• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘Japa’ wave, rising rents take toll on school business

Ever growing japa

The mass emigration of professionals from Nigeria, popularly called ‘japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”), and surging rental costs are piling more pressure on school operators.

Some secondary and primary school operators in Africa’s biggest economy are considering shutting down their schools if their situation fails to improve as the number of students and pupils continues to decline owing to the rising number of parents relocating abroad with their children.

FAJIP Schools at Ilamoshe Estate is one school that has taken a beating from the ‘japa’ wave, with five families moving abroad with their children.

A staff member of the school revealed that the school lost 15 students from the five families.

She said the exit of those students cost the school between N750,000 and N1,00,000 or even more, because some of them were in secondary school.

“I think five of the students were in secondary school, while the rest were in primary and nursery cadres before they relocated. I don’t know the exact amount, but their move has cost the school massive financial loss,” she said.

Read also: Japa: Nigerians sell properties to afford fares to US, Europe

Faith Adewole, a researcher with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and co-founder of the Dayspring Model School, Abeokuta in Ogun State, said the exodus of Nigerians to other countries has affected the school.

He said the school suffered a loss of students and teachers as a result of parents and teachers moving abroad with their children.

He said: ““We have about 10 families, seven parents and three teachers that have travelled abroad, and by implication with their children.

“This affects the number of students and finance of the school; besides, because some of the teachers have left to seek greener pastures abroad, some parents have withdrawn their children from the school as well.

“So it’s a chain reaction that affects the school both directly and indirectly,” he said.

Elizabeth Ohaka, the proprietress of the Redwood Academy in Lagos, said the ‘japa’ wave has taken a toll on school business.

“Some of my students have left with their families abroad, and that for sure has adverse effects on the school’s finance.

“School business thrives on numbers; the more children you have, the more income you generate. Hence, as these children relocate abroad, the school finance drops because their presence would have been added income. However, this has not got to the level of contemplating shutting down the school.”

Boye Ogundele, an administrator in a top-notch private school in Aja, Lagos, said most international schools have lost their students because of the ‘japa’ wave.

“It is already affecting primary and secondary schools as parents are moving with their children and these are children who are supposed to enrol in high-brow schools,” he said.

Read also: Only over 9,000 doctors left in Nigeria on surging ‘japa’ pressure – NARD

According to a UNESCO report in March 2023, Nigeria had 71,753 students studying abroad.

Experts believe that most of the people leaving the country to school abroad are doing so because the learning environment is poor in Nigeria.

Moreover, the surging cost of living is another issue in Nigeria. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), annual inflation rate in Nigeria accelerated for a sixth month to 22.79 percent in June 2023, the highest since September of 2005.

Stanley Alaubi, senior lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, said the economic realities will increase the number of school drop-outs.

“Hunger is now the most important thing to Nigerians. Bare necessity is now what people consider the most. Schooling is now a luxury that people cannot afford, hence ‘japa’ is the escape route,” he said.

BusinessDay also gathered the surge in rents in Lagos and some other major cities is threatening the existence of some schools, with the owners at the mercy of their landlords.

Joseph Ibukun, a school owner at Itire suburb of Lagos, told BusinessDay that he closed down his school because it became a serious source of stress to him.

“The landlord sold the building without prior notice, and the cost of getting a new property is beyond what I can handle now; so I had to sell off the furniture and look for another business to do,” he said.

A 2022 UNESCO report noted that approximately 20 million Nigerian children were out of school.

Ifeanyi Udeogu is a parent whose children were evacuated from a school in Ilasamaja after the landlord sold the property.

“I don’t even know what to do if I should change their school, it means changing their entire uniforms and books. The money is not there, we are just managing. We are hoping the school owner will do something before school resumes,” he said.