Worldover, education is seen as the passport to a better life and Nigerians are not left behind in the desire to get the best education that money can buy. Cashing in on the assumed woes of public schools, proprietors and administrators of private and mission schools have taken the saying ‘if you think education is expensive, try ignorance’ a bar higher by charging exorbitant fees and levies.
Exorbitant fees and levies
Despite the reasonable improvements in infrastructure and manpower development in most public schools in Lagos State, most parents are still of the view that private schools are better managed, with a relatively higher standard of education, fewer disciplinary problems, better facilities, better performance in public examinations and higher quality of output.
These and many more have led to the increased patronage, proliferation of these schools and extortion by private and mission schools. These extortions come in form of cost of note books and text books that can’t be used by a younger sibling, tuition, development fee, sportswear and uniforms, among numerous others.
What parents pay: From a copy of the payment bill for new intakes at St. Gregory’s College, Ikoyi, Lagos, and signed by the school’s administrator, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ayeni, new intakes are to pay a non refundable N100,000 and a balance of N60,000.
Tuition fee (N50,000); development levies (N10,000); miscelleneous items such as books, academic materials, sport/game wear, medical scheme, diesel/generator maintenance, damages, prayer book, 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of uniform, a pair of Sunday wear with name inscription, 2 pairs of house wear with name inscription, lunch, PTA levies, etc (N155,000 for day students and N205,000 for boarders); hostel accommodation (N170,000)
A copy of the payment bill from Murtala Muhammed Airport Schools, Ikeja, reads: tuition N55,000; electives N3,000; development levy N6,000; examination N3,000; PTA levy N1,000; phonetics N2,500; end of year party N4000; textbooks/exercises N45,000; lesson N4000; practicals N5000; and LASGEM N500. Total amount payable is N129,000.
Dowen College, Lekki, charges as much as N2,000,000 annually for a boarding student and N1,250,000 for day students; Atlantic Hall charges as much as N2,270,000 per student; Greensprings Schools charge over N3 million for boarding and almost N2 million for day students; Lekki British International School, Lekki Phase 1, charges $19,500 (over N4m) + N200,000 development fee; while British International School, Victoria Island, charge $26,750 + N200,000 annually for a student.
Reactions: Mr. Ejike Okoye, who had always wanted his child to school at Learning Field Schools, Satellite Town, could not achieve the vision as the fee charged for kindergarten class was too high for him.
He said: “In as much as I want the best education for my child, paying N105,000 for kindergarten class is way too much because aside ABC and 123, I wonder what they would be taught at that age that would justify that huge amount of money.
“Though I was disappointed, I was able to register her in another quality but more affordable school.”
A parent who pleaded anonymity said “at Yewande Memorial School, Surulere, I paid about N90,000. Two pairs of uniforms cost N15,000, sweater and sportswear cost N9,000, medical insurance was tagged N3,000, books and stationery N10,000 and tuition was about N60,000. Though it is much but it is a price I’m prepared to pay provided my child is getting the best.”
For Chinyere Chidiadi, “It is really outrageous, minus tuition and uniform, my son’s school actually billed me N5,000 for Christmas funfair, N10,500 for books only though he just started kindergarten and his siblings will not be able to use those same books.
In as much as we desire quality education for our children, these charges are really very outrageous.”
Another parent, Mrs. Wura Dairo, said it is really appalling that these schools are taking advantage of the lapses in public schools and are charge exorbitant fees and levies. Aside the tuition fees, I pay N40,000 for meals among other numerous and almost irrelevant levies. At the end, the levies are four times the tuition fees. I don’t blame them because they are taking advantage of the fact that parents who can’t afford to send their children abroad will patronise private schools to bill us high.”
Concerned about the frequent change of textbooks every session, Mrs. Florence Utam said “It is really sad that two siblings can no longer use same books as it was in the past. Today, the book sellers say it is 22nd edition and when you ask for the same book tomorrow, they will tell you that it is now 23rd edition and this is very frustrating.”
On the reserve side, some parents and guardians have blamed parents for exposing themselves to private schools to be extorted from. Mrs Joy Orubu, with three children in Primegold School, Olodi Apapa, said: “The school fees is reasonable to me, I do not feel over charged. The problem is that people like fanciful things and even prefer it over quality.
The parents went there themselves, if they feel extorted from they should leave; if the quality of education provided is not as they like it they should leave. It is just that people like flashy things.”
Defending the charges private schools place on the services they render to the upbringing of children, Mrs Tina Dinma said: “There are many reasons for the exorbitant levies and school fees. For one thing, Nigerians tend to place higher value on expensive schools, they even look at the structure of the school building in choosing schools for their children and wards. The truth is that the structure has nothing to do with the academic standard of the school.
“Also, there is competition among schools especially on the issue of salaries as a lot money is needed for the payment of salaries. Schools that pay higher salaries usually get the best teachers since almost every teacher would want to work with them. With that the schools are able to choose the most qualified and experienced teachers.
“The issue of changing books is an arrangement with publishers. The publishers give them commissions and even discounts. The children are compelled to buy from the school, usually at higher prizes than what is obtainable in bookshops. The books are always in workbook form, the child writes in it, the teacher marks with red ink such that it cannot be erased. This of course means that another child cannot use it.”
Pointing a finger at the government Mr Fortune Emuroh, who has resulted to patronising private schools, said: “The government caused all these things. When you take your children to government primary school, they are not well taken care of. The environment is untidy, the ones here have collapsing buildings, pools of water and lack furniture. Am I to send my child to such a place? Provided my child is well taken care of, I would patronise the one that is friendly with my pocket. If government schools were as they were when I was young, I would have no reason to patronise private schools.”
“We are not asking for too much, we just want the ministry to education to look into these charges. There should be regulations to protect the citizenry because all the children in Nigeria cannot all go to public schools, they do not have the capacity.” Said Madam Ozo who has four children and two nieces in private schools.
Lack of government control
Vanguard’s investigations reveal that there is little or nothing that the state Ministry of Education can do to checkmate these private schools as they are not under the supervision of the ministry.
A top ministry official, who didn’t want his name on print, said “just as the Ministry of Information can’t control what goes on in your organisation, the Ministry of Education can’t control the activities of private schools despite the fact that they are approved and registered under us.
“If the parents are complaining about the fees and extra charges being imposed on them by these schools, they should register their ward(s) in public schools because they are less expensive and the state government has done its possible best to make them conducive for academic activities.”