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Back to school: Parents lament high cost of items, hike in fees

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School children returning from school

As students/pupils in many states of the federation prepare to return to the classrooms in the coming days for a new academic session after about eight weeks holiday, it has emerged that many families are finding it difficult to cope with the demands due to the current economic crunch in the country. Findings by The Guardian showed that the high cost of living in the country could not allow many parents and guardians to adequately save towards sending their children/wards back to school this September. Although they acknowledged that the first term usually comes with extra costs, they hinged their predicament on the fact that while they had not recorded any increase in their incomes lately, the prices of school uniforms, text books and exercise books have substantially gone up even as some schools, especially privately owned ones, have jerked up their fees.

In Lagos State, a gospel minister and mother of three, Esther Amondi, told The Guardian that while she does not want to think too much about the situation, she was afraid of the future.

“The increase in the school fees is not even the major headache to be honest. The books and back to school supplies is where the problem is. Every single thing has doubled and in some cases tripled in price; it’s unbelievable. Everyone knows children grow very fast and we need to keep changing things but everything is so expensive. I don’t know how we are going to manage.

“The school my children attend increased the fees by about 20 per cent; the cost of books and other materials has also shot up. When we asked why the massive increase, we were told that the publishers increased the prices of the books so they have to pass the cost to us. Have you priced school shoes, bags, uniforms and so on recently? You will cry hot tears,” she lamented.

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A tailor and mother of one, Barakat Adesina, also lamented that her son’s fees were jerked up by almost 50 per cent. She said: “I don’t want to blame them too much because we all see the situation of things in the country. It is the fault of this wicked government; they are making life unbearable for us all. They have totally destroyed this country. They are making basic education to get out of the reach of average Nigerians. Do they want us to send our kids to public schools so they can be happy? The standard of education in public schools is nothing to write home about and the private schools we are trying to manage, they are trying to take that from us. The fees and the price of uniforms, school supplies and bus fare has increased significantly. I am so frustrated; I don’t even know how we are going to manage by the time he gets to secondary school because he is still in primary school and things are already this bad. I fear for the future.”

A civil servant, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Adepoju, who lives in Igando area of the state, also lamented that she was finding it difficult to prepare for her children’s return to school.

“I don’t know where this country is headed. Despite government’s assurances that we have exited recession, it is yet to reflect on the living standards of the masses; things are still expensive. I am tempted to believe that the school proprietors are taking undue advantage of the economic situation to exploit we parents,” she said.

Another civil servant in the state, Tope Aina, said he felt relieved that his daughter’s school fee was not increased but was deeply hurt by the high cost of living.

“I sometime feel like it’s getting overwhelming to survive; salary is not increasing, yet we have to make do with what we earn. It is not getting any easy and it is only God who is ensuring we are surviving in this country,” he said.

On his part, an employee of a private firm, Mr. Mayowa Ayo, said: “Salary cannot be increased because if that must be done, some people have to be laid off whether we like it or not. So most of us just hang on and try to manage. Sadly, the schools cannot wait for you to make those payments when it is convenient for you because they too have to pay their workers.

“It’s disheartening; you want to save every little penny to save face and not get a notification from your kid’s school that you are yet to pay. Yet you have to pay utility bills, provide for the kids, buy foodstuff and other necessities in the home and also send money to siblings or parents. We are all living by God’s grace. That’s why almost everyone wants to find a greener pasture somewhere his/her taxes will be appreciated.”

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For, Rita Udo, a 40 per cent increment made by her children’s school was insensitive. “This country is getting too difficult. The cost of living is high. Inflation is really high. I just pray we don’t see and hear too many suicide stories because it isn’t easy for families now,” she groaned.

Idowu Oyekanmi, an auto electrician and father of three said he had been surviving by the mercy of God. He stated that catering for the needs of his children everyday was becoming almost impossible.

According to him, “it’s has not been easy but we must give thanks to God for the gift of life.” He added: “I am bothered about how and where to source the funds for the school fees of my children. Things are really bad, everybody is crying; catering for the family everyday is almost impossible now.

“The issue of my children’s school fees is giving me serious concern. They are entering new classes this term, and that comes with new sets of textbooks and exercise books. Their school uniforms are worn out; I have to buy new ones for them. This is excluding the money for their snacks when they go to school.  Where is this country headed?” he asked rhetorically.

Also expressing worry over how she would pay the school fees of her four children this term, Mrs. Ibukun Adebayo, an accountant in a private school stated that her salary was barely enough to cover the needs of her family.

“I barely sleep whenever I remember that schools will resume soon because I am thinking of how to pay my children’s school fees. My salary is barely enough to feed us due to the hike in food items.

“I do not want my children to drop out of school, yet I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay their school fees,” she lamented. According to a businesswoman, Portia Fafowora, “the prices of back to school items have skyrocketed.”

“The price of everything now is on the high side; in fact, I wish I bought those items as soon as schools vacated. Now I am dealing with replacing school shoes and bags with the increment of school fees, which is not helping matters. It’s not easy honestly even though I have only two children, the weight is telling on my husband and I.”

A mother of three school children, Shokunbo Damilola also said: “With the state of the economy, I don’t think it is possible for schools not to make an increment. The cost of living is on the high side now. My children’s school has duly notified us of an increase already and all I have to say is that all will be well.

“I have focused on ensuring that I raise the fees than bother so much about changing school kits. Thankfully, they are still good enough to be used. My aim is to ensure my kids get the best of education; that’s why I am working.”

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The Lagos State chairperson of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Olawale Amusa, admitted that back to school items had become expensive but explained that the association was working towards mass production of the items so as to bring down the cost. He also revealed that the association had appealed to its members not to increase school fees because of the economic situation of the country.

His words: “We are working on reducing the cost of statutory records by producing them in large quantities and selling them at reduced costs compared to what’s being sold in the open market. This is in a bid to bring down the cost of some of these school materials because we are aware of how expensive everything has become. We will resume fully on Monday and we expect schools to hold orientation for their students to help them re-integrate fully.

“On the increase in school fees, we have advised NAPPS members not to increase fees yet because we understand the situation of the country and are aware that parents need to get many things this term. At the last meeting we held, we pleaded with members to give value for money being paid and not increase fees yet but we can only advise; we cannot force them not to do so. Increase in fees would force some parents to move their children and wards to cheaper schools or even public schools.”

The Head of School at LePosh School, Ikoyi, Mrs. Ronke Adeniyi, told The Guardian that her school was prepared for the new academic session, adding that the management has been redecorating the school, repairing whatever needed to be repaired, servicing equipment, purchasing books, stationery and training staff. “We are pretty much on track; all is set for the new term,” she said.

On lamentations by parents over increment in fees by some schools, Adeniyi said the move was in order, adding: “That is the only way schools can function and deliver.”

Nevertheless, amid the lamentations by parents, dealers in books, stationeries and other back to school items also complained of low patronage.

A dealer in school bags and lunch bags, Mrs. Lois Akuchie, stated that only very few parents were coming to buy new bags. She noted that many parents had come to price the items in her shop but walked away afterwards. She added that the state of the nation’s economy had left parents and even manufacturers at crossroads, saying a lot of bags would be left unsold.

“The few who bought bags complained that they are expensive. Some went for the locally made bags, which are of poor quality compared to imported bags. The high quality bags are expensive due to rising exchange rate and most parents cannot afford it,” she said.

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In Imo State, some parents and guardians also stated that their biggest headache at this time was how to pay the school fees of their children and wards.

Many civil servants in the state who had problems during the biometric data capturing by the state government have not been paid their salaries and allowances since March 2020. Some of them whose children are still in primary and secondary schools said the high cost of living has put them in a more difficult situation as schools are about to resume.

A parent in Owerri, who identified himself simply as Awosefo, said he would pay the school fees of his four biological children and two children of his late brother this term, adding, “this is the task facing me in this hard times.”

Another parent, John Igwe, said: “I have three children whom I am going to pay their fees as they reopen next week. I will part with about N200, 000. The problem is the rising cost of living. This country is getting tougher on a daily basis. We are appealing to the government to step in.”

Many parents in Jos, Plateau State told The Guardian that they were just trying to pick up the pieces as their businesses and farming activities were paralysed due to the crisis that engulfed the state recently, noting that it would be difficult for them to cope with the demands of the new school term. In fact, many of them who were directly affected by the crisis said they were going to withdraw their children from school unless government comes to their aid.

Mrs. Fatima Abdul, whose farm was destroyed in Yelwa Zangam, said she depended on proceeds from farm produce to pay the school fees of her two children.

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“Now that the farm has been destroyed, where do I go? Where will the money come from again? My husband is not doing anything,” she sobbed. A second hand clothes seller at Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos, Musa Musa, said the crisis has affected his business, explaining that farmers and other residents who usually patronised him could not do so because of the destruction of farmlands and displacement of residents.

According to Musa, he has been using proceeds from the business to pay the school fees of his children, two of whom are now doing their Nationl Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

“But what happens to the remaining three of them who are still in the school is my big headache now. I am appealing to the authorities concerned to give us more time to pay. Government has just relaxed the curfew. Very soon, business will pick up again and we shall not default,” he added.

A businessman at the Terminus area of Jos, Calistus Ndubueze, who sells a variety of goods, corroborated that sales have dropped as a result of the crisis, saying the development would affect the payment of the school fees of his three children.

In Abia State, findings showed that many children were already itching to go back to school. But their parents, like their counterparts in other parts of the country, complained of high cost of living, which they said, has drained their income and put them in a difficult situation to pay their children’s school fees. The Guardian gathered that many civil servants in the state were being owed salary arrears of several months.

A parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that his consolation was that “the scenario is to a large extent affecting the majority including even the administrators that dish out threats but remain silent on settling salary arrears.”

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Some parents in Kano State also said that the current economic situation in the country has rendered them so poor that they were not thinking about how to pay their children’s school fees but how to feed their families.

Speaking with The Guardian, Aminu Yahaya of Sabon Titin Mandawari area, said he has five children in different schools, lamenting that he would not be able to pay their fees when school resumes.

“I am a business man; I was doing well before now. But life began to be unfavourable after COVID-19 outbreak and the current economic situation in Nigeria.

“Now that you are talking of school fees payments for this year’s first term, I am still battling to settle the last term fees of my five children in different schools,” he said.

Another resident, Abdullahi Shuaibu, who has nine children, stated that all his children were attending private schools, adding that he had to withdraw them when he could no long pay their fees. Shuaibu, who is 49 years old, said he has enrolled his children into government owned schools.

A widow, who has three children in a private primary school in Kano, said it had always been difficult for her to raise the N28, 000 needed to pay the school fees of her children, lamenting that the economic downturn in the country has made things more difficult for her.

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