By Maria Famakinwa
With the current economic crunch that has gripped the country, coupled with high cost of living, many parents are finding it difficult to meet the educational needs of their children as another academic session begins.
According to them, some schools are not lenient as they insist that students show evidence of payment of all prescribed fees before they are allowed to return to schools. Even though this has been the tradition for most schools, especially boarding schools, prevalent economic realities in the country appear to have made payment of tuition fees a herculean task to some parent who expressed worry over the harsh economic situation.
They called on school owners to have a rethink and extend payment deadline till November ending.
A very disturbed parent and trader, Mrs. Yetunde Bada, while calling on government to find a lasting solution to the economic hardship and the increase in prices of goods said,“I don’t know where money is coming from, because things are really not smooth for me now. This is one of the toughest moments for parents like me. It is always difficult when children are resuming for a new academic session because of the huge financial involvement. There are textbooks to buy, fees and levies of various kinds to settle alongside other necessary materials your child need to look good among his/her schoolmates. The situation of things in Nigeria is tough now, but what are we going to do? We have to find a way to foot the bills,” she said.
Also, an artisan, Mr Sani Saliu, who revealed that one of his children just gained admission into higher institution and two others will be sitting for external examinations said that the burden was too much for him to bear.
He said, “I have been thinking about this for a while. This is because this period is more capital intensive since it is a new session. Another issue is that most customers who are owning me no longer pick my calls. Where then will I get money? My wife has been very supportive as well but things have not been easy. My last born is in Junior Secondary School three and it is also important that I get her all the textbooks because of the peculiarity of her class. Even though I have been budgeting seriously for that for a while now, but as you know, things are not moving well in Nigeria. So, it’s a general issue. I only hope that some of my customers who promised to pay as soon as possible fulfill their promises, otherwise, I may be compelled to change their school,” he said.
Sharing a similar view, another parent, Mrs. Beatrice Alloy, who commended her children’s school for allowing parents to make pay in installments called on other schools to replicate the same method of payment.
Her words,” everyone knows that things are very tough these days in the country. School owners must show understanding. Even though public schools are free to some extent, parents still prefer private schools to give their children the best education. I will equally appeal to proprietors to extend payment of school fees to at least end of November, especially for parents who have been sincere in the payment of their children’s school fees. School owners must bear with parents at this period because aside school fees and other school materials, children must eat. Another idea that is complicating the issue is that younger ones can not use the textbooks of their siblings who have passed through the same class because every text book comes with assignment which must be done inside the same textbook. Parents will be happy if government can address this idea of forcing us to buy the same textbooks every new session. I don’t see anything wrong if my last born use the textbooks of her elder brother since it is the same author and same content,” she said.
Another parent, Mr Sunday Olumuyiwa, advised school owners to find a way of making payment of school fees flexible for parents to sustain school business. He said,” private school owners and parents should reach an agreement on how it will be easy for parents to pay their children’s school fees if they hope to sustain themselves in the business.
“Some schools allow parents to be paying N5000 or N10,000 consistently till a fixed time until they pay up the stiputed amount required for the fees. I think that it is a better idea because most parents can’t pay their wards’ school fees at a go with the situation of things in the country”, he said.
A single parent of three, Ms Itunuoluwa, lamented that she was yet to complete her children’s textbooks let alone thinking of paying their fees. She said,” though, all my three children goes to public school, despite that, there are money to be paid. My last child is just starting JSS1, which means she must buy table and chair, pay for other things as a new student, failure to meet all the requirement means she will not be allowed into the school.
“I still have to buy textbooks for my two other children who are in SS1 and 2 respectively. I don’t know who to turn to for help. Those who promised to assist me are equally struggling to pay their children’s fees. I am seriously disturbed because aside school fees and textbooks, they will feed and need other things. I don’t think I have been in this kind of difficulty before. Those who would have helped are also looking for helpers. Everyone is crying of hunger. We are appealing to the government to find immediate solutions to the economic challenges in the country because many can no longer afford two square meals per day. The situation of the country is sending many to their untimely graves. That explains why sudden deaths are becoming a daily occurrence in the country.
“My neighbour with four children in private school withdrew them to public school because she could not meet all the requirements in public school she also deferred JSS1 admission of one of them till next year. This is what some parents are doing to cope with the economic challenges. I don’t think it is the best decision because suspending a child’s admission till next session may discourage such and affect his /her academic performance. We need urgent government intervention to address the problems,” she said.
A school proprietor, Mr Femi Ijidakin, explained that school owners are the worst hit by the country’s economic situation and revealed that most of them borrow to pay staff salaries due to backlog of debts owed by parents.
His words,” the economic situation is also affecting school owners. Most of school proprietors now run their schools with alternative funds as school revenue continues to shrink because of difficulties being experienced by parents in paying their children’s school fees. Some of the parents who are salary earners often promise to pay their children’s school fees in installments but at the end, only few actually keep the promise. We have about three or four months in a term so we have arrangement that allows them pay everything within that period but most of them don’t even pay up to half of their bills before the term runs out. They end up complaining that their businesses are either not moving well or that they are being owed salaries. Some even blame family issues for their inability to pay. Yet, our staff will not want to listen to any excuse at the end of the month.
“That has greatly affected the growth of the school. As management, we always strive to ensure that we don’t owe any of our staff. Before now, we used to ensure that workers’ salaries were paid as and when due, but now, we’ve been having serious problem paying the staff. Money raised from school fees and other levies are no longer enough. And the worst is that parents are not even paying as expected. Some of us are running the school on credit. Our challenge is that parents are not being truthful to their words. Some of the parents who have pleaded to pay at a certain date become so angry and threatened to take their children to another school, when you call to remind them of their commitment. Some did, without paying the debts owns. How do we reconcile this? Some school owners have closed down due to this reason. It is not easy for some of us as many think,” he revealed.