With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
This is not the best of seasons for most parents. The thought of school resumption has put many of the edge; most of whom carry about the frustration like baggage. Kwara schools are billed to resume on Monday and some parents have developed high blood pressure no thanks to the high educational bills. It is common knowledge that education is expensive in Nigerian; it has been priced out of hands of the common man. Even government professed free education is not totally free as schools and the Parents Teachers Association have devised means of exploiting hapless parents. Just about this time last year I wrote a piece in this column on ‘Schools resumption and screwed expectation, which is still relevant even a year after as nor much has changed. Excerpts:
Jumoke’s eyes were bloodshot from days of crying. She has remained inconsolable since her parents passed the verdict of ‘no private school education.’ The 10 year-old primary school graduates has been sentenced to life as a public school student for not living up to her parents’ expectation in the common entrance examination (meant for transition into secondary school). Her sorrow is exacerbated by the fact that her three elder siblings are in private schools. The little girl is of the belief that the standard of teaching and learning in public schools is below average, while private school will guarantee a future she envisions.
Efforts by close family friends to make her parents reconsider position on the issue, proved abortive. However, the mother later confided in me that the harsh financial climate is the underlining motive for the decision.
“We only hinged the decision on her not too impressive performance in the common entrance examination, the real reason is financial crunch,” she explained.
For a family friend withdrawing her child from one of the ivy league secondary schools in the state is the only option to remain sane. The single mum has been losing sleep over exorbitant school fees of her only son. According to her, parents are expected to make payment before or on resumption and there is no room for instalmental payment owing to trust issues. Although, she is aware of the effect of academic instability on a child occasioned by changing of schools, but the cash crunch as left her with no other alternative.
There is also the sad narration of a boy, Rasheed, whose education has been put on hold due to financial incapacitation of his father. He was asked to repeat a class and believing that investment in his education at a time like this is a wasteful venture, his father enrolled him as a mechanic apprentice. Come Monday, he will not be going back to school with his mates. Rasheed would only return to school when the economic recession abates. Therefore, he keeps his fingers crossed.
Stories abound of pupils/students whose aspirations for schools resumption has been dashed for no fault of theirs. The general cash crunch in the country has continued to take its toll on the ability of parents to conveniently discharge the financial responsibility their children’s education attracts.
To alleviate the financial burden on their parents some children took up holiday jobs, proceeds from thereof to be used to augment what their parents have for their fees and educational needs.
Even traders in school wares are bearing the brunt of the economic realities. It is not business as usual. Gone are the days when students resume in school in sparkling new uniform, socks, bags etcetera, reminding me of my school days when we all appear dandy on the first day of resumption. The smell of newness pervades the assembly as we stand before the headmaster who gave us master strokes on how to excel in our academics in his speech to welcome us back to school. I could recall how my siblings and I had to make choices from different brands of school wares when we go shopping for school resumption. However, presently traders in school stuffs are experiencing lull in business because most parents are faced with knotty challenges. There are parents who are employees of state and local governments who are owed salary arrears. This, is therefore a trying period for them as some of them would be forced to make desperate decision as regards their children’s education. Even parents who are in the business sector are feeling the heat as a result of low turnover.
The fees in private schools have continued to soar while managers of government schools devise means of exploiting parents in the name of levies. As noted by a colleague many schools have introduced additional payments which are unprecedented in the annals of history of Nigerian education. It is sad to note that school fees take a huge percentage of family expenditure in the present day. The soaring prices of books is one other issue that is driving parents crazy. Unfortunately, the system is such that elder siblings cannot pass down the textbooks to their younger siblings.
It is disheartening to know that education, which is believed to be the best legacy parents can bequeath to their children is fast becoming unattainable as a result of economic recession, poverty, unemployment and other economic challenges confronting households. If this challenges subsists for long, the population of illiterates may increase astronomically, which will not augur well for the socio-economic wellbeing of Africa’s most populous nation. For this reason, government at all levels, stakeholders in the education sector must ensure that children do not suffer as a fall out of the present economic crisis. The needful should be done so that educational career is not truncated abruptly. Parents should be more than ever before ready to make sacrifices to give their children qualitative education. Illiterate parents we were told did it, the reason we have generations of educated people. For no reason should the education and future of our children should be compromised.