By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
THE Yuletide season is over as all official activities have returned to their normal schedules, and schools across Abuja, the nation’s capital, resumed this week.
With the resumption of academic activities in schools on Monday, many parents were seen in bookshops, markets and banks across the FCT, trying to meet the needs of their children and wards. To some parents and guardians, it was a time of anxiety over how to pay school fees and meet the demands of their wards, especially those in boarding schools.
Arewa Voice investigation showed that since schools resumed on Monday, most bookshops have continued to witness a steady traffic of patronage. In the popular Wuse Market, parents and their wards were seen cross-checking lists of books to buy. However, most of the parents lamented the preparation for the resumption of their children in school, describing it as tedious and demanding, especially in this era of financial constraint. Basically, they complained of inflation in the market with some private schools increasing tuition costs in January, making it very difficult for them to pay school fees and buy new shoes, notebooks and textbooks for their children to go back to school.
A parent, who gave her name as Mrs. Constance Udoka, told Arewa Voice that the financial pressure in January has practically made her husband to turn a deaf ear to other school needs such as stationery and provisions after paying school fees. She said: “I have five children in school, but three of them will be returning to the boarding school and my husband keeps lamenting how tough it is for him to pay their fees while attending to other necessities at the home front. He has practically refused to listen to demands for other needs like pocket money, provisions, stationery, sanitary items, and other things they need to cope in the boarding house. And as far as these children are concerned, they want everything ready before going back to school. They do not really grasp the financial situation.”
Another parent, who gave his name as Samuel Nelson, said that the preparation for school resumption this term had drained him of his meagre resources. “My children won’t stop giving me lists every day since the New Year celebration ended. I have had to put everything else on hold so that I can provide their needs. I came straight from the bank where I went to pay their school fees. So, I am here to see what books I can buy for them.
“I have my twin daughters in SSS 3 Science class and I feel sapped financially from the requirements for their schools’ resumption. It is not easy to ignore their demands because it would affect their academic performance, especially in the upcoming WAEC and NECO certificate exams scheduled to begin in March/April,” he said.
For Mrs. Ugwuegbo, her approach to school resumption after the Yuletide is odd. According to the restaurant operator: “My family travelled to the village for the Christmas holiday, and we just returned a few days ago. Today (Monday) is my first day in the market; so my children will wait at home for a week or two so that I can raise money to buy the things they need for school.”
In the same vein, some booksellers in Wuse market who spoke to Arewa Voice, complained of low patronage this time compared to previous school resumptions. A stationery store owner, Gerald Ntefon, said: “We are having this human traffic this time as usual because schools reopened this week. But the patronage is low compared to other resumptions, especially after the long vacation when students and pupils are promoted to new classes.”
A book merchant who pleaded anonymity, said his sales figures have been unimpressive despite the reopening of schools. “Whenever students are going back to school, we enjoy a lot of patronage from our customers, but this time around, we have not seen significant sales figures or anything more than the usual,” he said.
But for some resuming students in Abuja, the bleak economic situation is a secondary concern as the joy of seeing their friends and classmates again after the Christmas holiday is a priority to them. A 13-year-old boy of Federal Government College Kwali, who simply gave his name as David, said: “I am happy to be going back to the boarding school because it will afford me the opportunity of seeing my friends whom I have not seen since we vacated last year for the Christmas holiday.”