Some parents in Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria, are worried over demand for third term school fees by private schools over virtual lessons offered students during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Some of the parents told HumAngle that some schools were demanding up to 90 per cent of tuition fees payable by students for third term learning online.
Others want parents to pay between 30 and 50 per cent of fees for the same purpose, HumAngle learnt.
Following the closure of schools since the COVID-19 lockdown, private school owners have been complaining about the negative impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
They asked for palliatives, including tax waivers, to be able to operate and help to pay their workers.
To keep their pupils and students busy and make money, some schools engaged the children in virtual learning.
At the same time, most of the schools have not paid their teachers salaries since the closure and the few that did, paid fractions of the salaries.
Meanwhile, parents have continued to complain of the inconvenience the arrangement by the schools had brought due to factors such as availability of devices for use by students, the lack of money to buy data and poor electricity supply.
A challenge arose when private schools came up with the idea of running the third term activities virtually thereby making it compulsory for parents to engage their children in order not to miss out of the academic calendar.
Some parents who spoke on thex development with HumAngle decried the method employed by schools owners in making the issue of the third term compulsory and leaving them with no choice in the matter.
They argued that many parents had lost their jobs while some were merely existing due to half payments or smaller fractions they were getting as salaries.
Mrs Mabel Anjorin, a parent with children at both the primary and secondary school levels, said her position on the matter was from the point of sympathy for the teachers at this time.
“Parents used their data and supervised the children on the various educational contents sent via online while teachers were in the comfort of their homes during the period.
“Private schools also should feel for the parents because the burden is on them.
“The virtual learning is not done everytime and then there are data speed hitches and so my husband feels there is no need to pay.
“But I feel that these teachers have families and so they should be supported.
“The school is asking for about 30 per cent payment of the third term and I feel we should pay so the school can in turn pay the teachers,” Anjorin said.
Dr Christine Chukwudi said her children’s school was asking for the full tuition fees minus other expenses and this seems not fair.
“The school had at a time removed my children from their learning platform on WhatsApp and now it wants to add them claiming that the third term is compulsory.
“No one is exempted from the effects of COVID-19 and schools demanding that high amount is not fair at all.
“For instance, I have two children who are given assignments and upon returning from office I am faced with ensuring the children do the work sent.
“Besides, each content sent takes a lot of data to download. About five minutes of videos will be about 30 megabytes and consider that for three educational contents sent per child everyday.
“At times the children would have slept before I could settle down to guide them on the educational content sent. The school should not make it do or die.
We are in a trying time,” Chukwudi said.
Reacting to this development, Mr Kayode Adeyemi, the President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Oyo State, said parents should support private schools at this time as they were the most hit by COVID-19.
Adeyemi said, “If it is going to be a virtual learning and teaching, parents need to negotiate with the school on how to pay since students are not actually in the school.
“If they were to be in school all the expenses would be charged to meet the learning of third term. But due to the prevailing situation and the effects of COVID-19, there is a way in which parents and school owners can come together in sustaining the school.
“At this juncture, we should not be trying to be too wise with money. We should be looking at the welfare of people taking care of our children.
“Even companies who pay their tax still donate money to government to sustain the government. I don’t think it is out of place, at this point in time, a trying time for their school.”
He suggested that students could pay full amounts if this was what parents would do to appreciate where their children were being taught to do well in life.
“For me, some of these narratives that I will not pay or I will cut your money into two shouldn’t have arisen at all because parents and schools are stakeholders working for the good of the children.
“I think the narrative where parents will become the enemy of schools or the proprietors or even the teachers should be jettisoned and thrown into the dustbin.
“We are supposed to be there for each other knowing full well that these people have served you when everything was alright.
“So, if we are in a critical period it is still the parents that should sustain the schools and support them.
“Regardless of the training being virtual, parents should even give the school palliatives, it is not out of place.
“The reality is that it is the private schools that are sustaining the education sector of the country whether from basic level up to the tertiary level,” he said.
Adeyemi, however, acknowledged that no parent would be happy to see teachers of their children go hungry and beg around the neighbourhood.
He said these were issues “we should consider, not business relations, that I didn’t come I won’t pay.”
The NAPPS president, however, urged schools not to take a fixed position on the matter.
“Where some parents have issues let the school understand with them and find the win-win position to sort it out.
“But the terminal classes should pay their tuition fees in full because they will be writing examinations and this money should have been paid since the second term,” he said.
Pastor Akinade Alamu, the Chairman of Oyo State Teaching Service Commission, said school owners demanding fees for the period children were at home should have consulted with parents and other stakeholders before taking such decision.
He asked the proprietors to see the effects of the pandemic on them as one which affected parents as well.
Alamu urged school owners to desist from charging the students without appreciating the consequence of the current situation on the financial strength of individual homes.