Resumption in recession: How parents, schools hope to cope

Isaac Shobayo – Jos, Ebenezer Adurokiya – Warri, Adewale Oshodi – Ibadan, Yinka Olukoya – Ogun, Yinka Oladoyinbo – Lokoja, Hakeem Gbadamosi – Akure and Naza Okoli – Lagos, surveyed schools and spoke to parents on how they planned to surmount the challenges posed by harsh economic winds. Their report:

It is no longer news that the current economic recession in the country affects every sector of the economy, and education sector is not an exception with every Nigerian feeling the impacts of the economic hardship.

Speaking to some proprietors of private schools on the development, many of the school owners who spoke to Tribune Education explained that many parents who fostered their children at private schools for years have started weighing the option of sending them to public school because of the financial implication attached to the former.

One of the school owners, Mrs Lucia Adebayo of Brilliant Kid School, said parents were now worried about how to live and how to afford their three square meals and are less bothered about how to send their wards to good schools.

She said, “ The traffic of new students for this session is very low and not encouraging. Apart from this, parents are withdrawing their children from private schools to public schools.

“Before now, we found it difficult to pay our staff salary, so with this situation, many of the schools around may close down very soon. We only pray that things change soon.”

She, however, said the school management is not considering an increase in the school fee of the students. She said the school is taking this decision in order to maintain the number of students in the school.

She, however, failed to disclose if the school management would lay off some teachers considering the economic hardship experiencing by the country.

A teacher from Saviour Group of Schools, Olamiposi David, said prior to the recession, the issue of salary had always been a challenge, saying proprietors were fond of complaining about the dwindling number of students.

He disclosed that very few parents have visited the school to register their children for the new session which will begin this September and said the number was not encouraging.

Apart from this, parents also complained about the hike in the prices of textbooks and exercise books.

“We are reading about  the impact in our dailies every day. But we need to appeal to our government to fix the recession soon because education is so important and government should not treat it with kids gloves.”

Mrs Morolake Adeduntan said, “We used to buy books from the school before, but the school can no longer sell to us because of the high price. But what we are experiencing by buying the books at bookshops is unexplainable.”

She however faulted those withdrawing their wards from the private schools to public school saying that the public schools are the worst hit by the recession.

Class-education1According to her, most states government had to pay teachers in the last couple of months and the kids have been turned into the streets doing nothing and affecting the quality of education.

Investigation in some major towns of Kogi State showed that the private schools are in dilemma over how to deal with the problems created by recession in the country.

Findings in towns like Lokoja, Kabba, Okene, Idah, Ankpa and Anyigba revealed that the managements of many schools were yet to decide how to approach the situation.

A visit to one of the schools that runs both primary and secondary classes showed that the authorities were not disposed to increasing fees.

One of the management staff of the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he school was in a tight corner as any increase in fees could be disastrous.

He said many parents were unable to pay the present N60, 000 per term being charged by the school as a lot of students were still indebted to the school.

A parent, John Akubo, who spoke with Tribune Education said increasing fees would force many parents to withdraw their children from such schools.

He lamented that he had two children in junior secondary schools that charge N50, 000 per term and was yet to pay for the third term of last session.

He said, “The school was magnanimous to allow my children to write the last term examination, but they didn’t release their results. The school also increased the money we pay for school bus from N7000 per term to N10, 000 and that one is understandable.”

Tribune Education findings in Plateau State revealed that most private schools in the state have increased their fees along with other materials on the premise that the cost of books, uniforms among others have gone up. The situation is further compounded by those whose children are in boarding schools; they are expected to pay more as a result of feeding among  other essentials things.

A principal of a secondary school in Jos, Plateau State who did not want his name in print told Nigerian Tribune that, “Before my school increased the fees by 45 per cent several meetings were held with the Parent Teacher Association to find a way out in line with the economic reality in the country, but a consensus was reached to increase it by 45 per cent to meet up with the running cost.

“I can tell you that some parents who could not afford fees living in Jos have started withdrawing their wards from being boarders to become day students as means of cutting cost. Definitely, when school resumes the number of students will reduce.”

However, Tribune Education findings revealed that while enrollments in some schools were increasing others were going down based on fees.

A school administrator in one of the schools owned by a pentecostal church in Jos, said in the past one week no fewer than 50 parents have approached the school to transfer  their children from where they currently are.

Said she, “Though there is slight increment in our fees, but it still ranks among the lowest in the state. With our fees, many parents are still complaining, but there is nothing we can do about it,” she said.

Mrs. Helen Sabastine, a civil servant and mother of three in both primary and secondary schools said with the session , she needs  to buy new set of uniforms, sandals, books and other needs coupled with increment in school fees. “My salary as a widow cannot meet all these, the alternative is to look for affordable ones.”

Though the state of both public  primary and secondary education in Plateau State is still at the ebb and yet to improve, Tribune Education findings revealed there is a drift back to public schools due to the fees charged by private schools.

Schools in Ogun State will be officially resuming for a new academic session on September 17. However, the stark reality is that the present economic crisis is affecting parents, hence the decision of many withdrawing their children from private to public schools. A parent, Mr. Wasiu Raheem, said he had withdrew his children from a private nursery and primary school in Abeokuta, following the increase in fees by the school.

Another parent, Mr Dacosta Adeoye,  also said that his child’s school fees was increased with a sum of N7,000 and no official reason was given by the school management.

Mrs Joy Akinsanya said her child’s school fees were increased from N23,000 to N31,000.

The reason given by the management of the school for the increase was based on the provision of mid-day meal for the pupils.

A school owner,  Mrs. Yinka Banjo, said she still maintains the school fees for reasons best known to her.

Meanwhile, the Deputy National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and Proprietor of Lagooz Schools, Lagos, Mr Abayomi Otubela, 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 the other.”

In the same vein, the Chairman of the Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Ebute-Metta Zone, Lagos, Deacon Omoyajowo Babatope Peter said to cushion the effect of the crisis, his school and many others have elected to cut down their overheads.

“The economic recession has reduced the quality of services delivered. 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. A lot of 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.

“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.”

However, a teacher at a private primary school at Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, who did not wish to be named, said school fees had been increased in his school as a result of the economic crisis in the country.

“In my school, the school fees have been increased,” he said. “And parents have been complaining. They were all informed at the end of last term; and many of them, especially the ones close to me, have been telling me they will not be able to cope.”

In Delta State,  many parents plan to relocate their children and wards from high-paying private schools to less-paying public schools.

Speaking in this regard, a parent,  Mr Austin Amadhe, complained saying, “Everybody is running to government-owned schools where they won’t pay school fees because they can’t afford private schools.

“And if you want your child to go to school, text books will also increase because most of them are foreign books and foreign exchange rate is high, everything will increase.

“We just pray before the year ends, the economy will be stabilised because even the  government schools will not buy books or give uniform to your child.”

The bursar, First Baptist School, Warri, Mr Sodje Isaac, while speaking on the situation, said “Yes, the economic situation is not friendly no doubt, many are complaining every day.

“Talking about school fees increment, for us everything remains normal, because if you increase school fees, then the students may leave.

“Until the economy is normal, we can’t increase anything except text books prices that will be a little increment because the cost of materials to produce books is expensive.”

Another parent, Smart Ibini, said, “This is really a hard time. Things are expensive and nobody is happy about it. How many can afford common rice to eat and you’re talking about school fees.

“Well, we hope for the best. My hope is that even if school fees increase, it should not be more than what we parents can afford.

In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Mr Bayo Adeniji, proprietor, His Grace Foundational School, Apata, said, “The current economic situation in the country has really affected everyone. I can say that there are several parents who are yet to pay fully the tuition of their children for the last academic session. They keep begging us to give them some time, and there is nothing we can do other than to allow their children to keep attending classes. With a high number of our pupils owing, it is definitely affecting our teachers because we pay them with the money we get from the parents. There was even a family that didn’t pay a dime throughout the last academic session because the breadwinner lost his job, and it became difficult for him to pay his children’s tuition. Because of how committed he was to his children and the school while everything was rosy, we had no choice than to reason with him.

“Also, as the economic situation bites harder in the country, we are already anticipating a situation whereby many parents will not pay their children’s tuition on time, but there is a limit to which the school can help because we also pay our teachers. I just hope the economic situation in the country improves.”

Mrs Anu Olorunfemi,  who lives in Ibadan said, “It has not been easy paying the children’s tuition, I must confess. However, my husband and I have devised a way through it; we save a certain portion of our income on a monthly basis which we dedicate towards paying our children’s tuition. If we did not devise this method, I don’t know how we would be able to raise the money for the payment in this coming academic session. We should not forget that we need to buy new text books as well, as paying the tuition. Things are really becoming more difficult for an average Nigerian”.

Another parent, Mrs Deborah Adeleke, said, “Before now, I was contemplating putting my children in private schools because of the qualitative teaching, but I dare not try it at the moment. Being a single parent, I want the best for my children, but with the situation of things in the country, I hope they will continue to benefit from the no-tuition policy in public schools.”