A new school session is underway. For many parents, this is not the best of times. A lot of them are distressed; some are at a loss as to how to pay their children’s school fees. Many of them with children and wards in private schools now risk having them sent home for non-payment of tuition fees.
For this set of parents who daily lose sleep over their financial burden, school resumption is not just the best thing to happen to them.
The poor financial status of many Nigerians, occasioned by the near-comatose state of the economy, has made it virtually impossible for them to have this important aspect of their responsibility met.
According to investigations, most private schools, on resumption, hiked their fees. Some of them gave parents a deadline when the payment would be made.
On account of the foregoing, some parents have lamented that what schools are charging, especially for children in the nursery and primary classes, is unduly high and unwarranted, noting that the fees do not correspond with what children at such tiers of education should be made to pay.
Some parents who find it difficult to pay for their children’s tuition said they were faced with the option of withdrawing the kids and sending them to public schools or schools that charge lesser fees.
A parent, Pius Eze, lamented exorbitant school fees and the challenge of having to pay over N400,000 for three children. He said that the terrible state of the economy had put him and his family under intense pressure, and he was contemplating withdrawing them and enrolling the children in a public school.
He noted that, aside from the school fees, the cost of textbooks and stationery was way too high. Eze, a civil servant, noted that the situation at home had become so critical that he could hardly afford the school fees for the new term.
He further lamented that the fund he pulled out from the business he does to augment his income could not ameliorate the situation. He only managed to buy some items essential for his most senior son, who just got into secondary school.
More challenging is the case of Mr. Chibuzor Ikechuckwu, who said he was being owed salary for six months. He too lamented that, aside from not having money to pay for his children’s tuition, he owed his landlord rent.
He said parents like him were made to continually struggle to keep their children and wards in private school due to government’s neglect of the public school sector, which he said had gradually lost its former appeal. He described the state of most public schools as terrible, in addition to some of them being unsuitable for learning, they were increasingly becoming breeding grounds for criminality and other deviant behaviours.
“I am a product of the public school system and I am proud of the type of education I got back then. But, sadly, the same quality of education can hardly be obtained in most public schools nowadays.
“Our desire for the best is putting most low-income earners like me under undue pressure. The government should overhaul the education system to save parents from the stranglehold of private schools that are out to ensure that education goes to the highest bidder.
“If public schools were good enough, I don’t see why I would send my children to a private school where I have to pay through the nose to get them educated. Our children should not be deprived the fundamental right to education.”
A distraught widow, Mrs. Oloyede Oloyede, disclosed that her two children were sent back from school barely three weeks after resumption for non-payment of school fees. She lamented that the economy and society have not been favourable to her.
Oloyede’s quest to give her children a good start in life made her enroll them in one of the cheapest private schools in her neighbourhood.
“It is unfortunate that, at the moment, I cannot afford the school fees anymore. The thought of seeing my kids at home when their mates are at school is heartbreaking. However, I am working towards having them back in school, by the grace of God,” she said.
On his part, Clement Oba accused some private schools of taking undue advantage of the sorry state of government-run schools to charge ridiculously high fees, thereby making education exclusive for the rich. He then called on government to regulate the fees of private schools to make life easier for parents and guardians many of whom have been battered by the bad economy.
A concerned parent in Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, lamented that he and some other parents were forced to withdraw their children from a school that increased its tuition fee from N87,000 to N120,000, per term recently. He said he was compelled to take his kids to another affordable school after all entreaties to make the proprietress of the school to review the fees downward failed. He said the move became necessary to avoid becoming paranoid when it is time to pay school fees.
“All the children I know who left that particular school are doing excellently well elsewhere. I believe that their quality of learning did not in any way depreciate, as the proprietress sometimes wanted us to believe. The kids seem to be even doing better in their new schools.
“This idea of thinking that schools that charge exorbitant fees are better than others that charge lower fees is just a thing of the mind.
“To an extent, parents should be blamed for this constant hike in fees because they sometimes call for it,” he said.
Another parent lamented that they have lately been denied the option of paying in installments, adding that it has upset his budget. He recalled that he just received a circular from his children’s school that it intended to start what was termed “Operation Show Your Teller” soon.
“It means that children who have not paid their school fees would be turned back from the gate. The embarrassment this usually causes parents is too much. It also has a negative impact on the children. It exposes them to shame before other children who see how they are humiliated,” he said.
Nevertheless, some parents, despite groaning under the burden of high fees, still prefer their children and wards in private schools because they believe they are better off in terms of management, supervision, infrastructure and standard.
For instance, King Ozoemena would rather have his hands in many pies to ensure his children attend the best private school, objecting to having their learning compromised.
Speaking on the issue of compliance as it relates to the payment of tuition fees, the proprietor of Lil Hands Montessori School, Okota, Mr. Okosun Edgal, decried the failure of many parents to pay on time, noting that half of his students were yet to do so.
He said that the school was left with no option than to issue a demand notice to pupils whose parents were owing the school. In the past, leniency on his part made him incur a lot of debts, even as his staff had to be paid and the school’s running cost had to be met.
“It is sad that, despite sending several reminders, most parents still find it difficult to pay up. Even those who pay by the installments are not finding it easy either. Aside from empathising with them, we cannot lose sight of the fact that school is business,” he said.