EDUCATION has generally been acknowledged as the foundation for the development and progress of any society in all parts of the world. It is regarded as the base upon which the whole building of human development rests in modern times.
CONSEQUENTLY, contemporary societies universally commit a lot of their resources in this essential sector to promote and sustain its development because of its ability to propel overall society development. It is on the above basis that The Hope is worried about the consequences of recent widespread hike in school fees in the country. In Nigeria, the funding of education has been consistently problematic and a contentious one with regards to who should be responsible to bear the cost.
GENERALLY, governments are involved in funding education for a number of reasons that include the ‘social returns’ because of its benefits to society as a whole, and the difficulty in getting funds by private individual and concern over equity between people from different family backgrounds to ensure all people have access to good education.
PRIOR to 1986, Nigerian government invested heavily in education that resulted in its exponential expansion. However, the economic crisis of the 1980s that brought about the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) and recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for reduction in public investment in education has encouraged government to reduce spending on education over the years.
THIS dwindling investment in education by governments across the country, encouraged private sector to get more involved in establishing and running educational institutions.
DURING the colonial period, Christian Missionaries and the schools were financed and maintained by the voluntary agencies through school fees paid by parents, subscriptions from churches and grants from Missionary Societies. This pattern continued in the post-independence era but with more government participation in the education sector. However, in 1975, the General Murtala Mohammed’s administration took over the running and funding of all schools in the country.
AT present, funding of education is shared by the governments and parents. The basic education is funded through concurrent financing from the three tiers of government—federal, state, and local government authority. The federal government provides 50% and the state and local governments are to provide 30% and 20% respectively. Also, since education is on the concurrent list, both federal and state governments are responsible for tertiary education in the country, while the private sectors have also joined with the establishment of several private universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.
WHILE governments controlled fees in their tertiary institutions, the private sector participants charge commercial fees which is responsible for high school fees in the private institutions when compared to the government-owned and funded institutions. President Bola Tinubu during his campaign promised to give loans to students but the programme has not fully taken off. Schools are forced to increase their fees due to inflation. Although the federal government insists its institutions should not increase fees but the challenge of paucity of funds have made such schools escalate various fees to ensure their better running. Consequently, inflation and the increasing cost of running schools have forced the managements of both private and public schools to hike fees in all parts of the country.
THE hike in school fees in Nigeria has both positive and negative outcomes. Of course, it has the benefit of making available more resources to the schools especially the tertiary institutions that have been starved of necessary funds over the years. More funds accruing from increased fees will enable the schools to procure and access basic facilities and services for improved learning that are largely unavailable in the institutions at the moment.
ON the other hand, it has the potency of depriving many children of impoverish families’ access to education amidst the present crisis of high number of children that are out of school in Nigeria. Recent UNICEF estimates indicated that a staggering figure of over 18.5 million school age children are out of school in Nigeria. Therefore, an increase of over 300 percent in school fees will further increase this high number of out of school children. The hike in school fess will further burden the parents that are struggling to survive the harsh economic climate of Nigeria now.
SINCE education is central to national development, governments in Nigeria should not be lackadaisical about the negative outcome of the current hike in school fees and should therefore find ways to ensure that the youths of the country are not denied education because of this. Also, Nigeria should come up with definite socio-economic policies that will determine and guide funding of education in the country.