■ My children were asked to bring a packet of biscuit each but I decided to buy one for two of them – parent
■ Most parents are complaining of recession, saying they don’t have money, because of that their response is very poor –proprietress
By Jet Stanley Madu and Chidiebele Iloeme
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…. Christmas is in the air and, schools like every other organisation, are gearing up to participate in the mother of all celebrations. With the exception of public schools, almost every private school you visit, you see the staff and students in Christmas mood. You see delight and gladness written on their faces. Their joy derives not only from the fact that the stress of the first term works that comes from marking of exam scripts and compilation of results is gradually easing up, but also from their great expectations on the end-of-year/Christmas party which has become entrenched as part of school curricular, across private schools in Nigeria. As things stand, each of them has picked specific date for its Christmas party. While many held theirs last week, more are set to do so this week.
Time to party
For students and staff, it is time to party and make merry once again. But for parents and guardians, whose money is expected to go into the making of the party and merriment, their smiles are not as broad as the partygoers. In fact, they are not smiling at all, this time around, no thanks to the biting recession.
The Christmas party, many say, is one of those school extracurricular events for which parents are made to cough out more money outside tuition fees to enable their children and wards participate alongside their peers. The Christmas levy is only part of numerous other levies that include inter-house sports, excursion and cultural day.
But this Christmas, while some parents and guardians have resigned themselves to fate and are indifferent, others are complaining bitterly about the jerking up of the levy by some school owners and their management.
Why we pay Xmas party levy
In Festac Town, Lagos State, Mrs. Alabi Mojisola told The Sun Education that being a Muslim the Christmas party levy is unnecessary for her, even though she is not against Christians celebrating one of the tenets of their faith. “I just pay so that my little boy can have fun and not feel left out,” she said, matter-of-factly.
A woman who simply gave her name as Mrs. Nwamaka revealed that in the school where her kids are, each child is charged as much as N3, 000 for this year’s Christmas party. She disclosed that the levy was incorporated in the initial school fees at the beginning of the term. “But can you bargain the school fees?,” she queried. “Though it is money I could have used for something else, those for whom we pay these levies are children. They will cry if you don’t pay to let them have their fun.”
Mrs. Josephine Ndubuisi whose children school with a Catholic school in Ebute Meta, Lagos, said though the school does not harass parents over the Christmas party levy, because it incorporates every levy in each term’s school bills, such that payment is made at the start, she is, however, not happy that the school did not consider the prevailing economic crunch before jerking up this year’s Christmas party levy from N3, 000 to N4, 000.
Differing views on ‘non-commensurate’ rewards
Another point that she raised against the levy is the fact that the gift items given to the students are mostly not in sync with amounts being charged. “Last year, we paid N3, 000. But this year, we paid N4, 000 for the Christmas party. But I know most parents are not happy that at the end of the day, the children are not given something worthwhile. You pay huge amount as school fees, then you’re made to pay Christmas, sports, excursion cultural levies, it’s largely burdensome. It is a clear indication that school is now all about money. That is where the attention is in most schools.”
But debunking her claim, the Proprietress, Royal Pearl Montessori, Iba, Lagos, Mrs. Helen Odunlade said that schools often hand out gifts of various kinds to pupils and students. “Depending on schools, we give them material benefits. The students feel and enjoy the presence of Father Christmas and the joy that comes with the mood of the season,” she said. “On the party day, the children are engaged in various displays such as singing, dancing, or in drama display that help to showcase their talents. We discover these talents and build upon them. With what is on ground now, I don’t think this year’s event will be it. Actually, parents love their children’s participation in virtually all school curricula. But the present economic reality in the country now is not helping matter. Most parents are complaining of recession, saying they don’t have the money. So, it’s not helping the school at all. For us, the levy is N1, 500. Even at that, the response is very poor.”
Mrs. Clementina Abeke, the Director of Studies, Doregoes Academy, Ipaja, Lagos, shares Odunlade’s view. She explained that Christmas Party is one of the ways schools have adopted to teach Christian students about their faith. “Everyone of us celebrate birthday,” she said. “So, it is pertinent that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. We need to celebrate His birthday everywhere. And that is what we’re doing now. And that is why it’s so popular in school. Celebrating the birth of Christ is something that all religions –Christians, Moslems, Hindu, Judaists and what-have-you have come to know Christians for. And this thing has been on even before the birth of Mohammed. So, we need to teach our children that they need to celebrate their Lord.”
She dismissed the view about the Christmas party levy being an extra-ordinary burden and drain on parents’ purse. “In fact, parents love virtually every kind of educational activity that helps groom their children,” she insists. “And they love the Christmas party because once we hold party for students in the school, if they don’t have time to take the kids to any other party, they’re done. Really, they enjoy it because a lot of them don’t even have the time to take children to any other party. But, once they do it in the school and they take pictures, to them, it’s like, ‘I’ve done Christmas party for you.’ So, it pays them better that the children have the Christmas party in their school than at home because they would spend more.”
Parent, proprietress, public school pupil’s views
Mr. Iwalaiye Vincent whose two children attend a private school in Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, disclosed that as against cash levy of previous years, this year, the students were taxed to bring a pack of biscuits each. “They were asked to bring a packet of biscuits each. No cash was requested for,” he said. “For me, I decided I will give the two of them one packet.”
Asked his position on payment of other levies outside the school fees, he opined that, “the children have to socialize in order to develop themselves the more. It is important for them to get together. There’s nothing that doesn’t involve money. The school might not be able to do it alone. The school fees are separate. But, this is another cost on the school. So, we parents should assist.”
Miss. Jessica Nwogu, a JS 11 student in a private school in Coker Village, Iganmu, Lagos, said that their proprietress, mindful of the economic situation in the country, is giving them this year’s Christmas party for free. “Our Proprietress said she wished to throw the party for us at no cost in order not to overburden our parents,” she said. “The manner she spoke to us about the party, I’m of the feeling it will be full of fun. Despite the fact that the party is coming at no cost at all, she said that any student that misses it will regret.”
A student in public school was quick to point out that what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander. Master David Anisionwu, a pupil of Iba Housing Estate Primary School, Iba, Lagos laments that he does not know “why we (pupils and students in government-owned schools) do not hold Christmas party. I don’t know if they assume our parents would not like to pay for the party or that government may not approve of it. But I know many of us wish to have it done in our schools.”