• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Schools ditch fee hikes, prioritize retention over expansion

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As primary and secondary schools resume new academic activities, private school operators are halting further fee hikes to retain their businesses amid the surging cost of living.

Maureen Chukwu, a teacher in a private secondary school at Akute, Ogun State, said the school where she teaches has halted further increases in school fees to reduce the renewed pressure on households and remaining students.

According to her, the school has continuously increased school fees in the last year and has seen a high withdrawal rate as parents struggle to survive the inflationary pressure.

“We did not increase out school fees this term to reduce pressure on our parents whose students are here. We understand that it is now difficult for households and businesses and that we cannot just be increasing schools as the only measure.

She added that the school has cut costs and cancelled school buses as other measures to sustain the business.

Mercy Nnokwam, a school owner in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also told BusinessDay that her school has decided to put a hold on fees increase for now because of the negative effects the school experienced the last time it increased its fees.

“We are not increasing our school fees this term because we lost a lot of pupils the last time we did that. We plan to retain the old fee and improve teachers’ welfare,” she said.

Another teacher who would not want her name mentioned said her school at Ikotun in Lagos State plans to increase fees because it aids the business’s survival.

“The increase in school fees aids survival, but we must be cautious. Though the parents are not responding as before due to the increment,” she noted.

However, Phyllis Iwobi, the head teacher at Headstart Private School in Oshodi-Isolo, Lagos State, told our reporter that the school is taking several measures to cushion the negative effects of the economic crunch on parents and its staff to ensure that the institution continues to operate at a premium standard.

“We are giving a 10 per cent discount to the students to cushion the economic crunch realities faced by parents, and for the teachers, we have increased their salary to cover their transportation cost,” she said.

Multiconcept College at Isheri–Lagos, the management took an approach of individually reaching out to their students to reaffirm its commitment to students and their parents.

Dagold Olarenwaju, a teacher, said that the proprietress promised the teachers increased salaries beginning in January 2024.

Some parents who spoke with our reporter complained of the high cost of living and its implications for their children’s education.

Sola Kayode, a civil servant, decried that the cost of school needs has surged while salaries remain the same, which, according to her, is worrisome.

“Ordinarily, a pair of school socks sold for N100 is now N350, about a 75 percent increase. Egg, an essential part of children’s breakfast, is now sold for N3,000 as against N1,800 per crate,” she said.

Besides, she cited that teachers are leaving for green pastures abroad.

“We don’t know what is going to happen as schools resume many of the teachers have traveled abroad. It’s quite an excruciating time,” she noted.

Abiola Oguntimehin, a tech expert said gone are the days when parents are elated when their wards are resuming school but nowadays, the reverse is the case.

“Resumption comes with a lot of fear and anxiety because inflation has reduced both parents’ saving ability and purchasing power. This challenge, if not properly managed, can lead to psychological trauma and conflict in the home,” she said.

Bola Ajiteru lamented that the bills are surging, coupled with the high rate of stuff in the market and with newly increased school fees.

“I must say as a mother, I have to forget my needs most times to ensure that my children’s education is not disrupted.

The economy is becoming too toxic for an average citizen to meet her needs. Schools are not helping situations too, still increasing bills,” she said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s annual inflation rate increased to 28.9 percent in November 2023, the highest since August 2005 and above market expectations of 27.9 percent, up from 27.3 percent in the previous month.

Inflation accelerated for food and non-alcoholic beverages (32.6 percent vs 31.3 percent in October), clothing and footwear (16.6 percent vs 16.4 percent), housing and utilities (23.4 percent vs 22.9 percent), health (23.9 percent vs 23.3 percent), recreation and culture (8.8 percent vs 8.4 percent) and restaurants and hotels (24.1 percent vs 24 percent).

Conversely, prices eased for communication (6.1 percent vs 6.3 percent), education (20.4 percent vs 21.1 percent), and miscellaneous goods and services (21.6 percent vs 22 percent).

Meanwhile, inflation remained unchanged for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and kola (at 16.5 percent) and furnishings and household equipment (at 16.3 percent).

Consumer prices grew 2.1 percent in November, following a 1.7 percent rise in October.