Hustle And Bustle As Children Return To School

Shoppers at a bookstore in readiness for children’s resumption back to school at Yaba, Lagos... yesterday. PHOTO: TOYIN AKHIEGBE

Shoppers at a bookstore in readiness for children’s resumption back to school at Yaba, Lagos… yesterday. PHOTO: TOYIN AKHIEGBE

The holidays are over and most schools will be resuming for the new academic session tomorrow. It could be quite a hectic period for many parents and guardians, as they have to source for and provide required school items for their children and wards, to set them in the mood for school. And while some parents have prepared for this well before now and are just putting finishing touches, others are still struggling to get things done.

At markets, bookshops and shopping centres, parents could be seen doing last minute shopping for such items as school bags, shoes, notebooks and textbooks among others. Expectedly, sellers are exploiting the last minute rush and have increased prices of these materials.

But this is the least of Bunmi Martins’ problems. A parent with two children, he told The Guardian that the increase in school fees is parents’ major concern, though the high costs of school materials is something they also have to contend with.

“Generally, prices have gone up, especially school fees. Shortly before my kids went on break, the school authority informed us that they were likely to pay higher fees for the next session,” he said. “We were also given an advanced notice of books that are likely to be bought at higher prices. However, there is consolation that the commitment of most schools has also gone high, just like the school fees and prices of school materials. They are ensuring that parents get value for monies spent, mainly because several parents have now taken the responsibility to challenge school authorities to deliver on their promises. And although prices have gone up, but many parents are not really complaining, as they believe they will get value for money spent.

“It is mixed feelings, as the kids return to school because we will be seeing less of them. But then, there is this assurance that they are making progress. Beyond that, we are grateful to the Lord that they can go back to school, when there are kids who are languishing in uncertainty, as their parents can’t afford to send them to school.”

Mrs. Ogechi Nnaji, a civil servant, also felt that school items are relatively expensive compared to how they much they cost in the past.

Said she: “I don’t know why these items should cost so much. The change promised us by the current administration during their campaigns is not really being reflected in this area. Even though I feel good that my child is going back to school, whenever I remember the many bills I have to pay, it makes me anxious. Paying school fees, changing school uniforms, bags and shoes are too expensive and parents are not finding it easy. The current dispensation should please ensure that we do not pay so much to get quality education for our children. If public schools were good enough, I don’t see any reason I should send my child to a private school, where I have to pay through my nose to keep them in school.

“The economy is so bad and so, it is not easy for parents to send their kids to private schools. Many parents like me are sending their kids to private schools not because they are wealthy, but because we want the best for our children. Government is doing nothing to ensure that children have access to quality education in this country. I am surprised that the new dispensation has not changed anything.

“In the past, private schools, which were regarded as commercial schools, were meant for servants and house helps, while it was the public schools that gave quality education. But today, the reverse is the case. Then, it was children that couldn’t pass Common Entrance examination that ended up in private schools because public schools really had high standard.

“This trend is adversely affecting the issue of items required to send kids to school. Last term, I bought long notebooks for my daughter at the rate of N90 per one, but this term they are going for N120, which is too expensive. It is only through the Lord’s grace that many parents are able to send their children to school these days.”

But Mr. Kojo Anthony, a lawyer with three kids, has been able to find a solution to this problem, as he realised it is smarter to buy these items well ahead of time.

“We have a policy in my house to always shop for school items just after vacation,” he said. “This is because over the years, we discovered that prices of school items go up due to the last minute rush by parents. So, I won’t be caught in the web of price increase for school items. The school fees are higher because it is a new session and items such as books and instructional materials are included, but the tuition fees were not increased.

Anthony is one happy parent, who always looks forward to holidays, as they afford him the opportunity to bond more with his children.

“It has been almost three months of exciting moments with them and I’m happy they are returning to school, though that means more hard work for them, but it is also progress.”

Mrs. Yvonne Odita shared Anthony’s views, as she usually starts shopping for her children’s school things very early.

Said she: “Back to school items are very expensive towards resumption and so, what I do to minimise spending is to start shopping from late July to early August. This way, before August’s ending, all is ready. Of course, we have to buy new books for a fresh session. In my children’s school, their fees are a bit stable, only the books we have to buy for them at the beginning of the session and that is the difference. Whereas school bags can sell for as much as N5,000 and lunch boxes N2,000 towards resumption, but I buy them for N2,500 and N1000 to N1,500 respectively, when I shop early. As for books, I don’t know the difference because we buy all the books from the school.

“There is this mixed feeling about their resumption, but then they have to chart their course. I will miss them after the long vacation and since they will be in new classes, they will be making new friends even as some of their old friends and teachers may have changed schools too.”

Shop owners selling school items are doing brisk business. It is their season and many of them are smiling to the bank.

Mr. ThankGod owns a shop that deals in notebooks, textbooks and stationeries. His store had a large number of customers, some of whom came along with their kids and lists of school materials to buy. And although there was hardly enough space to contain his customers, he was not in the least fazed by all the frenzy around him.

“As students prepare to go back to school, we are here to respond to their needs,” he explained to The Guardian. “Since morning, I have been attending to customers. Companies have increased the sale of books, which has also affected us. But when we have customers that are not willing to buy at higher prices, we have no other choice than to sell below our cost price to ensure that the books are sold out and so that we don’t lose our customers.”

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