By Vera Wisdom-Bassey

It’s a few weeks into the year and, expectedly, schools have resumed for the second term of the 2022/2023 academic session for primary and secondary schools across the country. As also expected, parents and guardians are beginning to worry about how to offset the necessary bills in schools, particularly tution.

School owners often expect parents to clear the bills at the beginning of the session, including debtor parents who might be owing the school for the previous year’s service. In addition to the mandatory tution fees, fees for books and other miscellaneous such as report cards, and lesson fees, among others, also await the parents’ attention.

Going through the website of some popular private schools like Stella Maris College, one of the leading private schools in Abuja, there were signs that payment for fees and other levies were mostly done in foreign currencies.

In an interaction with parents and some owners of schools recently, they lamented the high cost of living and running the schools in Nigeria, as well as dwindling income to increasing responsibilities.

A journalist with one of the national dailies, Mr. Uche Nwosu, lamented the difficulty in meeting the obligation of children’s school fees most times: “It has been difficult for me in the last two years. I am thinking of how to make up the leftover of last year’s school fees for my children, which I am yet to figure out.

“Now I am faced with the reality of paying my daughter’s school fees for this year’s session with that of her siblings. I have gone to my creditors, gone to my bank, and even taken an upfront salary to enable me pay their school fees. The last one before this, I paid through a contribution, which I entered in my office, and I normally collect it when it’s closer to school fees time.

“I entered Ajo (daily contribution) to do this. It is not easy because my salary is nothing to write home about. It’s not much and without going the way of ‘Ajo’ to pay the fees, I would find it difficult to keep them in school.”

Mr. Johnson Inu, a commercial motorcycle rider otherwise known as okada, who resides in Agege, Lagos, and works with one of the national newspapers also complained that it has not been easy for him and his family because of dwindling economic fortune.

He said he has gone to the owner of the school that his children attend, introduced himself and also explained to them the state of his finances, and he was, surprisingly, allowed to pay in installments. “So, once I get the money, I rush to the school and pay. That’s how I have managed to keep my children in school.”

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 Another respondent, Sunday Nduka, whose son attends a private school in the Alabagdo area of Lagos State, said he registered a negative emotion when his son requested for N2,000, to pay for end-of-the-year party at his school last December. 

“What are they going to give the children? It is part of the many ways private schools exploit and extort parents. They demand fees for items they don’t have or offer the pupils. I won’t blame them, it is due to the kind of country we live in and the way we run it. After paying that huge amount of money for the school fees, they would periodically place other financial requests on the children.

“Now, look at it this way, from Meiran where you have the Lagos State Model College, down to Ajasa where there is the Nigerian Army Command School to Obasanjo Farm, and down to Toll Gate, which is the boundary between Lagos and Ogun states, we have just two public secondary schools and two public primary schools.

“One can now imagine where children of over 200,000 parents in those areas would attend school. That is why people are forced to put their children in private schools,” he said.

Another parent, Chinyere Ikeanyi, who had two children at a school located in Ijesha, complained about dwindling her economic fortune and how it has affected Nigerians and their standard of living.

She said her salary was “poor”. So, whenever she gets money she keeps it until time to pay her children’s school fees: “I pay in installments because I won’t like to wait and pay at once. It is better for me to pay in installments. I have made half-payment for the school fees and I intend to complete the payment before school resumes because the school will not allow me to owe them, they won’t allow me to rest.”

Chimes Okezie, a pastor, said he has finished paying his children’s school fees. He said he collected the list of things to do from the school and began to pay them as the resources were provided until he was able to pay all.

Mrs. Gloria Obi, proprietress of Crestgate Nursery and Primary School, Ishashi, Lagos, lamented that the cost of running the school had gone up; hence parents should understand and bear with them.

She said, “We give deadlines for parents to pay their children’s school fees and when they are unable to do so, we sanction the children by asking them not to come to school until their fees are paid.

“We also put them in our newsletter and if it stays longer than expected, we would implement, and those that will come to know they will stay and keep to our standard. It is not a secret thing, they know us because it is money that we use to run the school.”