and proprietresses said they suffered. Many parents who sent their children abroad could not raise enough forex to sustain them there. All this posed crisis I the education sector. ASUU was always on strike and at a point, public sector education seemed to crash finally.
Yet, there are those who have a different account, who think the private sector did not suffer as much as the public sector.
A Port Harcourt-based education investor and manufacturer says private sector education did not suffer what other sectors suffered in the eight years under the outgoing Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Mrs Ekama Emilia Akpan, CEO of Showers group (owners of Showers International Schools), told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview that this is because Buhari government gave a lot of opportunities to open private universities and other tertiary institutions.
She said Buhari did not gag education and even encouraged a lot of tertiary institutions to come up. “People had choices by going to the private universities without strikes to delay their graduation.”
She said it was also within that period that Showers recorded very good results and that a of their students did very well.
“Most of those students that recorded big results came from missionary schools, not private schools per se. That means that moral fabrication and foundation is what helped them. It also showed how a lot of people found out that it is not about the number of degrees that would help a man but what you can do with your hands that can give you jobs. Global change has caught up with Nigerians and it has made us to focus.”
She said all those information technology (IT) boys that were sacked in places moved out to find what to rather make exploits. She said it is also the period of artificial intelligence (AI) which will create a huge impact in the system and will displace a lot of people in the industry. It will make way for those who have IT proficiency.”
Akpan, who is a board member of the Small Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) said hope should be in the incoming administration.
She said: “Whoever is going to be the next president will have to cope with efforts for massive employment. We have seen that not everyone is employable. That is the number one problem facing the new government.
“Artisans need to be upgraded if not, more problems would come. Now that we have opened up our borders for goods, dumping may occur. It’s going to be very bad to go to countries that will put barriers to or goods.
“The good thing is that we have a big population (220m) that can create its own market. So, every effort should be made to support manufacturers to sustain jobs and products to ward off imports. Consumption will not employ the youths and unemployment would cause more problems. The government should not hope to make the needed money from taxing manufacturers.”
The good news, she said, is that some of those trained by Showers International Schools are now earning in foreign currency, saying such earnings encourage the youths.
“Education should create industrialisation by promoting technology and IT. Whatever job you do, add technology to it.
“Women in business must be encouraged because we know how much boost the feat by Hilda Bassey (Baci) has caused in the youths. The mother ran the best place for native dishes in Lagos. I have eaten there before. This can show what family businesses can do especially if the children participate and take it to the next level.”
The former two-time chairman of the Rivers Bayelsa chapter of the Manufacturers Associations of Nigeria (MAN), said most businesses in Nigeria have no succession plans or continuity provisions. “SMEs have kept Nigeria going because the big companies are no more. We do not know if it’s true that Unilever is about to shut down some of its factories.
Government must also engage industrialists. No consumer country survives. Government revenue should be from manufacturers.
“Government should encourage manufacturers by giving them some concessions. The banks must also be their best friends because you find a lot of banks do not understand their role in helping the economy. The banks however blame the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). They must find ways to keep the economy buoyant.”
Warning that Nigeria must be careful because youths are beginning to ask questions and want to hear from their government, she advised government to create a way to listen and talk back to the youths.
“All of us cannot japa. Some out there are eager to come back because out there is not just rosy. The Diaspora Nigerians just want stability and they rush back.
“They are capable of coming with investments. A lot of them came during the elections to see what it was like; is it time for them to return?
“One of them was being harassed by Immigrations. They saw three computers with him and started harassing him. He said look, I have three jobs am doing and I need those three computers. You are asking me to pay duties on them, but am not a trader. We need to re-educate our public servants especially those at the ports to be sensitive. Those who want to come back may decide to stay back but they want to come home. These are the areas of focus.”
The investor said some of the incoming governors are very young, coming in with fresh ideas like the one in Katsina State. “We hope they will help the least privileged persons in their states. Governors must be people-oriented because it is God that put them there, not man.”
Both opinion holders want nothing but the return of prosperity so education can thrive again.