• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Higher fees squeeze parents as schools resume

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Josiah Mutah, a 44-year-old father of three, says with his N76,000 monthly income, living is typically a struggle daily. The soaring food and transport costs have made things worse for his family in recent months.

To add to this, he received a notice that his children’s school fees have been increased weeks ago – the most frustrating news yet for Mutah, who is desperate to give his children a good education.

It is the third time the school will raise fees in barely two years, but the latest increase is significant, rising by more than 50 percent for just basic fees alone.

The civil servant who resides in the Bwari area of Abuja is now faced with a tough choice.

“My last daughter’s fee in primary one rose from N18,500 to N28,000, and that of the first child in Primary 5 rose from N28,000 to about N45,000. I have not even added the cost of new books, school uniform, transportation and lesson fees, because they are going to new classes,” he says.

“These are the most difficult times for me and my family; it’s giving me sleepless nights. I believe in good education, and I took them to a good private school but I will have to make difficult decisions,” he adds.

Like Mutah, Uchechi Iruke, who runs a provision store, says her daughter will no longer be resuming in her current school – a private school in the Dutse area of Abuja – due to high school fees but will be moved to a public school.

“They have increased their fees and it is too high. I can’t cope. My husband and I have agreed to move her to a public school,” she says. “The school fees of the class she is moving into (JSS1) used to be N48,000 or so; it has now risen to about N90,000, which is just too much.”

“Everything is going up. We pay shop rent, house rent, and even the water bill has gone up. There is nothing in this country whose price has not gone up because of fuel; now school fees have become a major burden,” she laments.

Iruke says she is also sponsoring her niece for her master’s degree programme at the University of Abuja, but doing so has become extremely difficult as her fees have also shot up from about N150,000 to N260,000.

Read also: High school fees, transport fares, others threaten students’ future

Vincent Okeke, a 42-year-old fuel attendant who now sleeps overnight in the filling station where he works to avoid the prohibitive cost of commuting daily from Ikorodu to Maryland, felt a spurt of anger when he learned his children’s school fees had risen by 30 percent.

Okeke and his wife have decided to change their children’s schools from private to public as they can no longer handle the steep rise in their cost of living that keeps worsening daily.

“The school authority stated that they have to increase fees owing to high operational costs, and I can’t afford any additional increases,” he says. “This has left us with no choice but to move our children to public schools for this new school year. We are just barely surviving.”

Like millions of parents across the country, Mutah, Iruke and Okeke are feeling the pinch of the country’s accelerating inflation that has hammered salaries and spending power and exacerbated poverty.

Households are weighed down by stalled income growth and rising prices. The situation is worse for many Nigerians living from hand to mouth, which means they spend virtually everything they earn to sustain themselves daily, and there’s little or no spare cash to tuck away in a savings account.

The National Bureau of Statistics said last year that 133 million Nigerians were living in multidimensional poverty. The country’s inflation hit 24.08 percent in July 2023, accelerating at the fastest pace in recent years.

Subsidy removal, naira devaluation, and the worsening rate of insecurity are causing further spikes in the prices of goods and amplifying a cost-of-living crisis in Africa’s biggest economy.

Food prices are up by over 200 percent, and transportation costs have doubled year-on-year, according to BusinessDay’s market checks.

The price of petrol in Africa’s biggest economy has surged by 186 percent to an average of N550 litre from an average of N191.8 per litre in January, according to BusinessDay’s calculations, leading to a spike in transportation costs.

The situation is the same for parents with wards in public schools. This hike in school fees cuts across all levels of education in the country.

The Federal Ministry of Education recently announced an upward review of school fees for new students in its secondary schools, otherwise known as Unity Colleges.

New students are now required to pay N100,000 instead of the previous fee of N45,000, the ministry notified parents recently.

The National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools has attributed the rising cost of school fees to the high cost of operation. It added that the recent petrol subsidy removal has forced many schools to stop operating bus services as several parents could no longer afford it.

In tertiary institutions, BusinessDay gathered that students are even dropping out due to rising costs. Many tertiary institutions have raised their fees by up to 200 percent.

Christian Chikeziri, a 200-level student of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, says his school fees rose from N56,000 to N90,000 for his course.

Chikeziri says the situation has posed a lot of difficulty for students and “some are even dropping out because they can’t cope.”

“My colleague dropped out some months ago because his parents could not cope with school fees. I run a barbing saloon in school, and that’s how I can support my parents,” he adds.