• Warn Number Of School Dropouts May Rise
• Blame Subsidy Removal For Hike In Fees
• Lament Fees Increase In Govt-Owned Schools
• ‘Palliatives Can’t Douse Current Tension’
As primary and secondary schools resume nationwide for a new academic session this September, parents have expressed distress caused by the pressure they are grappling with in their bid to send their wards back to school following the hike in fees and the prices of sundry necessary items.
Although the parents acknowledged that September of each year is always laden with heavy expenses associated with school resumption, they lamented that the removal of petrol subsidy barely three months ago by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu immensely contributed to their current ordeals.
A tricycle (keke) rider in Asaba, Delta State, Mr. Jude Nwajei, told news men that he would have loved to have the resumption date extended because “each time I remember the new fees I am going to pay for my three children in primary and secondary schools, and the fact that there’s no money for that yet, or in the nearest future, I feel I am not meeting my responsibility as a father.”
He lamented that the increase in fees came at a time his income was dwindling.
“I am a keke rider and since the increase in the price of petrol, the number of passengers has reduced and we have to spend more for petrol for the same distance, whether it’s full load or not. Now, I don’t go home with the kind of money I used to make in the past before the removal of subsidy.
“Upon that, schools have increased fees and the cost of books and everything about school has gone up. Many of us cannot send our children to school again. Some parents are thinking of changing their children’s schools, to take them to where school fees are less, though the quality may not be too good. The number of school drop-outs will increase and we hope this does not lead to increase in crime in the country.”
Another parent in Asaba, Ben Onyeji, said he had resolved to change school for his children because he could not afford the current fees announced by their school.
“The fees are now out of my reach and I cannot kill myself. Where do they expect us to get the money? Do they want us to steal? They don’t consider the common man in this country. Maybe they don’t want us to send our children to schools again, so that only their children would be educated.”
Onyeji, who is a trader, lamented that though the prices of his wares depend on the amount he bought them, patronage has nose-dived as customers complain of “no money.”
“They are not buying as they used to. We are making less profit, yet the cost of education is going high. How do we cope? It’s not everybody that has access to free money, so they should consider us. To feed now is even a problem and people are cutting down on luxuries. It has never been so bad for most of us in this country,” he lamented.
A parent, Mr. Marcel Echinile, said the subsidy removal was a big blow and had put unnecessary tension and pressure on him. He argued that the removal of subsidy by President Tinubu without putting any measures in place to cushion its effect was a serious setback to him and many other vulnerable Nigerians.
He said: “I was unable to pay school fees of my children last term. The school management would have sent my children back home because of the demonic removal of the fuel subsidy if not the understanding I had with the proprietor.
“School would soon resume, perhaps in two weeks time, I am only trusting in God to do miracle for the payment of my children’s fees. The unexpected fuel subsidy removal has really thrown me off balance in meeting the basic needs of my family.
“As I speak, I am planning to pull them from private school to public school, ditto other parents, to avoid unnecessary high blood pressure as a result of the satanic removal of the fuel subsidy.”
Another parent, Mr. Okafor Ogedima, said: “The situation is affecting me so much, considering my very lean resources. The subsidy removal issue is telling on all sectors of our lives. I’m not sure the palliatives will douse any tension emanating from this subsidy removal.
“For now, I’m not thinking of sending my children to school, but how to feed them. Have you been to the market of recent? If you have, you will know what I mean. In fact, this government should go beyond scratching the surface in dealing with the hardship caused by the subsidy removal.
“This is because income has remained virtually constant, as our small-scale businesses are not helped by the epileptic power supply, which still boils down to the use of fuel to run our generators, both at home and our places of work. It all results to square one.” He said the country’s economy had become inelastic and something has to be done urgently to ameliorate the hardship being suffered by the people.
A civil servant in Calabar, Cross River State, Mr. Emmanuel Itu, lamented that the thought of school resumption had been giving him sleepless nights.
“In fact, I have been grappling with how I am going to cope with payment of school fees, books and other charges for my four children.
“As a civil servant with a salary of under N100, 000 a month, how on earth can I pay school fees for my two children in Federal Government Girls College, Calabar, now that the Federal Government has increased fees in unity schools across the country by over 100 per cent?
“Before now, I was struggling to pay N45, 000 each for two of them per term, including other charges, but with this increase, I am required to cough out over N200, 000. As it stands now, I may be forced to move them to a public school before I completely grow grey hairs.”
A widow with three children, Mrs. Grace Iwuala, also stated: “I don’t want to think about school resumption, because I don’t know where to start from. With this very difficult economic situation in the country, worsened by the removal of fuel subsidy, I may resort to selling some of my properties to be able to meet up with payment of school fees.
“If the Federal Government can declare free education at all levels for just one year, it would go a long way in cushioning the effect of this hardship, instead of this N5 billion given to politicians to do what they like with it.”
A mother of one in Calabar, who identified herself as Sandra Igiri, said her daughter’s school sent her a hefty bill to pay as first term fees. According to her, all SS1 students of the school, which is her daughter’s class, are being charged N133, 000 each for the term, which includes tuition of N5, 000; N55,000 for listed books; two pairs of uniform cost N15,000; sport wears, N7, 000; day wear, N7,500; N3,500 for laboratory; N3,000 as development levy and N300, 00 for the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) fees. I can tell you that most parents are not finding it easy to raise money to foot the new bill,” he lamented.
In Abuja, 45-year-old mother of three, Roseline Agboola, said she was looking for about N500, 000 to pay school fees of three children. Another parent, Amos Bulus, lamented that the situation was pathetic and overwhelming.
“One of my daughters has been promoted to senior secondary class and the tuition of N120, 000 has been hiked to N180, 000 while the fee for the other one in junior school has been increased from N80, 000 to 120, 000. School bus fees was increased by more than 100 per cent, from N30, 000 to N65, 000,” he said.
“The proprietress of my children’s school called to inform us that their school fees have been doubled. Honestly, I was very dumbfounded when she broke the news to me.
“As I am talking to you, I really don’t know when I am going to get that kind of money by the time the children will be resuming this September. I have three of them in that school. We are considering moving them to a government-owned school just outside the estate where we live.
“To cope with the escalating costs, I have had to cut down on other expenses, reduce non-essential spending and sometimes borrow money from friends or family members,” Ogbu lamented. Awoniyi Salau said: “My worry is that the escalating costs may increase the educational inequality gap. Nigeria currently has about 20,000,000 children who are out of school. If the current economic hardship continues, a lot of parents may have to withdraw their children from school to ease the pressure on them.
“The administration really needs to live up to expectations of the people. The hardship in the land is real and is biting hard.”In Ekiti State, residents also expressed concerns over increase in school fees and the cost of textbooks, among other sundry expenses.
Some parents who spoke with The Guardian said that in some cases, fees had been increased by over 50 per cent, while the cost of textbooks and school bus had also been jerked up.
A civil servant, Mr. Oluwatuyi Thomas, said that the private school attended by his two kids raised the fees from N45, 000 per term to N70, 000 even when salaries of workers have not been increased.
A trader at Kings Market, Ado Ekiti, Mrs. Oguntuase Monisola, said apart from increase in fees, textbooks prices had gone up by about 50 per cent. “I used to pay N20, 000 per term but now it has increased to N30, 000,” she said.
In Ondo State, parents disclosed that they were also facing mounting pressure due to the increase in expenses associated with their children’s education.
Checks by The Guardian showed that virtually all the primary and secondary schools in Akure, the state capital, increased their fees. The situation is more evident with schools that offer shuttle bus services and those operating boarding facilities.
For instance, some schools increased their fees by an additional N10, 000 to N35,000, while the bus shuttle, which used to cost around N30,000 per term, now costs as much as N83, 000 in most of the schools.
A parent, Mr. Wole Fadipe, who has two children in one of the top secondary schools in Akure metropolis, stated that he was yet to figure out how he would cope with the situation.
“My wife and I already knew that the school would definitely increase the fees, but we never thought that they would be this high. Do you know the funny thing the school did? We used to get the amount to pay for the following term on the last day of the term. But while we went to get the results of the children’s last session, we were surprised that the school did not include the fee to be paid for the next term.
“It was just last week that their class teachers sent the fees to be paid to us through a WhatsApp message. Those that I even pity most are those who have their wards in the boarding facility. It is just too high,” Fadipe said.
In Osun State, a parent, Olaide Olatunji lamented the rising cost of education, noting that everything is getting out of hand.
“My daughter’s school fees has increased from N40, 000 to N45,000. I’m yet to know the cost of books because we haven’t been given the list of their textbooks for this new session,” she said.
Another parent in the state, Seyi Adeniji, also said: “Everything is expensive; we are not happy with the situation. It is a very difficult period for me as a parent in this country. I have spent a lot of money on getting new things for my child in secondary school. Where do I start? The elder sister is also in the university.”
As a consequence of the hard times, the proprietor of a private secondary school in Ibadan, Oyo State, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian that there would likely be low turnout of students this term. “As you can see, only a few students are here for summer coaching because of financial difficulty being experienced by their parents. How is it going to be when the students resume new session?”
In Enugu State, Mr. Mike Nweze, who was spotted in the premises of one of the new generation banks at the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria, said he was running around to settle some fees for his son who just gained admission into the university. He said he still had the bills for three of his children in secondary school to settle.
“This is where the challenge is. The last time, the fees were below N80, 000.00 for each of them. Currently, they have increased it to N110, 000 per person. The books for each of them is not less than N30, 000.
“So I have decided that they will no longer be joining the school bus. I will be doing the school run and any other alternative that we may find. So, paying school the fees is now the greatest challenge.
“Remember, they will eat. You need to buy food even for the one entering the university. So, even when my salary and that of my wife who is a civil servant has not increased by one naira since they removed fuel subsidy, our expenses have continued to stare us in the face. That is the way it is,” Nweze bemoaned. Mrs. Joy Chukwu, a mother of five, is frantically looking for another school for her children.
“We decided to change schools for them when the management of the school they were attending increased the fees. They were living in the school. It is not something that we can afford any longer. But the problem now is that almost all the schools have increased their fees. So, how to meet up with the fees is making me lose sleep. There is no money anywhere. Everything in the market is on the high side. I am seriously looking up to God to come to our aid,” she said.
In Lagos State, many parents are weighing their options, following the hike in fees amid the high cost of living. Mr. Alex Bamidele has three children in a private school in the state. Though the increase in their fees was moderate, the cost of the school bus was hiked by over 150 per cent.
He explained: “The fees didn’t get a significant increase, I think they are also being considerate with the economic reality. But then, the school bus, which was N35, 000 per child, now costs N95, 000.
“As much as it is beyond their control, it is a huge burden that we will have to start living with. My income hasn’t increased. In fact, expenses have only continued to be on the rise. I wonder if there will be a way out of this situation. I look forward to palliatives in the educational sector.”