By Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja
Abuja parents and caregivers are finding it difficult to cope. Some of them confessed to Daily Sun that in spite of plans they made ahead of January, coping with life has been tough due to other demands competing for their inadequate resources.
Yakubu Terna, resident of Kuru, appreciated God for the success of the previous term and year. She expressed optimism that the new term would also be a great academic success for his children. However, he admitted: “School resumption is always a nightmare for me especially first term.
“This is the time parents spend lots of money because of the movement of children to new classes or new school: I am not paying for books this term. But I still have to settle school fees, which come in thousands of naira. My children just resumed school and I am highly optimistic that I will pay their school fees before the end of January.”
A businessman in Utako Market, Sesugh Age, said: “Are we not in the same country where unemployment and poverty have grown beyond imagination? Economy has obviously collapsed and the consequences are increased hardship and poor standard of living.
“Though it is not a new academic year, there are, however, other financial needs outside the school fees to meet. Economic activities in Abuja have not stabilised. Election campaigns came and went but we could not feel the economic benefit of it.”
A resident of Dulse Alhaji, Martin Age, said last year was not too good for him economically. This led to his inability to settle his children school fees and other bills before school resumption:
“I have three children, two in secondary school while the last one is still in the primary school. I used to settle their school fees early before resumption, but I couldn’t do that this time. All my plans didn’t work out, not that I even did anything big during the Christmas celebration.
“My house is on fire now because my children in secondary school are on my neck for their tuition. They said the school authority would be sending anyone who has not paid home. I am scared they might be forced to return home from school.”
John Ameh, a resident of Kubwa, said he was prepared for the second term resumption before an emergency incident happened and he diverted the money: “I normally prepare ahead of every term for my children’s school fees and provisions for those living in school.
“But this year, it took another dimension because my second son was sick and all the money that I saved went into hospital bill. This is the second week of resumption yet my wards have not returned to school because I have not been able to settle their bills.”
Another parent, Kelechi, agreed that returning the children to school at this time of the year “is very tough, looking at the economic situation. We have three children in primary school. Most parents have turned emergency economists.
“Apart from fees, we need to renew our rent. The landlord is already giving us heat. This is really giving me sleepless nights because I don’t know the one to settle first. I need to pay to save myself from embarrassment and I don’t want the children to be sent home.”
A teacher, James Sesugh, said he has settled his wards’ tuition before resumption because he planned for it. He said he did not allow himself to be carried away by the celebration:
“The school expenditures were what I did before venturing into their Christmas gifts. I have settled everything and they are back to school. One of the reasons parents are lamenting today is because most of them refused to plan. Some went for extravagant celebration at the detriment of their children’s academics.”
Another parent, George, from Jabi, said: “Most Nigerians believe in miracles. They don’t plan nor work towards their goals. That is why every term you hear parents crying and lamenting on the cost of fees and things needed by the children to get back to school.
“I have settled my children’s fees, thank God, this is not the first term. It is not easy but it requires discipline of one’s self during the festive season which most of us lack.”
On COVID-19 safety protocols, most of the schools visited admitted to be observing safety tips. But interactions with their students showed that it was a thing of the past.
Ela Ogbu, a secondary school student in Kubwa, did not want the name of her school mentioned, said: “There is nothing like COVID-19 safety protocol in my school again.
“At about this time last year, we had a serious committee in the school that was charge of COVID-19 protocols. I was one of them. We were among the first to come to school and the last to go to our classes because we mounted the gate making sure the rules were kept.
“But this year, there is nothing like that again. Some of us that have face mask manage to hang it below chin. Even our teachers no longer wear it.”
Another student, Joy Okah, said: “The COVID-19 protocol is now a forgotten matter in our school. We now carry facemasks in our bags like books for emergency purpose.”