Parents face tough times as schools raise fees

FG increases Unity Colleges tuition, UNILAG jacks up fees from N19,000 to N190,250

Private schools plan further hike, say 50% increment no longer realistic

Amidst escalating cost of living in the country, some educational institutions have announced significant increases in tuition and other fees, while others are planning to do so in order to cope with the effects of the removal of subsidy on petrol.

This is putting parents on the edge as the current academic session draws to a close for primary and secondary schools, while the calendar of tertiary institutions has been impacted by incessant strikes and crises.

On Friday, primary and secondary schools in Lagos and some other states brought the academic calendar to a close and some informed parents and guardians of pupils to prepare for a significant rise in fees when the next academic session begins in September.

Leading the school owners who had announced tuition fees increment was the Federal Government, which through the Federal Ministry of Education announced an upward review of school fees for new students into its secondary schools otherwise known as Federal Unity Colleges from N19,000 to N100,000.

This was contained in a directive from the office of the Director of Senior Secondary Education Department of the ministry with reference number ADF/120/DSSE/I, dated May 25, 2023, and addressed to all principals of Federal Unity Colleges.

According to the circular titled, ‘Approved fees/ charges for Federal Unity Colleges (1st term) for new students’, signed by the Director of Senior Secondary Education, Hajia Binta Abdulkadir, new students are expected to pay N100,000 instead of the previous N45,000.

The latest fee/charge increment will affect virtually all aspects and activities of the schools, including tuition and boarding, uniform, textbooks, exercise books, prospectus, caution fee, identity card, stationery, clubs and societies, sports, extra lesson and insurance, among others.

“Please be informed that the ministry has approved only the under-listed fees and charges for all Unity Colleges,” the memo read in part.

Similarly, the management of the University of Lagos, Akoka, reportedly increased the fees for undergraduates in the institution.

This was contained in a statement dated July 20, 2023, by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, UNILAG branch, following a meeting with the top management of the institution.

The union said in the statement that fees would be increased for undergraduate students in the next academic session.

Students of the institution previously paid N19,000 for tuition, but the management has now fixed N190,250 for students studying Medicine, while for courses that require laboratories and studios are to pay N140,250.

According to SSANU, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, met with representatives of the three non-academic staff unions on Thursday to discuss issues concerning members’ welfare.

“During the meeting, the proposed fees for undergraduate students of UNILAG were disclosed. Students without lab and studio use will pay N100,750, those with lab use will pay N140,250 and the College of Medicine will pay N190,250,” the statement said.

The SSANU representative at the meeting, Rasaki Yusuf, however, asked for a rebate for staff members with children in the university, but the vice-chancellor insisted that the new charges were set nationally and could not be modified for specific categories of students.

Ogunsola, however, gave the option of staff paying in instalments but with a condition to pay up one month before final exams.

The UNILAG management later issued a statement confirming the development.

The statement said, “After careful deliberations with its stakeholders (students, parents/guardians, staff unions and alumni, among others), the University of Lagos Management has reviewed the obligatory fees (mandatory charges for an academic session/year) of new and returning undergraduate students of the university.

“The adjustment in fees, which will take effect from the first semester of the 2023/2024 academic session, is in view of the prevailing economic realities and the need for the university to be able to meet its obligations to its students, staff and municipal service providers, among others.

“It is also pertinent to note that the university has not increased its obligatory fees in recent years. Management, therefore, seeks the kind understanding and support of students and other stakeholders with the assurance of its commitment to ensuring that students get the best learning experience.”

Private school owners

The President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, Chief Yomi Otubela, said the removal of subsidy on petrol had hit the education sector hard and the effects would be felt more in the months ahead.

According to him, most private school owners are battling with the withdrawal of pupils and the resignation of teachers, who are increasingly finding it difficult to commute to school.

Otubela told Saturday PUNCH, “We have so many parents who are withdrawing their children from school for their inability to meet up with the cost of transporting them to school or even paying the school fees. We have teachers who have tendered their resignation because their take-home pays can no longer take them home and back to school.

“We have instances where vendors, who supply one material or the other, have increased the cost of their materials. For instance, publishers have taken the cost of books from N25,000 to N65,000 for all books needed on average in all classes. We have instances where the use of technology is becoming obsolete because people can no longer fuel their generators and there is a limit to what the solar system can power.

“As it is now, we have a report of so many schools selling off their buses because the cost of patronising buses to parents has tripled and there is so much uncertainty as to what the actual price will be with the rising inflation. Generally, there is so much uncertainty within the private school sector. We consulted experts and all of them are beginning to see where many private schools will cease to exist and some will reduce the quality of education while looking for ways to weather the storm.”

He added that parents were aware of the situation and the realities on the ground, noting that even before the increase in fuel price, some parents had decided to leave their children at home.

Otubela stated, “Most children are going to be out of school because most parents cannot take care of transportation again. What we are looking at here is not only the issue of school fees. There are the textbooks, bags, uniforms and other wear of the children, which are already affected. So, parents are aware and they are already making the decisions either to do homeschooling or to keep their children at home till further notice when the economy of the family will be stable.

“The uncertainty cannot make anybody predict the percentage of increase that might likely come up. All school management are in different meetings and retreats to ascertain how to mitigate the current situation. At the initial stage when subsidy was removed, about 40 per cent to 50 per cent increase in transport fares was advocated.

“But with the further increase in the pump price and the inflation in the open market, no one can determine the percentage increase now although the bill taken home by the students is showing 40 to 50 per cent, there may be a need to review that further in line with new fuel price and the escalating prices of goods and services.”

He called on the government to intervene in the private school sector and state-owned schools by introducing mass transit buses to be dedicated to pupils in nursery and primary schools.

Otubela explained, “One (bus) cannot be attached to a school, but it can be attached to a location that will make it easy for the pupils to trek to schools around the area. If this is done all over the country, it will ameliorate the cost of transportation.

“The government should also set up an education bank that will focus on giving revolving loans at single-digit interest rate to operators in the education sector, which are not school owners alone, but also educators, teachers, publishers, furniture makers, solar energy system providers, generator system providers, instructional materials’ providers and the likes to curtail the rising cost of provision of education.

“The government should sponsor the capacity building of teachers in state-owned and private schools. At least once in a term, there should be capacity building for all the teachers that will be fully sponsored by the Federal Government and this should be the criteria for people to remain in the teaching profession.”

Similarly, the Publicity Secretary of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools in Abuja, Paul Edoh, said parents should anticipate at least a 10 per cent hike in tuition fees from the 2023/2024 academic session.

He told one of our correspondents, “There has not been any official statement from the FCT and the local government chapters of the NAPPS with regards to the aforementioned, but schools in rural areas and some schools in the city centre have resolved that already; by September, there will be changes in school fees by the way of upward reviews to help balance the overhead cost and day-to-day running of the schools.

“Some local communities within the AMAC jurisdiction are considering a five per cent increment, while some are looking at 10 per cent, though there is no uniformity as per fee increment.”

Speaking on the challenges being encountered by private school owners, Edoh said, “Sure, you are aware of the current multiple taxes being experienced by school owners. The area councils are demanding taxes, the FCT Administration and the Federal Inland Revenue Service are asking for theirs. Don’t forget that the Department of Quality Assurance’s annual due is still there.”

On if parents had been informed about the proposed hike, he said, “Sure, written notes have been sent to them and some schools have even held PTA meetings on it too.”

The National President, National Parent-Teacher Association, Haruna Danjuma, did not respond to inquiries by one of our correspondents on the way forward for parents as of the time of filing this report.

A school proprietor in the Ibafo area of Ogun State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Saturday PUNCH that it had become clear that private school owners would have to increase their fees in order to stay afloat, adding that the management of his group of schools had concluded plans to raise the tuition fees by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

The proprietor said, “The 15 per cent increment will be for science students as some of the prices of some of the things they will use in the laboratory for their practical use have risen. For instance, some reagents we were buying for N3,000 are now being sold for N9,000.

“For the art and commercial students, the fees will rise by at least 10 per cent. A rim of 75gram A4 paper cost N4,000 three years ago and gradually increased to N11,000 last year and N16,000 earlier this year. On Wednesday, my supplier called to inform me that it has risen to N26,000. When subsidy was removed on petrol, I had to absorb the extra cost and did not increase the fare for the school bus from N30,000 per term, but next session, it has to go up or parents will have to find other means of bringing their children to school.

“At the same time, we have to increase teachers’ and other workers’ salaries as they too are facing hard times. We will also have to give discounts to staff members whose children are in our school. However, we have to be careful not to burden parents too much so that they won’t withdraw their children from our school or default on payment.”

 Parents fret

A Lekki, Lagos-based parent, Sandra Ugo, expressed anxiety over the increment in fees by public schools and wondered what the situation would be in September when her two kids would move to higher classes in a highbrow private school.

“My husband and I have had a discussion on it and we will still talk more in the days ahead. One of the options we are considering is to withdraw the kids from their current school and look for a more affordable one, while I will have to dust my books and serve as home teachers for them as we may not be able to afford a private home teacher,” she stated.

A resident of the Magboro area of Lagos, Mr Gbenga Adeyanju, said he was already overwhelmed by the situation in the country and was anticipating further increases in school fees for his children.

Adeyanju stated, “I work for a private company, which is also struggling under the yoke of the current situation in the country. My first child is in a faith-based university in Osun State where the students are not allowed to cook but buy food from vendors. On the parents’ platform, the complaints over the last two years had been about the quantity of food being served and I am sure that the vendors will further reduce the quantity or increase their prices now.

“My two other children are in private secondary schools in Lagos and Ogun states. The one in Lagos is proceeding to the Senior Secondary School 3 next session and I am already scared of what the fees will be, including tuition, hostel accommodation, feeding, books, sports, PTA levy and WASSCE fees. In addition to that and going by tradition, the school will ask parents to pay for the three terms making up the session at the beginning of the school year. Where will I get that and the fees for his brother going to JSS2?

“My blood pressure is already climbing higher and my wife has been the one trying to calm me down, but anytime I remember the heavy load ahead, I get depressed.”

A Lagos-based engineer, Mr Innocent Agbo, told Saturday PUNCH that the universities where two of his children were studying would likely increase fees next session and his income had stagnated over the years, while the cost of providing for his family kept rising.

He called on the government to see the plight of Nigerians and roll out measures to reduce the cost of living and bring down the cost of fuel, adding that the present realities in the country had wiped off the middle class.

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