•Buy books, textbooks, other educational materials outside school

By Gabriel Dike

For many parents and guardians, this is a harrowing moment. Sending their wards back to school is not an easy task. Across the country, parents are gnashing their teeth and agonizing as they struggle to pay school fees and buy educational materials for their children due to hikes in fees by public and private schools.

In the universities, recent increment of tuition fees has led to protests by students and threat to shut down the campus if fee hike is not reversed.

Reports from many states indicated that recent increase in the school fees by government-owned schools and some private schools is generating a ripples effect with mass withdrawal of their children.

The parents who spoke in separate interviews in Lagos, Abuja, Kwara, Kwara, Delta, Katsina and Oyo states expressed concern on the effect of fee hike.

The parents called on governments to take immediate action to mitigate the adverse effects of the petroleum subsidy removal on parents and school owners.

A civil servant, Mr. Rotimi Lawrence, said he had to withdraw his child’s admission from a government school due to increase in tuition fees, a development he said was not envisaged at the initial stage.

Lawrence, who said he was pained to take such a decision, said parents were struggling with the increased cost of living.

“It is heart-breaking to note that private schools are increasing school fees but we understand with them. Government schools, which should be a succour to parents, also increased theirs.

“We are struggling with an already dire economic situation caused by removal of petroleum subsidy and schools are compounding the problems by increasing fees which we can’t cope with.

“For me not to allow this problem to continue, I had to withdraw my daughter from school when I heard that government schools had increased fees to N100, 000, this is apart from other payments for new students,” he said.

A nurse, Mrs. Folashade Abdulrahman, appealed to school proprietors to be considerate in their approach to fee adjustment by taking into consideration the fact that salary of workers has not been reviewed upward.

Abdulrahman said schools need to cover their costs, but pleaded for transparency and a fair balance between quality education and affordability.

A single mother, Lizzy Ogbu, wants the government to step in and address the issues of tuition hike so that the less-privileged can also have opportunities to give their children quality education.

Ogbu said though the actual school fees might be low, the additional cost of sending a child to school, which school owners increased, is preventing parents from sending their children to good schools.

“We can’t bear the cost of sending our children to good schools. Most parents want quality education for their children but the fee hike is preventing this. I have to withdraw my child from the school because of the increase in school buses by 100 per cent.

“I know that I will not be able to sustain payment of the school bus; hence I withdrew my child to a nearby school where he can trek to and from school, not minding the quality of teaching.

“I want the best education for my child, but it’s becoming increasingly unaffordable. These rising costs of textbooks and other costs are pushing us to our limits. We know that education is a fundamental right, but it is disheartening to see it becoming a luxury for many. We plead with those in authority to take this seriously,” she said.

In Lagos, some parents are mulling withdrawing their children from private primary and secondary schools to public schools.

The parents said with two to three kids in private schools in Lagos, it would be impossible for them to meet up with the payment of the new fees and many have concluded plans to withdraw their wards to public schools. 

Immediate past Chairman, National Association of Proprietress of Private Schools (NAPPS), FCT Chapter, Mrs. Olusola Bankole, appealed to parents for calm, as the situation was a phase that would pass soon.

He advised parents to plan ahead and schedule their spending in line with their earnings.

“The situation in Nigeria, especially as it relates to the economy affects all sectors as you know. Meanwhile, please pay attention to your children’s learning by ensuring that they get the best.

“Also, kindly provide such leadership and growth mindset that make your children turn out with positive values. Plan ahead and schedule your spending in tandem with earnings. We all have to adjust as all hands must be on the deck for a more prosperous society,” she said.

The parents, in separate interviews, said the increment was too sudden amidst the present economic situation.

The parents said the hike was coming at a time when Nigerians were grappling with economic challenges occasioned by fuel subsidy removal, which has affected the general cost of living.

Parents acknowledged that the situation had forced them to resort to borrowing in the form of bank loans and other sources to be able to send their wards back to school.

A civil servant and father of four, Mr. Victor Okoye, said he paid N150,000 for school fees per child, totaling N600,000.

“But now the amount has doubled. I am now to pay N300,000 per child, that is a total of N1.3 million for my four children.

“The only way I will be able to meet up with the new fee increment is to borrow from my bank or any other source,” he said.

Another civil servant and mother of two, Mrs. Abiemwese Moru, said the situation was unbearable and challenging.

She, therefore, called on governments at all levels to increase salaries of workers to enable them to take care of their family.

A civil servant, Mr. Maharazu Ahmed, suggested that in view of the economic challenges, the government should subsidise tuition by setting a benchmark on what should be paid as school fees.

“This standard will enable the government to monitor the price of school fees and prevent rapid hikes to enable the poor to access education.

“The education loan scheme of the Federal Government should be allowed to start so that students in secondary and tertiary institutions can access it,” he said.

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Ahmed explained that parents should learn how to budget ahead and plan well to meet up with the situation because education is a necessity for children.

“Parents are expected to make sacrifices for their families in order to meet up with the cost of school fees. They can pay bit by bit before the term elapses, with that, they can meet up with the amount required as school fees,” he admonished.

A parent, Mr. John Amebo, however, advised parents to cut down on their expenditure, adding that they should send their children to schools they can afford to avoid unnecessary debts.

In Ilorin, Kwara State, a visit to some schools saw students and parents making frantic efforts to register for the new academic session.As the students were seen eager to start studies and meet new friends, parents were struggling to pay the school fees, acquire needed textbooks, notebooks and school fees.

Some parents lamented the increase in the school and book fees of some private schools, while others wondered how to cope with transporting their children to school with the spike in transportation fare.

A parent at Flora Schools in Tanke, Mr. Abdulhakeem Oyawole, said his son’s school fees for Primary 4 was increased from N45, 000 to N61, 500.

He said it was unfortunate that everything had increased while his salary remained the same as a Federal Government worker. He appealed to the government to consider raising the minimum wage because there was nothing left to take home from the present salary due to the effects of fuel subsidy removal.

Another parent at Precious Pearls Primary and Secondary schools, Hajia Mariam Mohammed, said though the school fees were not increased, the transportation fare has doubled the old amount.

She lamented that the fee for the school bus was N5,000 before the end of last session, but it is now N10, 000.

She appealed for a palliative measure from the government that would address transportation as that of food had been sorted out.

At International Nursery and Primary School, Kaure area, Mr Kumbi Ajayi said his son’s fees in KG 2 were increased from N16, 500 to N19, 500.

He also called for the government’s intervention to enable them to give their children basic education.

In Oyo State, schools visited included Rhema Chapel International College, Oluyole area, Ibadan, Christ Ambassadors International School and Oluyole High School. Others included Government College, Ibadan (GCI), People’s Primary School, Ring Road, Oluyole Private school, Oluyole, St. Leo’s Private School, Orita, Ansar-u-deen Primary School, Ososami; and George and Duke Secondary School, Felele, all within Ibadan metropolis.

Parents and guardians also lamented the spike in fees.

But principal, Rhema Chapel International College, Oluyole, Mrs. Taiwo Oyedemi, urged parents to assist the school by being alive to their responsibilities and support their efforts in the training of their wards and moulding their characters for a brighter future.

Principal, Government College, Apata, Ibadan, O.J Amao, said the school resumed peacefully and thanked God for the return of new and old students.

Investigations revealed that many parents now buy their children’s educational materials in bookshops rather than in the school bookshop due to exorbitant cost.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it would set up a formal negotiation team between the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and relevant stakeholders to look into recent hikes in fees in schools across the country.

Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Sununu, made this known at a news conference to herald the commemoration of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack in Abuja.

Sununu said hike in school fees could be a core factor leading to attacks in schools, hence the need to look into the area to avert further attacks.

“So many areas that require finances are being attacked but we must also look at the constitutional provisions.

“The constitutional provisions expressly states that free education but with a caveat ‘when government can afford’ and that is why it also comes as voluntary contributions by all stakeholders.

“When we say safety in schools, it is a collective responsibility. So we are going to encourage formal negotiations.

“Where we cannot provide, it is to encourage PTA and relevant institutions so that we can agree to a term that is acceptable to all of us. Also, we will encourage a lot of partnerships as part of areas that can bring peace. Whether we agree or not, we must appreciate the role of PTAs in sustaining services in lots of our schools in both local and federal levels.

Meanwhile, Owners of Private Schools Association of Nigeria (OPSAN) has urged the Anambra State Government to review the multiple taxes and levies demanded by its agencies from private school proprietors.

Prof. Uzochukwu Nwanonyuo, national president, OPSAN, made the call on Monday, during the inauguration of the association’s new Anambra state executive led by Chief Ernest Iwuamadi.

Nwanonyuo said that private schools should not be perceived as a business venture but as an institution that offered social services for God and humanity.

He urged Governor Chukwuma Soludo to urgently intervene and bail the private schools from the challenges of multiple taxation, illegal levies and other unwarranted payments.

The woes over fees hike is not restricted to primary and secondary schools.

The tertiary sector has been on the boil in recent times. Students at University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Abuja and other federal universities are currently agitating for a review of fee hike the management.

At UNILAG, there was a protest by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) for the management to reduce the obligatory fees.

Students of UI have issued a five-day ultimatum against the university management to invite its leadership for discussion or face mass protest.

Due to the high cost of books sold by schools, parents now purchase exercise books, textbooks, and other educational items at bookshops, which is relatively cheaper.

Some parents told The Education Report that they now patronize bookshops outside the schools to buy educational materials for their wards. 

•Additional report from NAN