• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Schools pause fee hikes as cost of living crisis worsens

Parent power: How children from privileged backgrounds out compete their underprivileged peers

As primary and secondary schools have resumed after the Christmas and New Year holidays, private school operators are putting the brakes on fee hikes to retain students amid the surging cost of living.

Maureen Chukwu, a teacher in a private secondary school in Akute, Ogun State, said the school where she teaches has decided to stop increasing school fees to reduce the pressure on households.

She said the school has continuously increased school fees in the past year and has seen a high rate of withdrawal as parents struggle to survive the inflationary pressures.

“We did not increase our school fees this term as a way of reducing pressure on our parents whose students are here. We understand that it is difficult for households and businesses at the moment and that we cannot just be increasing schools as the only measure,” she said.

She added that the school has resorted to cutting down costs such as cancelling the use of school bus as part of measures to sustain the business.

Mercy Nnokwam, a school owner in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, told BusinessDay that her school has decided to put a hold on fee 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. Our plan is to retain the old fees and improve teachers’ welfare,” she said.

Another teacher who declined to be identified said her school at Ikotun in Lagos State planned to increase fees because it would aid the survival of the business.

“The increase in school fees aids survival but we must be cautious with it. Though the parents are not responding as before as a result of the increment,” she said.

However, Phyllis Iwobi, 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 with a high standard.

“We are giving a 10 percent 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.

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

Dagold Olarenwaju, a teacher, said that the proprietress promised the teachers increased salary beginning from January.

Some of the 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, described the surge in the cost of education while salaries remain the same as worrisome.

“A pair of school socks, which was sold for N100, is now N350 which is 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.

She pointed out that teachers are leaving the country for greener pastures.

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

Abiola Oguntimehin, a tech expert, said gone are the days when parents are elated when their wards are resuming school.

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

Bola Ajiteru, another parent, lamented the high prices of commodities in the market and the increase in 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, 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.