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Schools resumption: Parents, wards struggle to meet up with needs

Pupils resume school for new academic session in one of the Lagos schools Monday PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

Knowing the importance of education, it is the wish and prayer of every parent to give his children the best of education.

Even when its affordability is not within their reach, parents go extra mile to give their children good education.

But for parents who cannot afford quality education for their children, they do with what they could afford for them.

One thing is that no matter the school, be it private or public school, they run the same academic calendar that has to do with resumption and vacation dates.

Whenever the schools are on vacation especially long one, parents feel relieved, so also the children.

No more stress of waking up early morning to prepare the children for school, look into their home works, pay their school fees and in some cases take them to school and pick them after school hours, if they cannot trek home or use school buses.

During the long vacation, wards and parents take time to travel for holidays depending on their financial strength.

For those who cannot afford to travel, the children are usually engage in summer lesson and skill acquisition scheme to keep them busy.

But with the resumption of schools across the country last Monday after long vacation, parents and wards are seen in shops, markets and banks across country, trying to meet the needs of the children.

It is like a rat race. Parents and children’s experiences differ in this situation.

It all depends on the schools, children and what their parents are doing to keep their academic hope alive.

To some parents, public school is what they can afford for their children. To others, it is the best private schools or nothing, no matter the cost.

But also to many parents, it is affordable private or public schools, provided the children go out every morning and return home when schools close.

Parents, Wards Besiege Bookshops
As Admission Excites New Intakes
From Inemesit Akpan-Nsoh Uyo

After more than two months of holiday, public and private schools reopened for academic activities in Akwa Ibom State Monday.

To some parents and guardians, it is time of thinking on how to pay school fees, do school errand, meet the demands of their wards, new and old students, especially those in boarding house.

Of interest to note, however, in Akwa Ibom State is the fact that public schools don’t pay fees as government is operating free and compulsory education from primary to secondary school levels.

So to parents and guardians whose wards are in government schools, the concern is how to provide uniforms, school shoes and maybe boarding fees, where it is applicable.

For private schools-primary or secondary, the scenario is different. Of important to note is the prevalent trend in the state, where some parents without financial wherewithal want to send their wards to private schools, thereby creating unnecessary financial challenges for themselves.

The Guardian investigation showed that, since schools resumed on Monday, it has become a beehive of activities at most bookshops visited along the popular Akpan-Andem market, Ikot Ekpene, Oron, Udoumana, Ikpa roads among others, all within Uyo metropolis.

At the popular Akpan Lagos bookshop, it was like going to Mecca as parents and their wards were seen cross checking list of books to buy.

According to a bookseller who pleaded anonymity, “We are having this human traffic this time as usual because schools reopened this week.

Parents patronise us because the prices of our books are moderate; again, most of the publishers have trust in us and bring their books for us to sell mostly at a very minimal cost.”

A parent who gave her name as Imeobong Udofia at one of the bookshop visited along Ikot Ekpene road said she was at that bookshop because she couldn’t see the English textbook at the school her daughter gained admission into, noting that, almost other books were bought at the school’s bookshop.

Another parent, Mr. Imo Effiong, said he was happy that her daughter gained admission into the school of her choice.

“The high fees notwithstanding, I will try to pay because by the second term, the fees will drastically reduce.”

A parent, who refused to mention his name, told The Guardian that, even though times are hard, he would do all within his means to send his children to school. Some of them who claimed to be civil servants said that, their ‘small’ salaries notwithstanding, they would try as usual to ensure their wards go back to school.

“The good thing is that, the private school my three children are attending, the payment policy is friendly as it allows me to pay for two while the third one doesn’t pay at all. Again, I am assisted by their mother who is into private business,” one of the parents said.

To the wards, the story is different as most of them who spoke to The Guardian were full of happiness for gaining admission into schools of their choice.

An eight-year-old boy who gave his name as Emmanuel said, “I am happy to gain admission, this will be my first experience to stay outside of my parents, yes I will be missing them and my siblings.”

Sharing his joy for wanting to go back to school after two months at home, Donald Effiong of Federal Government College Ikot Ekpene, said he was happy to go back as such would afford him the opportunity of seeing his friends whom he has not seen for months.

Others said they had only been on holiday for three weeks as throughout the long vacation, they were attending one lesson or the other.

“Going back to see our old friends will be a happy re-union with them.”

One thing is common in their experiences during the holidays as almost all of them agreed that, they used the period to visit family friends outside the state or within the state, visited some tourist sites in Ibeno, Ikot Abasi, Itu and among others.

Some parents whose wards are attending private schools alleged that some schools’ authorities used the holiday period to extort money from them through charges for items such as toiletries, brooms, and cutlasses among others.

That even though the higher authorities have standard charges, those saddled with the responsibility of collecting the charges are fond of extorting parents.

Parents Alleged Extortion By Teachers,
Despite Free Education Policy In Imo
From Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)

In Imo, private and public schools resumed in 27 council areas in the state.

It was observed that most schools were empty as students appeared reluctant resuming school.

This made some schools management to order various Heads to organise what it referred to as “Resumption Test” which carries 10 per cent of the term’s assessment and examination.
 
The two Commissioners in-charge of the various levels of education in the state, Dan Iwuorie, (Ministry of Tertiary Education) and Prof. Chizoba Emenalo (Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education) quickly designed mechanism for the enforcement of the order.

The announcement to that effect was repeatedly carried on the state owned Imo Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), Orient FM radio.
 
It is gathered that parents and guardians were quick in complying with the directive because no one would want his child or ward fail.

The parents and children complained about the bad state of intra-city roads in Owerri municipality and environs.

Meanwhile, the state government has free education policy at all levels of education (from basic to secondary and tertiary), meaning that no payment of school fees for pupils and students who are indigenes of Imo in the state.

 
According to a parent, John Okoro, the state government floated free education to alleviate the sufferings of the people, but unfortunately, most school heads and teachers ask students or pupils to buy sundry items that their cost is above school fees.

These items include toiletries, soaps, sweeping and mopping up materials.
 
Okoro said: “My children are back to school, yes, but there are issues we are grappling with.

They are issues of accessing roads to their schools in Owerri metropolis.

Another one is alleged extortion by some teachers who ask our children to make some payments for certain materials despite that the state government has free education policy.

Teachers complained of earning paltry sum which can only be complemented by engaging in some other economic activities to make ends meet.”
 
Another respondent, a student who identified himself as Okechukwu Uke said he was unhappy about the state of roads in the state capital, which makes it difficult for him to access the school.
 
Uke said: “The school roads and other areas in the town are bad.

They should be repaired. I want our teachers to teach us well and stop asking us to pay for one thing or the other.”

In reaction to the issue of bad roads, both the Chief Press Secretary to the Imo State Governor, Sam Onwuemeodo, and the Commissioner for Works, Josephine Udorji, appealed to motorists and commuters not to be worried as the state government was making necessary repairs arrangement as soon as the rains stop.
 
A teacher, Ngozi Igwe, dismissed the allegation of extortion, despite the free education policy.
 
“The allegation of extortion is false. We are mindful of the free education policy in the state and any contribution by any pupil or student to the school is not too much. This is because there is paucity of funds to our schools,” Igwe said.

Lagos Parents Express Mixed
Feeling Over School Resumption
By Daniel Anazia, Maria Diamond, Henry Ekemezie, Agi Comfort Obahi, and Ibe Okwukwe Emmanuella

Speaking on the resumption of school after long vacation, Mrs. Aniemeke Evelyn told The Guardian that it is tedious and demanding, especially at this era of financial constraint.

“It is difficult to provide all the needs of the children.

I have three children who will be returning to boarding school and it turned out that their school fees had also been increased and my husband won’t stop lamenting how uneasy it is for him to pay the fees while attending to other domestic needs.

“He has practically turned deaf ears to other needs like feeding allowances, school bags, shoes, food items, provisions, stationeries, sanitary, clothing and others. So the financial pressure is so much and things are quite expensive.

“Contrary to popular assumption that school fee is not the most demanding of children’s education, the availability of their basic needs are what aids apt comprehension of whatever they are taught in school.

“And as far as these children are concerned, they want everything ready before going back to school. They barely understand the financial situation,” she said.

Mr. Tijani Adekunle also narrated his ordeal, describing the preparation for school resumption as ‘money sapping’.

“My children won’t stop giving me list after list every week since three weeks. I have had to put everything else on hold so that I can provide their needs.

I have four children in secondary school and I feel drained financially from the requirement for the new session.

“It is not possible to ignore their demands because it would affect their academic performance, especially when their mates have everything they need and they don’t.

So yes, this resumption is always one of a kind with intense money sapping demands,” he said.

To Mrs. Adenike Owolabi, she has a different approach to her daughter’s resumption this session. She intends to delay her resumption to look for money to pay her school fees.

One of the parents, Mrs. Uchechukwu Ezekiel, said parents are now feeling a surge of anxiety on how to afford their three square meals and are less bothered about how to send their wards to good schools.

“It is no longer news that the current economic downturn in the country affects every individual, and the education sector is not an exception with every Nigerian feeling the impacts of the economic hardship.

“I observed the traffic of new students for this session is very low.

Apart from this, parents are withdrawing their children from private schools to public schools, as they are unable to meet up with the bills.

She, however, added that school managements are not being considerate before making an increase in the school fee of the students.

A primary school teacher, Nsikkan Ekong, disclosed that very few parents have visited the school to register their children for the new session.

He said the number on the school register was not encouraging.

“Parents have lamented about the hike in the prices of textbooks and exercise books.

And with this situation, many of the schools around have been living with the fear of being diminished, because most parents have refused to continue with the institution. We only pray that things change soon.”

Meanwhile, he further appealed to the government to make amends on the economic breakdown because the educational sector is far important and should not be treated with kid’s gloves.

According to Adebimpe Ayeni, “No matter the cost of academic bills in this melting economy, the education of our children should remain sacrosanct.

The dwindling economy should not make parents and educators lose focus on the need to ensure that our kids get quality education that will enable them compete favourably with their counterparts globally.

“Parents should still believe in themselves and note that they are called to lead the children to greater heights.

No matter what comes up, the best is still expected from them, because God will never let anyone labour in vain,” she said.

Also speaking, one of the teachers in Fair View Schools who pleaded anonymity said: “Students whose fees are not paid on time/late payment of fees do not resume school with happy faces as they must have spent days at home, knowing that they have missed a lot from the school curriculum.

Their first day in school for a new term can determine the rest of the term for them.”

She further mentioned that some parents do not intentionally pay school fees late but it is as a result of the economy.

“Many parents can barely afford three square meals a day. The government has a role to play in this.”

According to a sixth grader in the school, issue of late payment of schools fees as well as the rapid and high increment of school fees by the schools should be reviewed critically.

He agreed that it affects kids mentally, academically and emotionally when they know that their friends and classmates paid fees earlier than them.

Although, some may want to return to school once their fees are paid, others want to remain at home, watch television and play video games.

Mrs Rachael Okika, one of the parents at Fair View schools said that parents should not see paying their wards fees as doing school a favour. “They are rather investing in their kids as it will pay off sooner or later. “

She further stated that “the government should not be totally blamed for this although should take a fair share as they are the authentic allocators of resources.

Similarly, Mrs. Ifeoma Onyebuchi who is a mother and also a primary school headmistress said: “I have already bought new school bags, shoes and stockings for my children to go back to school and I have also paid their school fees, despite the complains they have made about returning to school because they said their teachers beat them a lot.”

When asked why she did not listen to her kids coming back from school with complaints, she said: “I am also a teacher, so I understand where they are coming from.

No teacher would want to beat you for no reason.”

Mrs. Idowu Lawal said: “The challenges with the back-to-school period has drained a lot from me.

My son who is in JSS1 is going to be in boarding school.

His school fees alone has taken a lot from me and I still have to buy him mattress, school uniforms and still have to sew hostel wears for him.

So, it’s not an easy one but I still have to do it because it is my priority and to make the future a better one.”

Others complained about the state of the country and how it is affecting their children.

They complained about things becoming very expensive in the market and schools increasing their tuition fees, making it very hard for them to pay school fees and buy new school bags, shoes, notebooks and textbooks for their children to go back to school.

According to Mr. Jerry Umunakwe, “No matter how expensive education is, it does not stop me from giving my children the best education they deserve.

They are the leaders of tomorrow and it is my responsibility to equip them adequately for that tomorrow.

“A lot of parents are finding it hard to visit schools and register their children for a new session, because of the expenses they would incur like school fees, PTA levy.
  
“Cost of production of school uniform is high. We pay various taxes to the government; we provide electricity throughout the day to our students despite the high cost of petroleum products, especially diesel.

All these make education costly,” said Pastor Ogechi Mercy Ezekiel, proprietor of Ava Academy in Ajao Estate, Isolo, Lagos.
  
“We are appealing to government in all the states to improve the economy so that if cost of living is reduced, definitely the price of every other thing including education will go down,” she added.   
  
Speaking with The Guardian, Bridget Omoyemen, a mother of two, stated that September comes with such pressure for general financial demand, especially now that there is rush for school items such as bag, textbooks and stationeries have gone rocket high.
 
She said, “I am tempted to believe that the schools are taking undue advantage to exploit us as parents in our quest to give our children good and quality education.

The school items are costlier than school fees. The cost of textbooks and stationeries are quite high.
 
“How will you describe a situation wherein as a parent you spend between N10,000 and N12,000 on buying books for a kindergarten child in a private school.

This is exclusive of school uniforms, school sandals, school bags, food and water can, and lunch pack.
 
“Having two or three children in some standard private schools, not high flyer schools, is a hell, but as parents, we have no option than to give our children functional education in an ideal school environment,” she added.
  
Omoyemen further stated that apart from school fees, which is between N180,000 to N200,000 for her two daughters who are in Junior Secondary School, JSS I and II respectively in private secondary schools in Lagos, she will also spend about N70,000 to buy books for them.
  
On why she enrolled her children in private schools and not public schools, Omoyemen hinged decision on the dearth of facilities and poor learning environment of public schools, and the lackadaisical attitude of teachers in public schools.
  
Traders in school items in Ikotun, Igando and Oshodi markets, however, ruled out any form of profiteering, saying that the profit margin on books was quite minimal.

  
Casmir Chukwuemeka of CAS Bookshop, Oshodi said: “We are into the business to keep body and soul together, not that there is much gain in the business.

The publishers are complaining of the high cost of materials and papers, so they have reduced the quantity they usually publish.
 
“Some are not even publishing at all again, as such; some of the books requested for are not available.

I have a list of books that parents have been coming to ask for and I have called the publishers several times to find out if the books would be available but no response yet,” he said.
  
Mrs. Agnes Nwachukwu, who deals in lunch bag, told The Guardian that very few parents were buying as most were coming to repair old ones, adding that the situation had left her as a trader at crossroad because had purchased a lot of bags with hope that they will be sold.
 
“The few who bought the bags are even complaining that the quality is poor, which was not intentional,” she said.

Parents Now Brag About Exorbitant School Fees They Pay For Their Wards

Fashion entrepreneur, Uche Nnaji also known as Ouch, during the week dropped an interesting piece on school fees on his social media handles.

According to the stylist, Nigeria parents now brag about exorbitant school fees they pay for their wards.

He added that most parents have even relocated from Nigeria because of the constant rise in school fees.

“In the last two months, four young families and friends I know have relocated with their kids from Nigeria to Canada, UK and the US.

One common reason they all gave was the constant rise in school fees.

“One even told me: Uche, my children now attend a Catholic school that is going to be 70 years old this December and guess what the school is free.

I don’t have to pay anything since we migrated legally and to think the school is far better than the school my children were attending in Lekki, where I was working to just pay school fees,” he said.

He continues: “The other day, a client told me that he cannot afford to pay N150,000 for a Tuxudo. Curious I asked why, and he said he was paying a little over N7million as school fees for three of his kids schooling in Nigeria.

Another client also told me he is looking for suits of not more than N80,000 because he just paid over N3million for his two kids both in primary schools.

Nnaji stated that the trend is becoming unpalatable as he wonders, who is putting these men under pressure to now see high school fees as a bragging right.

He queried where the pressure leading parents to and asked if they even plan to stay alive and see these children finish the schools.

“Instead of us to take a stand, speak up and revive the missionary schools that most of us attended and turned out successful people today, we are busy bragging about paying N2m for acceptance fee form for certain primary school on the Island.

According to him, men and women who ought to speak up have all looked the other way, while schools like Kings College, Queens College and Igbobi College, which they attended is no longer befitting for their children to attend.

High Fees Compel Parents
To Withdraw Children From
Private To Public School,
From Ahmadu Baba Idris (Birnin Kebbi)

Speaking to The Guardian in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State capital, Mallam Ahmed Idris, who has four children in private schools lamented the high cost of school fees.

As a result, withdrew them from private schools to public school.

He added that with the present economy situation, he can’t afford to pay for his four children school fees, stressing that his salary cannot take care of it alongside other domestic need.

“I have one in Basaura International School while three at Joda. None of them pays below N60,000 per a term.”

He explained further that after investigation and consultation with friends and family, he decided to transfer them to public school to enable them to continue with their education.

“What I did now is that I have to engage them in extra moral lesson to make them learn more,” he said.

He then urged all the private school proprietors to review their fees to enable parents and guardians to pay for their school fees.

He, however, appealed to government to improve the standard of the public schools by employing qualified teachers and provision of adequate teaching facilities for the schools.

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