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Schools and burden of fees, maintenance

By Adelowo Adebumiti
03 February 2022   |   4:26 am
The new academic session for year 2022 has commenced. But it’s not devoid of its own challenges. The economic hardship being faced by Nigerians across every strata is taking a toll on schools as parents struggle to pay fees.

Children in classroom

The new academic session for year 2022 has commenced. But it’s not devoid of its own challenges. The economic hardship being faced by Nigerians across every strata is taking a toll on schools as parents struggle to pay fees.
     
For school owners, like almost everything in the country, running cost and expenses have doubled, necessitating the need to hike fees. They argued that adjustment was necessary to accommodate increase in overheads and enable them to 
 remain afloat.
 
Stakeholders in the sector attributed the development to harsh economic realities that the country is going through. Speaking on the issue, proprietress, Gloryville School, Ebute Meta, Mrs Toyin Sode Idowu, blamed the exchange rate and continuous depreciation of naira as part of the challenge.
     
Idowu said the forex crisis was responsible for the high cost of things, including running of schools. She said:  “The cost of running a school on average increased by 100 per cent. The cost of living increased by 100 per cent. There is a need for schools to be able to, at least, cover their costs because they are businesses and not funded (partial or fully) organisations.

     
“Besides, there is a need to increase salaries paid to teachers in order to cushion effect of the economic downturn. Let us not forget that everything we consume is imported. There is hardly anything used in a school that is not imported; paper pencils, erasers, books and teaching aids, among others.”
   
Idowu warned that school fees are likely to further go up because the increment effected in September was not enough to cushion the impact of rising costs of things.
   
She stressed there can only be stability if naira appreciates considerably against the dollar, thus forcing costs to either stabilise or reduce.  
   
She stressed the need for government to encourage local manufacturers so that most of what Nigerians import can be produced in the country at lower cost.
   
And to make cost of education affordable, Idowu said government must invest more in education.  “Teaching aids and resources, books and stationaries can be made available to schools at subsidised costs. If done, this will reduce the cost of running a school or educating a child, and invariably fees charged,” she said.
   
Chief Executive Officer, Acoms Global Schools, Abeokuta, Favour Lucky Idogun, observed that private schools are solely funded by owners and funds generated are used to run their schools. 
     
According to her, the main reason for increase in fees is due largely to the dwindling economy, cost of administration, and inflation, which also affects cost of labour; that is biting hard on not just school owners but members of staff.
   
“When there is hike in fuel price and electricity, which makes prices of consumables and school supplies skyrocket, it affects the income of school owners and workers. 
   
“As a result, teachers and other members of staff agitate for increase in salaries to meet up with current challenges.
    
“Secondly, there are increase in prices of school supplies, like furniture, stationery, play gadgets and instructional materials among others. If schools do not increase fees, slowly but surely, they will fold up due to lack of finance to keep them running,” she explained.
   
Idogun noted that due to the biting economic hardship, school fees may not stabilise for the next few years as parents may be forced to pay more for education.
   
She said: “We live in a fluid economy plagued by instability and high inflation. If prices of things I mentioned above keep increasing, be rest assured that school owners will have no choice than to increase fees. 
   
“Imagine if government implements planned subsidy removal on fuel, what do you think will happen? Do you know that there will be a geometric increase in prices of products and services? It is sad but true that in any economy, it is consumers that bear the cost and effect of inflation, and so it is in school administration.
   
“As a school owner, we just received our last month’s electricity bill and I saw about 90 per cent increase. If that bill keeps coming, how do we pay the ‘extra’ charges? Won’t we transfer the burden to parents by increasing fees? 
   
“That’s just a case study, there are other products and services whose prices are not stable and you expect school fees to be stable? This is not to say schools will increase fees indiscriminately, but truth is that if some schools do not increase fees, they may not survive the unstable economy, unless it is revamped,” she said.
   
Speaking on how to cushion the impact of these increments, Idogun, who noted that these are times of Darwinian “survival of the fittest,” said when school fees are increased, parents and guardians should be honest with themselves and if it is not something they can afford, they should take their children to schools they can cope with.
     
“If the income of parents does not increase and prices of goods and services are on the rise, it can be frustrating. The increment will surely have a negative effect on them, and what can be done depends on parents’ choices. 
   
“Will they move their wards to a school that is affordable? Can they still afford the current fees? Have parents income increased to an extent that they will not feel the impact of the increment? Would parents be prudent, ready to cut expenses and focus on essentials? especially education of their children or wards? 
   
“These are questions begging for answers from parents, which will inform their decisions on educating their wards.
Noting that economic forces have a great role to play in terms of increase in tuition, Idogun said there are other value chains that make education expensive apart from fees.
   
According to her, papers used in producing  the books used in classrooms are imported and anytime naira depreciates, cost of papers will go up,  which will have a ripple effect on how much publishers sell the books to schools or parents.
 
She said: “The truth is that government cannot give financial aid to every school. This is not possible unless we want to wallow in wishful thinking. Even public schools are not well funded, let alone private schools.
   
“However, what government can do to make education affordable is to give us a healthy and stable economy; create enabling environment where jobs are created and businesses can thrive. If this is done, that woman selling by the roadside will sell more and make more profit that will enable her to fund her child’s education. But when the economy is harsh, then, education will surely not be affordable. Imagine government hiking fuel price, what will be the hope of common man?”
   
The proprietor, Toyems Private School, Ijeododo, Lagos, Tunde Sholanke, said increase is not peculiar to schools.
According to him, there is hardly any item in the market that the price has remained stable over time.
   
“Are  teachers not going to the same market as others?  School maintenance costs are on the increase as well. What about annual dues, proprietors tax, development levy, business premises tax, land use charge, illegal radio and television tax, fumigation tax and lots of unnecessary formulated policies designed to extort money from schools? School expenses go far beyond salaries. Stability of school fees can not be guaranteed unless there is general stability in prices of goods and services. School owners cannot be blamed because they don’t compel or enforce  fees on any one. The choice is yours.
 
“In fact, we shouldn’t be talking of schools at all if we have not addressed some issues like illegally enforced electricity bills and government taxes and levies. It is not  school owners that cause hardship in the country to say the fact. Nigeria is blessed. Nigerians can refine petroleum, let us encourage them and keep our refineries and steel industry functional;  place less burden on and encourage export- based industries, tap our natural resources and reduce  unnecessary multiple arms of government. I believe that Nigeria will be a better place if government is sincere to its citizens.”