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Kaduna: Parents Panic Over School Fees, Lament Tough Financial Conditions

Though Kaduna State Government has asked schools in the state to be shut till further notice as the second wave of COVID-19 sweeps across the country, parents whose wards have been gingering to resume schools are still trying to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic amidst tough economic situations.

Public and private schools were expected to reopen for academic activities before the state government announced that it was not safe to allow students to go back to school in the face of the second wave of the pandemic.

Shehu Usman Muhammad, the state Commissioner for Education disclosed on Tuesday, Jan. 12  that the government was still assessing the COVID-19 pandemic with keen interest and would announce the opening of schools only when it deemed it safe for students and teachers.

“The State Government will review the state of Covid-19 cases before fixing a date for resumption,” Muhammad said as he announced the suspension of school resumption till further notice.

But many parents in the state are already in panic mode because of the school fees and other payments needed to be paid for their wards whenever schools reopen. HumAngle learnt that such parents are those that are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly that many businesses and organizations are yet to resume fully.

This is coming at a time when most Nigerian households and businesses are in turmoil and are just recovering from the negative impact of the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, governments across states are owing salaries.

Why Parents Don’t Want Schools To Reopen

Ibrahim Muhammad, a private school teacher and a parent of four children, says he is deeply worried about the reopening of schools, not because he didn’t want his wards to go back to school but because times are tough for him.

“We are barely managing to feed due to lack of money. The recent hike in foodstuffs has also compounded the problem,” Muhammad told HumAngle.

According to a report on COVID-19 impact by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published in August 2020, 51.30 per cent of Nigerian households obtained financial loans since the lockdown in mid-March in order to purchase food.

Rabiu Isa, a petty meat trader in Kaduna has been surviving on a number of loans since March 2020 when the government first imposed lockdown measure. He is a father of five and catering to their needs everyday is almost impossible.

“I am still trying to recover from what is left of my little trade, now that school resumption is moving closer, I am bothered on how and where to source the funds for my five children,” Isa said,

“Things are really bad, catering for a large family everyday is almost impossible now the issue of school fees and tuition are another threat.”

The NBS report also states that over 67 per cent of households complained that their total income decreased, compared to the same period of the previous year (2019), and this decrease was evident across the three main sources of income (wages, agriculture, and non-farm enterprise).

The report further showed 51.9 per cent of respondents were worried about their ability to repay the loans they had taken during the coronavirus lockdown.

This translates to many parents struggling to pay their wards school fees and tuition fees.

For Aliyu Saratu, a civil servant and single mother of six, her salary is barely enough to cover the needs of her family.

In an interview with HumAngle, she expressed worry on how to pay her six children’s school fees.

“I barely sleep everyday since school resumption moves closer because I am thinking of how to pay for my six children’s school fees,” Saratu lamented.

“My salary is barely enough to feed us due to the hike in food prices. I do not want my children to drop out of school, yet I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay the fees. The impact of the pandemic has toughened things up around here.”

Many parents reported that they are worried about numerous loans now compounded by payment of schools fees that will be due as students resume.

Suleiman Ibrahim who is a commercial bike reader narrates that he is yet to repay a loan he took some time last year.

“I took a loan since last year August and up till now I have not been able to pay it back, and now schools are resuming and we have to pay fresh fees,” he said.

“I will also have to feed my family with whatever little money I get even though the recent hike in prices of foodstuffs has made feeding barely impossible. Where will I now get extra funds to pay for school fees?”

Schools Owners’ Predicament

Meanwhile, on the part of educationists and school proprietors, lack of payment of school fees by parents will hinder their services and also affect numerous members of their staff who depend on them for their salaries.

A school proprietor in Rafin Guza area of Kaduna, says schools owners are facing a serious predicament at the moment because they find it difficult to pay their workers’ salaries due to the financial conditions of the parents who could not afford to pay school fees.

“Parents are complaining of their inability to pay school fees due to the tough financial situations which are the aftermath of the pandemic,” said the proprietress who did not give her name.

“But what they fail to realise is that when school fees are not paid, schools will be unable to provide the educational services for their children, because learning materials  and other basic facilities will not be purchased and members of staff won’t be paid.

“The inability of parents to pay school fees will also affect the teachers who depend on the school for their salaries because the bulk of our expenses go to paying our staff both academic and non-academic.”

Even though all public schools in the state are free or cheaper to attend, many parents have lost confidence in the public school system because of the perceived poor standard and state of teaching and learning facilities there.

This has forced many parents to seek education for their wards in the relatively more expensive private schools in the state. Parents whose wards are attending private schools are paying through their nose as school fees in many of these private schools range from N100,000 to N250,000 for primary schools. For private secondary schools, parents pay as much as N500,000 to N1million per term for their children as school fees.

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