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Recession: Parents groan under burden of payments as schools resume

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Schools accept installmental payments

By Adesina Wahab, Elizabeth Uwandu, Mary Obaebor and Israel Ibekwe

WE are in the new year already and most people are just trying to recover, financially, from the expenses of the Yuletide period, but life is not static and things are not too, including financial commitments. The beginning of the year is also a period of some financial obligations, such as paying house rent and in Nigeria, time to pay the school fees of pupils and students in primary and secondary schools. January is the beginning of the second term in primary and secondary schools across the country.

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With a population near the 200 million mark, the country has not got enough public schools to cater for the education needs of the citizens. For instance, Lagos with a population of about 20 million, has 650 public secondary schools and 1,056 primary schools. Meanwhile, the state has over 18,000 private primary and secondary schools, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education.

Incidentally, this period of paying school fees is following the harsh financial climate most Nigerians weathered in 2019. All indices, finance and monetary, actually showed that Nigerians went through a lot last year. How are parents coping with the situation, especially paying school fees of their children and wards?

Why are parents finding it difficult to pay?

Mr Peter Chucks, who works in a company in Apapa area of Lagos, said he is being owed six months salary arrears and in fact, celebrated a bleak Christmas. He blamed the situation on the downturn in the economy. “The situation was never like that. I have worked for about 20 years with the company and we had a jolly good time in the past. Now, things have turned upside down. Salaries are no longer regular and I still have to come to work from another far end of town. Actually, my house is in Ogun State side of Agbado.

“When my children were going back to school on Sunday, January 5, because they live in boarding house, I had to follow them and personally beg the proprietor. I promised to pay up before the end of the term but I dropped at least 40 percent of the fees,” he said.

For a widow, Mrs Mary Adisa, who stays in Command Area of Lagos, after losing her job late last year, she has to improvise in a number of ways, including paying her children school fees.

“I started a small beverage business and coupled that with selling confectioneries that small children like and it has not been easy. I changed the school my children attend to suit my pocket and had an arrangement to pay in installments with the owner,” she said.

Experience of school owners

Mr G.T. Shofoluwe, the Vice Principal of Rockland Secondary School Ijanikin, Lagos, said when the school started in 2001, parents were not doing badly in terms of payment of fees. “In fact, some parents used to pay upfront, but that has become a thing of the past now. With the economic recession in the country, many parents are owing fees. You can see that this school is located in a middle class environment, and our tuition fees are moderate. For JSS1-3 we charge N22,000 per term and for SSS1-3 we charge N22,000 per term, but people do owe. As at now, we have over N500,000 as outstanding payments we are expecting from parents.

“To encourage them to pay, we send messages to them on WhatsApp group we created and put them. Those not on that, we send text messages and even call to remind them of their obligations. In recent years, things have been really tough and some parents cannot even buy textbooks for their wards. We only try to impress it upon them the need to buy some textbooks in core subject areas,” he explained.

How are school owners coping?

The Proprietress of T-Square Schools, Ahmadiyya, Lagos, Mrs Abiodun Adebusuyi, said because some parents have devised the means of withdrawing their children from school and taking them to another after owing fees, the management adopted a policy of accepting part payment.

“At the T-Square Schools, we adopt 60-20-20 policy. This means students must pay 60 percent of fee before resumption and within 6 weeks of resumption, another 20 percent immediately the school resumes from mid-term break and the balance before the commencement of examination. Any pupil that does not pay all is either not allowed to write the exam or his/her result not released until the payment of the balance.

“The system is working for us and many of our parents are complying. We also appreciate the Parents’ Forum being headed by Mrs Tonia Okorie, who is really ringing the bell into the hearing of our the parents. Some parents also agreed to be paying monthly until the bill is settled and we are not opposed to that,” she said.

What it takes to run a school

According to Mrs Adebusuyi, it is not just buying teaching aids, renting or acquiring a premises for school that are the expenses of school owners, taxes, levies and the payment of teachers salaries are there.

Moreover, the owners would not want to be run out of business.

“As a proprietor; you would want to make you staff happy too. They have their own commitments and if we do not do the needful, the good hands we have will go. It is from the fees paid that we generate funds to do all these,” she noted.

Just as school owners are battling to get parents to pay their children fees on time, they too are contending with some teachers leaving their employ without prior notice. A number of teachers moved from one school to another during the term break, and if you ask most of them the reason for the movement, the answer will be to feed on greener pastures.

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