The Igbos will say that “ala adi mma bu uru ndi nze” to show that people benefit from the calamities that befell others. There is no crisis that doesn’t have beneficiaries; just as many crises have sponsors. This may explain why certain bad situations get worse instead of better. A good example of this is the Nigerian education system.
During our days, every Tom, Dick and Harry sends their children to public schools or missionary ones. Then, education was a vocation. Schools were opened to nurture souls and develop skills. Government schools were not made for the poor but for every Nigerian child. Missionaries then used their own schools to propagate religion so that they can “capture them young.” But today, the opposite is the case – education has become a business venture.
I am not against the establishment of private schools, please don’t get me wrong. But the fact that public schools are quick going down the drain while private schools spring up in every nook and cranny calls for concern. It is beginning to look as if some people are deliberately killing the public school system so that the private ones could rise. I once predicted that Federal and State tertiary institutions will “enjoy” the same status quo as the present public primary and secondary schools but people misunderstood me. But from all I can see, there is a deep reason behind the underfunding and mismanagement of public schools in Nigeria.
Like I mentioned earlier, people benefit from every bad situation. In Nigeria today, entrepreneurs that know nothing about nurturing and forming the younger ones are establishing schools. Today, many schools are not there to build the Nigerian future but to rip it off. Right now, our children go to school not to learn but to grease the pockets and bank accounts of some greedy entrepreneurs, who answer “proprietors” and “proprietress” even though they know nothing about the vocation called education. All that these people care about is that their “businesses” grow and that more money enters their accounts. What goes on in the school is not their concern.
But today, I am not looking into how our schools – both private and public – unlearn and ‘mislearn’ our young ones, but how they rip off parents. We know that many people these days wish the best for their children and so they turn to private schools. But ironically, some parents believe that the more expensive a school is, the better its teaching and learning environment. Many parents felt that all the money they pump into their children’s school fees are used in shaping their future. Well, I am here to let them know that they are actually enriching the school owners and not their children’s future.
Yesterday, a close relative sent me the school fees breakdown of her two-year old that will enter preschool and I couldn’t help but scream. I know that things happen but this one was so out of place. In this list she sent, the young boy will have to buy books worth thirty-five thousand naira (#35k) and uniform of forty-thousand naira (#40k). Then every term, he will pay 5k for first aid, 5k for diction and 5k for PTA. Now, these are just the ones that made it so glaring that the school is “stealing” from the parents. Don’t worry, I will explain this.
Now, let’s talk about books. Please, what sort of books will a two-year old buy that will be up to 35k? I mean, this is somebody that is going into PRESCHOOL, where children learn through playing. They basically don’t use books because at this stage, books are for tearing and for chewing. So even if the school wants to supply books to these young souls, it will be one for colouring activities, one for lettering and one for number works. And these are just for exposing them and not for them to perfect their skills. Well, let’s leave the one for books and go to the other aspects.
Ok, let’s see what we have to say about uniforms. I told my relative that maybe the school is importing custom-made silk from the moon and that’s why a two-year old will wear uniforms of 40k. Those of us that enter the market know that the highest quality material for uniform does not sell more than 1k a yard. It is even not up to that. But here we have a toddler, whose uniforms may not require more than half a yard to sew paying 40k. Please, remember that staff salaries are paid from tuition fee and not from all these ones. Besides, how much do these schools even pay their staff?
Without wasting much time, let’s quickly review the other fees noted above. Now, what is in a first aid box that requires a child to pay 5k for the services every term? Does that money include insurance or something? What about PTA, that holds meetings once in a year, if at all it does? Why collect such an amount of money? What is the money for? Why do parents need to sponsor a forum like that in a private school? Why will private schools expect parents to pay heavy fees and still pay for PTA, which is usually used to sponsor projects in schools? I don’t know if I am being dramatic, but I know that PTA levy in public schools is justified but it is wrong for private schools to collect that money. The simple reason here is that public schools belong to everybody but private schools don’t. PTA levies in public schools are used to build things that will make teaching and learning easier for the children. This is done as a contribution to developing what is “ours” unlike in private schools, which is “theirs”.
But the most hilarious fee in that list is “diction” levy. I asked my relative if her son is having a speech problem; she answered in the negative. So, what exactly does the school mean by collecting money for “diction”. Does it mean that the child will have to pay for listening to the way the teacher speaks? I mean, children at this stage pick up languages and language varieties from people around them – both at home and in school. So why would parents be asked to pay because their children pick up languages even after paying heavily for tuition?
You see, most “nonsense” happens because we don’t ask questions. We are so busy with the pursuit of wealth that we haven’t looked back to ask for accountability. Note that I am not against school owners making profits, but it shouldn’t be done in glaringly extortive ways. Parents need to start now to demand for the use of money they paid for. Their children’s future requires that.