From ‘expensive’ to ‘affordable’ schools •How recession forced parents to withdraw children from private schools

A teacher and her students in a classroom

Due to economic recession many parents are finding it difficult funding their children’s education. BIOLA AZEEZ, ISAAC SHOBAYO, TADE MAKINDE and NAZA OKOLI report that schools are frantically making efforts to retain their students, just as parents mull their next move.


A S the economic situation of the country bites harder, parents are increasingly finding it difficult to cope with their responsibilities towards their children, especially in the area of their education.

Just as prices of goods and services had gone up, school fees in many private schools across the country have also increased, leaving many parents in a dilemma.

Investigations across the states show that many schools are currently coping with withdrawal of pupils and students by their parents who could no longer cope with the increased fees while several schools have also put in place measures to entice parents to enrol their children in their schools.

Most of the private schools in Lagos have, quite uncharacteristically, refrained from increasing their fees. The Deputy National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and Proprietor of Lagooz Schools, Lagos, Mr Abayomi Otubela, who spoke with Sunday Tribune recently said it is increasingly becoming difficult for many parents to meet their financial obligations to the school.

“Some of these parents used to be very prompt about these payments,” he said, “but when we noticed that some of them were suddenly not able to pay their children’s fees, we allowed them to continue. We understand that things haven’t always been like this. The economic situation is seriously affecting all of us, school owners, because whatever happens to parents in their places of work would surely affect us one way or another.”


Cutting expenditure

The Chairman of the Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Ebute-Metta Zone, Lagos, Deacon Omoyajowo Babatope Peter, said it would be unthinkable for any school to increase its fees at this time.

“No, no, we have not been able to increase our fees. In our meeting as school owners, we discussed these issues. We found that even with the amount they are paying now, some of them are withdrawing their wards. Many children have stopped coming to school, due to the fact that parents cannot afford to pay the current school fees. No school is thinking of increment at this time, because it is obvious that the economy is so bad… increasing the school fees is like making the matter worse.

“So what we do in essence is that we try to reduce whatever will be our overhead expenditure. Where we should have used three teachers, we may decide to use one or two, so that we can reduce the amount we pay as salaries.”

Though it has been rumoured that private schools have been losing their pupils to public schools (where education is free) since the beginning of the economic crisis, many of the private schools contacted by Sunday Tribune denied that there have been any such cases in their schools. However, a parent told Sunday Tribune on Friday that he had attempted to enrol his child at a public school at Egbe (Ikotun), but was asked to provide “evidence of tax payment.”

When contacted about this matter, however, the spokesman of the state Ministry of Education, Mr Segun Ogundeji, said he was not aware of any such policy.


Cheaper alternatives

From all indications, economic recession is currently taking its toll on parents across the nation. In Plateau State, for instance, Sunday Tribune investigations revealed that quite a number of parents have withdrawn their children from schools that jacked up their fees and re-enrolled them into schools with affordable fees.

Though there are those who have not increase their fees, cost of books and other educational materials needed have gone up. The situation is worse for parents who have children in boarding schools.

A school administrator, who did not want his name in print, told Sunday Tribune that some schools can afford to retain their old fees but cannot compromise on the cost of feeding, among others, that are needed for boarding students; hence the reason for the increase in the fees paid by boarding students of private schools.

“The cost of food items has gone up, so to feed the students in line with the standard of the school, the fees for those  in boarding houses have to be adjusted to meet the economic reality in the country,” he said.

Recently, Parents Teachers Association of Federal Government College Jos, had to embark on a protest over astronomical increase of school fees. Though the management of the school did not succumb to the wish of the parents, Sunday Tribune findings at the school revealed that quite a number of the students have not returned a week after resumption.

A parent,  who identified himself as Dauda Baliri, said the school was initially conceived to cater for the children of the poor and underprivileged, adding that with the increase he has no choice than to withdraw his two children and enroll them in school owned by the Plateau State government.

“I am a civil servant. My salary which is not regular remains the same; so where would I get money to meet up. The only choice I have is to withdraw them and take them to school I can afford, to avoid future embarrassment,” he said.

It is the same pathetic story with parents who have children in private schools. Two weeks after resumption, many children are her to resume due to inability of their parents to pay their school fees.

A visit to some of the private primary and secondary schools in Jos revealed that there is a massive withdrawal of pupils to government schools not minding the condition of such government schools, which are in a parlous state.

A single parent and a civil servant, Rhoda Gyang, who has three children in private schools, said the economic situation in the country and Plateau State in particular, has affected her income and that she could no longer afford to keep her children in private schools.

She appealed to the government to consider the plight of Nigerians and arrest the economic recession in the country saying things are no longer what they used to be.

A roadside banner ‘enticing parents with slash in fees
A roadside banner ‘enticing parents with slash in fees

A teacher in one of the public schools in Jos, who would not want to be named, said the number of enrollments into public schools have increased, urging the government to improve on the standard to be more attractive.


Adding value to retain students

In Kwara State, most private school owners have increased their fees and many parents are not finding it a pleasant experience.  Parents who spoke with Sunday Tribune expressed disappointment and helplessness with the increase.

Sunday Tribune gathered further that many parents had changed their children’s schools for cheaper ones, while some parents were yet to make up their minds after the long holiday due to the hike in school fees, saying they are yet to come to terms with how to cope or manage the situation.

Mr. Solomon Adebara, who said he has three children in different private schools in Ilorin, said he had engaged private teachers to teach one of the children in SS3 class to aleviate his financial burden.

“As it is now, for someone like me, it’s just like returning to the era of using private teachers. At least the one in SS3 can take his exam from home and pass,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr. Ambali Yusuf, said he has withdrawn one of his children from his school to a nearby private school which charges less fees, considering the increase in the fees charged by the former school, coupled with cost of transportation.

“Come to think of it, there’s grade among these private schools. However, parents will no longer have any option but to overlook the issue of grade now. So many parents have taken their children to those ones charging lower fees like I have done. I have taken them to one near our home with lower fees,” he said.

It was also gathered at the private schools visited that none of them had any plan to attract any parent with reduction of their fees.

Though, some faith-based private schools neither reduced nor increased their fees but it was gathered that they added value to attract and encourage parents to retain their wards in school. An example is one in Gbagba area of Ilorin, where free extra coaching had been organised for both junior and senior classes.

Reacting to issue of reduction in school fees by private schools, Mr. Dele Lawal said, “For where? Not in Nigeria! For private school owners to reduce tuition fee? One will have to wait for Godot.”

Some private school proprietors spoken with under condition of anonymity, however, explained that the decision to increase fees was due to economic reality.

They also said that the decision was made known to parents at PTA meeting prior to implementation, adding that the current economic reality had given them no other alternative.

“You can imagine what’s happening in the country. Prices of almost every item has gone up even beyond reach of many people. You can’t imagine cost of books, instructional materials, and cost of staying in business. It’s so exorbitant now,” one of them said.

In Ibadan, its not only public schools that are benefiting from the recession. Some private schools are also benefiting. These are the schools that have chosen to retain their last tution fees compared to those who have increased theirs this new session.

A parent, Mrs Kehinde Wahab, told Sunday Tribune that she has taken her daughter from a school in Lagos to Ilorin, Kwara State because of the high school fees she has to pay this year. “Without prior notice, the school sent a letter that the management had increased fees and stated no reason. That was what got me angry. We know that things are tough, but this school has been charging huge fees for ages and expectedly, should have saved for times like this. What I mean by this is that it is too soon for the school to have rushed to increase fees without reason. Many of us know it must have been because of the recession, but we have not been told that,” she said.

In Ilorin where her 6-year-old daughter is now, she has been registered in another private school. “I liked the atmosphere when I went there. My twin sister lives there. She recommended the school for me and I’m okay with it. The fee is affordable for me compared to that of Lagos. I pay N420,000 per session in Lagos compared to Ilorin’s N188,000.”

A new school at Molete area of the city (name withheld) is mopping up free students as fast as it can and its classes are already full because of its low tuition. Most neighbouring schools in its vicinity, about six of them, are losing students at a rate they say is becoming unbearable. The school charges N9,000 per session compared to others in the area. One school in the area charges almost N40,000 per session. This high prices has informed the decisions of many parents to withdraw their children from the school.

A parent, Mrs Yemi Adeleke, told Sunday Tribune that the owner of the school her daughter attends, a former “teacher,” assured parents sometime last year; that she was not going to increase fee this session and she has kept her promise.”

Another popular private school at Ososami area has also increased its tution from N18,000 to N26,000 beginning from the new academic year. Many parents have complained to the owners, but most of them have paid the new fee as the increase is still considered to be within their reach. But a parent, Mr Gbadeyanka Adejobi, who has promised to withdraw his kids from the school until he finds a cheaper one, said he can’t continue to pay for three kids he has in the school.

“What is the guarantee that school fees won’t be increased next year? Most proprietors are like shylock estate agents. It is now a common thing for them to increase fees every year. No school accepts same fee for more than two years before they increase it again. Nobody bothers about the quality of what is imparted in these kids, just money. When will Nigerians love for money stop?,” he lamented.

Investigation by Sunday Tribune, however, reveals that not schools have increased their fees, neither have they lost their students to other schools. ECWA Primary School, Challenge, Ibadan, has continued with its fees put in place since about five years, said Mrs Dolapo Adewakun a parent. The atmosphere is one of the attractions for me. I am not paying because the school belongs to a church; I am paying because they do well, teaching toddlers and teens,” she asserted.

“At the security, health, PTA, transport, among other services, are provided all session long. I don’t think they are charging too much, compared to many private schools that are not even up to the standard of this school,” she added.