24 September 2009

Nigeria: Fees - Agony of Parents as School Resumes in Lagos

As primary and secondary schools resume this week for a fresh academic session, one scary thing on the minds of parents is how to meet up with the educational demands of their children. The every increasing school fees, text books which are so expensive and other educational needs. Although, the headache of school fees are for parents whose children are in private schools, it seamed that a sizable number of parents prefer sending their children to public schools simply because they felt that good and qualitative education in the state is been offered by the private schools. Based on this, the greatest challenge on the priority list of many parents at least for the next two months is how to contend children's educational needs.

Parents who spoke to Daily Independent lamented that private school owners have continued to increase schools fees to their discomfort, adding that the situation was compounded by the hash economic situation in the country.

"The ongoing crisis in the commercial banks which led to the sack of the five Chief Executive Officers CEOs and other directors by the Central Bankof Nigeria has also made these banks to be meticulous in giving out loans either to parents or private school owners to pay students school fees and carry out their business activities, so private schools are increasing fees", said a parent.

Another parents lamented that the standard of living in the country is increasing on a daily basis, saying that the Federal Government has not been able to control the economical instability in the country. "There is inflation all over the country; food, electricity, transportation, fuel, housing to mention a few. Due to the ruins in the government-owned schools, a lot of parents had no choice but to take their children to private schools where they believed their children would receive qualitative education".

Investigation by Daily Independent reporters revealed that students in private schools which belongs to category A in Lagos pay as high as a N250,000.00 per term depending on the location while some primary schools charge as high as N150,000.00 which are however higher depending on the location of the schools and the facility, structure of such schools. Indeed most of these schools have the structures and standard to really match their prices/demands but many parents are always paying through their nose. Some of them also pay in installment basis to meet up with the financial burden. However, there are those schools that charge far below these amount but they fall under such schools located in Ajegunle, Agege, Ajamgbadi as well as those high density and remote areas.

Text books are also very expensive, for instance, a primary school mathematics text book costs about N600.00.

A parent Mr. Adeola Akinwunmi collaborated Daily Independent's findings saying that the textbooks are also dear but he devised a means of saving up for his children's educational needs by opening a savings account in a bank so that he would not borrow when the resumption time comes.

"I always save money whenever they are on break and even on a monthly basis I save to give my children sound education. The textbooks are also a major problem in that parents are made to buy these expensive books. The books are always very expensive too and you must provide all these books for your children if you want them to participate well in the class".

A school owner in Lagos, Afolabi Abraham Kuye, said that the government is supposed to be responsible for education of the children and youths but they have neglected their duties.

He added that the private school owners are entrepreneurs who have to give account for all their expenses and also make profits and most times the money charged is not even enough in the quest to giving the students standard education. Kuye maintained that it is not as if the private school owners charge high school fees deliberately, but that they do so according to the value of their structure, quality of education and other facilities they offer to them. He observed the educational sector is in total ruins whereby all manners of policies are always imposed on the private school owners which makes their operations tedious and expensive.

He said that all the funds from international organisations like UNICEF; World Bank, USAID and many others which are supposed to be used to subsidised the cost of education in the country have been diverted into personal pockets.

"All the money from different donors all over the world are supposed to be used to subsidise education but have been diverted to personal pockets".

Kuye stated that it requires good salary package to keep experienced and qualified teachers in classroom and as such a school owner would want to meet up with this demand.

"Private school owners don't charge high school fees. The quality of the buildings, the standard of education, and even the teachers are some of the reasons why these schools charge very high. And you know that any good thing would be expensive", he said.

He lamented that the government is not making access to education easy in the country

A sociologist in Lagos, Tajudeen Oduwole said that there are a lot of problems in the country which are the reasons for the high fees in the private schools.

"The government is not waking up to their responsibilities. If you tell the private schools to peg their fees, is the government ready to peg down high fuel pump price, cost of cement, foodstuff is very high, house rents all over the place is so unaffordable, so it is a vitreous cycle that the government must provide lasting solutions to. Everything boils down to the economy situation in the country." he said.

In would be noted that years of neglect of these government-owned schools by successive governments are a major factor for the rots in these schools. This informed why most parents who can afford it prefer private schools.. Many of the teachers are no longer dedicated and committed to their duties they rather prefer to carry out their personal businesses during school hours. The students are allowed to roam the streets during school hours and as such they develop several street and immoral characters..

However, the present government of Governor Babatunde Fashola has made efforts in restructuring the facilities in the public schools but parents and guardians have lost confidence in these schools.

A parent, Mr. Adeola Akinwunmi lamented the government schools are not very comprehensive for children to attend. "Over the years, the school buildings, are dilapidated, the teachers are no longer focus and dedicated to their duties, especially the primary schools, there is no guarantee for children to be properly educated in the government-owned primary schools. So we have to spend a very huge amount of money to take care of the children's education in private schools. Nobody wants her kids to go to a substandard school"

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