How exorbitant school fees, PTA’s levies undermine children’s right to education
The Nigerian education sector currently faces two main challenges: increased school fees, and exorbitant levies by the Parent- Teacher Association (PTA). The Ministry of Education recently approved an increase in fees of Federal Government Colleges otherwise known as Unity Schools in June 2016. This move has since created a lot of rumbles within the system; with the minister first denying knowledge of such increment.
However, after several enquiries, the ministry, through its permanent secretary, Mrs. Folasade Yemi-Esan was able to clarify that though schools do not charge for tuition, there was a slight increase in boarding fees.
The system witnessed some skirmishes when on September 19, 2016; some of the Unity Schools nationwide closed their doors to students and parents who had not paid the complete fees. There were protests by parents in some parts of the country, describing the fees as exorbitant and threatening to withdraw their children and wards.
However, when contacted, the ministry, through its Deputy Director Press, Ben Bem Goong told The Guardian that the ministry does not charge tuition fees but had only approved a minimal increase in the boarding fees from N8,000 per term to N15,000. He explained that the increase was because of feeding challenges.
“What this means is that for three months, government is charging N15,000 to feed each child. Tell me what parent does not spend more than N15,000 to feed a child in three months assuming the child is at home with them and not on boarding,” he argued.
The authorized list of approved payments by the ministry, which was obtained by The Guardian, indicates that for the 2016/2017 session, new students are required to pay a total of N83,000. Tuition fees are free for all students; but new students’ fees include prospectus N500, boarding fees N15,000 per term for boarders only, bed bunk and classroom furniture N16,000 once, caution fees N1,000, textbook deposit N12,000, exercise books N3,000 per session, uniforms N1,000 per set, blazer N5,500, identity card N500, medical N1,000, stationery N500, vocational N1,000, sports N500, clubs and societies N500, utility N1,000, securityN1,000, website/e-result/ICT N3,000, extra lesson 2,000 and insurance N5,000 once per session.
There were no charges approved for PTA (Parent Teacher Association). Likewise, the fees for all other students are devoid of PTA levies.
The document, which was authorised by Director of Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Anne Okonkwo, approved a total fee of N45,500 for JSS 2 and SS2 students, N55,500 for JS 3 students, N65,000 for SS1 students, N75,500 for SS 3 students. For second and third terms, all students are to pay a total fee of N25,500.
Goong explained that the fees for JS 3 and SS 3 are more than the other students because they write WAEC and NECO. The fees for these examinations, according to him, are embedded in the total charges.
Also, an official of the ministry who spoke anonymously stated that the charges become exorbitant because of outrageous PTA development levies charged by the Association. He informed that the PTA fees in some schools are as high as between N65,000 and N89,000.
“In the past, PTA used to be an intervention body for each school. They were there to bridge the gap for the children to have good education and they worked with the principal to ensure conducive learning environment. But today, they have formed themselves into mafias. They now charge the parents exorbitantly. In some schools, the PTA levy is much more than the total charges paid to government.
“Today we have people fighting themselves seriously to become PTA chairmen. We have PTA chairmen who do not have any child in secondary schools. Ordinarily, by the time your children pass out from secondary school, you shouldn’t have anything to do with PTA, but today they want to be there for life.
“They travel up and down the country, staying in hotels at the expense of the parents. Some of them even have security escorts. Now they even have zonal and national bodies that have been extorting parents. That is why the ministry hasbanned the payment of development levies and only limits PTA fees to N5,000,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu has advised parents whose wards are in Unity Colleges to report any infraction to the ministry’s approved fees for appropriate sanctions. He also warned school principals against charging any extra fees, threatening to sack any principal who does so.
According to the minister, his goal is to make education accessible and affordable to all Nigerians. He added that part of the reasons for the recent harmonization of fees in Unity Colleges was to ensure that parents pay averagely less as well as eliminate indiscriminate collections that made parents in some Unity Schools to pay much higher than their counterparts in other Unity Colleges.
In a bid to tackle the PTA challenge, the ministry also recently banned the collection of development levies by the PTA in the Unity Colleges across the country. The minister ordered that PTA fees must not be more
From The Guardian’s enquiry, it was discovered that PTA development levies are very huge, thereby putting heavy financial burdens on parents. An official, who volunteered information on the matter, stated that “these PTA development levies never end. They are charged every year and that’s what the cabals feed on.”
But the minister has ordered that “no Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of any Unity College is allowed to initiate any development project in any of the Unity Colleges without the express or written authorization of the Federal Ministry of Education.”
According to him, the new measures are aimed at arresting the shocking trend where development levies imposed on parents by PTAs are becoming higher than the other fees charged by government which established the Unity Schools.
The minister cited an example of Kings College Lagos, and Federal Science and Technical College Yaba where the fees charged by government for JSS1 in the first term is N69, 400.00, while the PTA collections stand at N70,000 and N74,000 respectively per child for the same first term, bringing the total amounts paid by parents in these two schools to N139,400 and N143,400 respectively.
With the reduction on development levies and ban on charges for new projects as well as pegging of the development levy to a maximum of N5,000, parents of JSS1 in these two schools will now pay N83,000.
A parent, Adeboye Oluremi who spoke with The Guardian, lamented the high cost of entry into Unity Colleges, especially in the face of current recession. “My daughter has three different admissions in different schools around Abuja but I’m in a dilemma as to which to choose because the fees are much. With this recession, I’m considering the possibility of being able to meet up with payments even in subsequent years. The money for the entry is even an issue,” he said.
Sources at the ministry of education say the minister has received so many of such petitions and complaints against the exorbitant PTA development fees. Oluremi was of the opinion that government should rise up to its responsibilities by providing the infrastructural needs and other needs of the schools so that there won’t be need for PTA in the schools.
Hopefully from this year, this wish will come true as the minister said recently that the focus of the ministry would henceforth be on the provision of infrastructure in schools. This intervention, he said would be under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
If carried through, the intervention which is expected to last for 15 years will likely result in massive improvement in Nigerian schools.
“And intervention should be by way of provision of VIP toilets and bathrooms in hostels and classrooms, provision of solar-powered motorised boreholes, reticulation of water to hostels, provision of modern kitchen and dining facilities”, he said, calling on principals to exhibit high level of responsibility, accountability and transparency in the execution of the projects.
“The ultimate aim of intervention is to produce the changes that will lead to improvements in access, retention and completion of studies”, the minister said at a quarterly meeting on the implementation status of the SDGs in Abuja.
He noted that in the past, allocation of funds to the education sector was adversely affected by lack of technical capacity to deal with due process, improper preparation of work plans, implementation plans and cash flow. He therefore, warned that no form of irregularities would be condoned in the implementation of the SDG programme.
“Consequently, all projects executed by the ministry will henceforth, be subjected to rigorous monitoring at different stages”, the minister said.