James Ojo Adakole
After the Christmas merry-making and the shouts of ‘Happy New Year’ on January 1, as the new decade rolled in, parents have switched into the return-to-school mode in preparation for resumption of students for the second term of the 2019/2020 academic session.
One such parent is Mr Idowu Tosin who took a deep breath when asked about his preparation as schools are set to resume across the country. For Tosin, a father of five, struggling to keep his family afloat is anything but fine for the 40-year-old businessman.
“I don’t really allow thoughts of resumption to overwhelm me because that would be suicidal,” he said, with the gloomy look on his face very evident.
“To say things are okay for parents now is perhaps the greatest lie from the pit of hell. However, we are left with no choice, but to continuously continue to grapple with the reality on ground. All my five children will be resuming school next week or so. As usual, there will be new levies to be paid, new books and all of that. I only try to tackle the things I can take care of for the moment and leave the rest to God. If we could survive the tough times in 2019, then we’ll surely overcome whatever comes this year,” he told Sunday Sun.
Tosin is not alone. Many parents across the country are grappling with how to pay their wards’ tuition fees and other levies. Some of them who spoke with Sunday Sun expressed uncertainty, citing the hard time in the country.
For Mrs Peace Olakunle, the thought of resumption of schools is quite scary. “I don’t know if I am the only one in this situation, but things are somehow difficult at the moment. One of my children will register for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), this year and it seems the deadline for payment is January. The others will also need one thing or the other in their respective schools. January is probably the scariest month for people like me because it comes after the festive season. I am still thinking hard on how to go about the situation, though I cannot tell exactly how I will navigate through,” Olakunle said.
Another parent, Mrs Patience Adewale, lamented the rising cost of educational materials in the year.
“I went to the market about two days ago to get some things for my children, who will be resuming school this January and I was shocked by the astronomical prices of things. Things are becoming difficult for most low-income earners like us in Nigeria. We call on government to look into how to make prices of educational materials cheaper because that will go a long way in increasing the ability of other parents like me to send their wards to school.
“In a situation where things are becoming expensive on daily basis, many parents who struggle to survive will have little or nothing to shoulder the educational burden of their wards. We call on the government to help in this regard,” she pleaded.
Tough times, tough decisions
With the state of things in the country, many parents are trawling initiatives to beat the situation. Some of them told Sunday Sun that they had to cut down on their budget for the festive season to save for their wards’ school resumption.
“I am very careful about how I spend during the festive season,” Mr Paul James, a parent, said.
“Anybody in my shoes will do the same. What I do every December when I receive my salary, the first thing I do is to calculate what my children would need in January and earmark a portion of my monthly income for that. I do that every year and it has really been helping me prepare for whatever comes at the beginning of the year.
“Education is probably the greatest asset you can give your children as a parent. I don’t know if every parent reasons that way. So, there is nothing to be compared to giving them the best you can to ensure they have good education,” he said.
Mrs Ibikunle Olaiya is on the same page with Mr James. Whenever Christmas and New Year celebrations are closing in, Olaiya, a resident of Lagos, would indulge in personal savings from her total income to be able to support her husband in paying their children’s school fees.
“For us, the fear of January is the beginning of wisdom,” she said, flashing a smile. “What my husband and I do every December is to find out the total budget of our children’s schools and allocate a portion of our income to it. In most cases, we don’t always meet all the children’s needs, but the fact that we are able to settle a greater percentage of it makes it easier. When you look around, you discover many parents are really going the extra mile to pay their children’s school fees, especially in January. Some take loans, which usually come with anxiety.
“But we try to avoid being caught up in such situation, so we plan ahead. So far, it has been working for us. We only hope things get better in Nigeria this year, so parents can have less nightmare giving their wards quality education,” she said.