Nigeria: School Fees Up By 100%, Parents Jolted

When Jide Akerele got the bill and the list of textbooks brought home by his daughter who got promoted to Senior Secondary School (SSS) 2 in a private school, two things shocked him.

First was the significant increment in the fees and also the caveat put in front of the column regarding the cost of textbooks. The management of the school said students should come back by the end of August to know what the market would be like before the school would determine how much to pay for textbooks.

Trying to have an idea, Akerele took the list to a bookshop to find out the cost of some of the listed books. He was surprised at what he found out.

“Though I have not got the cost of the textbooks from my child’s school, I used the cost they put on some of the books she used in SS1, as given by the school, to have an idea of what is happening. I just priced some of the books and discovered that the price put on them by the school last year was far cheaper than even at the bookshop. Out of curiosity, I asked the bookseller why that should be so”, he said.

“He explained to me that some publishers take their books directly to schools for sale. They use their marketing people to do that. In the process, they bypass booksellers and they are able to reduce the cost. He said as a bookseller, he would pay the rent for his shop and other logistics and would still think of making a little profit,” he said.

Akerele also told Sunday Vanguard that many parents may find it difficult to buy textbooks for their wards when the new session starts in September.

“Only God can provide for many parents to be able to do their duty in this regard. In fact, the issue has become what the Yoruba would say “Olorun lo n wo omo were” (it is God that helps the madwoman nurse her baby), as many pupils and students may attend classes with no textbooks in their bags, given the prevailing economic condition in the land,” he added.

As if to confirm Akerele’s assertion, our correspondent observed that most of students going for holiday coaching at Surulere Community Junior Secondary School, Ijaye, Agbado, Lagos did not have notebooks in their bags not to talk of textbooks. Assuming that their parents are yet to buy textbooks for them, what about notebooks? The reason is not far-fetched; the price of notebook too has increased. Therefore, some of the students just while away time and play, thereby defeating the purpose for which Lagos State government mandated its teachers to embark on the exercise.

What led to high cost of books?

According to stakeholders in the sector, especially authors, printers and publishers, the poor form of the naira against other currencies, high cost of materials and the collapse of local paper mills are the major reasons the cost of books has hit the roof.

“A higher education notebook now costs over N1, 000 and if the price of just a material to write on is that high, one can imagine what that of a textbook will be. A 700 gram 24×36 paper is now N27, 000. For 250 gram hard cover, you cannot get it for less than N23, 000 now. If you want to run one impression for four colours, if you are using a cord machine, it goes for about N10, 000 and even for N20, 000 if you use bigger machine”, Niyi Olaiya, a printer, told our correspondent.

“As a printer and like most of my professional colleagues, I am afraid to print anything now. The cost is too high. What that may lead to is the scarcity of books and the few available ones will be on the high side for many people to afford”.

An author, who is also into publishing, Jide Jegede, said increase in the value of the dollar to the local currency accounted for the development.

“The dollar exchange rate has made things difficult for us. Paper, cards, boards and even consumables are not within reach. Some items we bought for N3, 000 last year are now selling for N9, 000. Most parents cannot afford the textbooks and we are the ones absorbing the cost,” he stated

Jegede, who writes books on Fine Art for secondary school students, is not motivated to do further print run for now, as the cost is prohibitive and even as many copies of previous print are yet unsold.

Free basic education policy

The Federal Government, as a matter of policy, is expected to implement free basic education for the citizens.

The policy is to make education at primary and junior secondary levels free and also ensure the provision of textbooks in core subjects free for the pupils and students.

The policy, expected to be implemented by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, in conjunction with State Universal Basic Education Boards, ought to give beneficiaries textbooks in English, Mathematics, Yoruba/Igbo/ Hausa, Basic Science and Computer Science.

Though the textbooks are to be kept in schools, in most states of the federation, government has not been forthcoming.

In most public schools in Lagos State, for instance, the last supply of such books was done over seven years ago, leaving the few books that remain to be tattered and not enough for students.

The Lagos State government has instead picked some schools where libraries are equipped and laboratories set up.

Publishing, bookselling have become nightmarish

A member of the Nigerian Publishers Association, NPA, who is also the President, Nigerian Association of Booksellers, Mr Dare Oluwatuyi, opined that book publishing and selling have become nightmares for those who engage in them.

“To publish book now is difficult. The cost involved is killing and some people even prefer to take their books abroad to publish and we all know what that means, that is killing the local publishing industry. Also, as the Managing Director of CSS Bookshop Limited, I know where and how the shoe pinches. The necessary attention is not given the book industry as part of the creative industry”, he stated.

“Some booksellers have had to shut down business because of poor patronage. Now, some publishers take their books to schools to sell directly to them; that is shutting out the bookseller. The way out is to revive our paper mills across the country so that the cost will go down. If we continue to rely on materials that are dollar denominated for our production, price will continue to be high”.

The school fee hammer

Not many parents were taken aback recently when the Federal Government jerked up fees payable in its Unity Colleges from N45, 000 to N100, 000. Though it gave the explanation that tuition remains free in such schools, but failed to account for the increment in other sundry fees by over 100 percent.

“If government could do that in its own schools, what do you expect private school owners, who are in the business to make some profit, no matter how little, to do? I was stunned when I saw the new fee regime introduced in my son’s school. The fee went up by over 100 percent and it is only few parents that may be able to afford subscribing to the school bus scheme”, Ojo Adeola, a parent in a private school in Ojodu area of Lagos, said.

“The way out is for one to cut his cloth according to his size. Definitely, a lot of parents are going to withdraw their children from some of these private schools to continue in public ones. If you noticed, more parents subscribed to this year’s placement examination into public junior secondary schools in Lagos State for instance”.

What some schools charge

Apart from tuition fee, fees for books, school transport service, the common charges observed in most schools whose websites were accessed were for extra classes, utilities, medical services, vocational subjects, clubs, societies, sports and stationery.

It was also observed that most schools charge what they called maintenance levy and capital works levy. Most private schools also charge more than the recommended amount for examinations conducted by the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, and the National Examinations Council, NECO. WAEC collects N18, 000 for its West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, WASSCE, but some schools charge up to N40, 000.

Some schools in Lagos, Abuja, Abeokuta, Jos and Ibadan, among others, charge over N5 million per annum per student. However, American International School, Victoria Island, Lagos, according to findings, is the most expensive school in the country.

Information from the school’s website showed that for a child to be admitted to the school, whether at the primary or secondary level, an application fee of N287, 903 has to be paid.

The school, owned by American International School, Abu Dhabi, UAE, also requires the payment of N5, 768, 062 as registration fee and a tuition fee of N7,254,338, making a total of N13, 300,300 as the total amount to be paid per child per annum.

What school owners are doing now

Aware that they have to stay afloat and also keep as many pupils and students as possible in their schools, school owners too are devising means to remain in business. The National President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools, NAPPS, Chief Yomi Otubela, said at a forum few days ago that there was no way his members would not increase fees, but that they are mindful of the economic reality in the country.

“The cost of everything has gone up and we need to deliver quality services for our clients. At the same time, we need to make our teachers happy so that they put in more efforts. We are, therefore, reducing some activities that are not too necessary so as to cut cost. One of the steps is that some schools are stopping or restricting the operations of school buses”, Otubela said.

“We want to say that some of our social activities will be reduced in terms of the kind of money we pump into that. We also want to begin to organise staff quarters around where the schools are existing to reduce the cost of transportation for the staff and where we could not build staff quarters, we can rent apartment and pay ahead and deduct in installments”.

Advice for parents

The Deputy National President of National Parents/Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, advised parents not to kill themselves over putting their children in schools they cannot afford. To him, the economic realities of the time should teach any discerning mind to know his or her bounds.

“Even the increment in fees announced by government regarding Unity Colleges is not what we want or expect. We are also opposed to the fee hike in some public higher institutions. Parents are under so much pressure and education should not be taken away from the reach of the average Nigerian. As for the hike by government in its schools, we call for a reversal of the action”, Ogunbanjo said.

“For parents, they should know that private school owners are also into business running their schools, so, if the fee of a particular school is too high for you to bear, take that child to a school that is affordable. You child can even attend a public school, at lease we all did in our days”.

What NUT is saying

The Chairman of Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Comrade

Akintoye Hassan, wants government to focus more attention on public schools, so that they would attract more pupils and students. He lauded the state government for embarking on massive renovation of schools, the building of new ones and the recruitment of teachers among other steps.

To him, people who patronise private schools should know that they are dealing with business entities.

“The aim of any business is to maximise profit and minimise cost. And that will affect charges, starting from the overhead to depreciation. One of the instruments of attraction is the packaging, beautiful edifices and classroom setting. We are not talking about the quality of teachers. That is where they cut costs by engaging less qualified personnel”, Hassan said.

Government is saying its schools and what is being charged are still the best and moderate. However, factors such as high cost of books and increased fees are threatening to increase the rate of drop out from schools. Nigeria has the highest figure for out-of-school children in the world. Government says it is about 12 million, international bodies are saying it is over 20 million, the question is, will the current economic situation in the country not aggravate it? Time will tell.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *