By Ebele Orakpo
D r. Peter Harrison is the Proprietor of Victory Comprehensive College, Elelenwo, Port Harcourt and the president of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, NAPPS, Rivers State chapter. In this chat with Financial Vanguard, Harrison who holds a post-graduate diploma in Education, and PhD in Divinity and Religion, speaks on why he ventured into private school business, the challenges and how he tries to overcome. Excerpts:
According to Dr. Peter Harrison, he decided to set up a school because he wanted a school that will indeed be a centre of academic excellence.
“I started Victory Comprehensive College in 1995 with the aim of making the school a centre of academic excellence and by the grace of God, the school is approved by the Rivers State Ministry of Education, and the various external examination councils like West African Examinations Council, National Examinations Council and National Business and Technical Examination Board. The idea of starting a school came when I was a classroom teacher and I have this passion for building up tomorrow’s leaders, to inculcate in them good ethical values.”
The school which started with only two students “now has over 200 students with student-teacher ratio of 1:30 and has produced over 200 graduates some of who have gone on to become engineers, lawyers, academics and many in private sector,” said Harrison.
Continuing, Harrison said the school has been able to employ and retain experienced teachers by highly motivating them.
“We employ experienced hands and we have a monthly contribution which we float to help teachers. We encourage the hardworking teachers to go for refresher courses and update their knowledge and the cost is borne by the school.”
On the challenges he has faced as a businessman in the education sector, Harrison who is a member of various professional bodies including the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management, Institute of Commerce, National Association of Business Educators, and fellow, Institute of Administration, noted that finance has been a major issue.
“Finance was a major issue. There were times I wanted to give up when all hopes seemed to have been lost, parents were not paying regularly because of their lack of economic power and you have to pay teachers, fuel the generators, and pay other bills.”
However, he said he was able to overcome, as over time, “we developed consistency and credibility and were able to get soft loans to run the school.”
On his achievements as NAPPS president, Rivers State chapter, Harrison who attributed his election to favour from God said; “Within the past three years, we have been able to buy land for the association and the building is ongoing. We have an office space with all the necessary equipment. We have 33 units of NAPPS in the state, working harmoniously with the Ministry of Education. We have been co-opted into the monitoring team for WAEC and NECO.”
Speaking on how government can empower NAPPS to be more effective, he said; “The Rivers State House of Assembly is setting up an agency called Rivers State Education Quality Assurance Agency. The agency is going to monitor closely and supervise the activities of private and public schools; it is also going to be saddled with the function of the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Education including Universal Basic Education. We are asking that this new board should work in synergy with NAPPS.
“Government should check the multiple taxations. If we are empowered, we can, in partnership with any human rights group and tax agents, collect this tax on behalf of Local governments, Sanitation, Ministry of Environment, and this will stop them from harassing our members. If granted the permission, we want to also come up with a sticker in partnership with human rights groups to give schools with buses. This, we believe, will stop touts from harassing school buses.”
Harrison noted that there was need to regulate the education business sector. “A situation where every Tom, Dick and Harry will enter into education business is like waking up and seeing on your table, a plate of food you know nothing about and eating it without asking questions. As an association, we have told the government that there is need to regulate the setting up of schools.
In Port Harcourt today, every sitting room is now a school. Just like every other profession is regulated, we want intending players to be registered with Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, TRCN, and NAPPS. We hope the new formed agency will implement this,” he said.
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I’m passionate about building tomorrow’s leaders – Peter Harrison