Economic Crunch Boosts Public Schools’ Enrollment | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Economic Crunch Boosts Public Schools’ Enrollment

Posted: Mar 1, 2016 at 5:21 am   /   by   /   comments (4)

Oyeniran Apata, Lagos

Apparently responding to the current economic realities, parents and guardians are now having recourse to public schools, which they turned their backs on more than a decade ago.

Middle income earners who in the last two decades have flocked to private schools are now making a U-turn since the mounting bills have become unbearable.

Independent gathered that private schools, which sprang up exponentially on account of perceived falling standards in public schools are now in throes of winding up as collection of their bills receivable for the current school term has fallen below 40%.

A banker, who lost his job late last year, told Independent that he has no option but to go back to public school since he can hardly meet up in the payment of school fees for his four children in a private school in Yaba, Lagos.

“I can’t bear seeing my children at home while there is an option,” he said.

The falling value of the naira against other major currencies, especially the United States’ dollar, and the revenue shortfalls from oil have put strain on the economy that government, a major player in the economy, is near shutdown. The resultant effect is that inflation has gone up, job losses have increased, and general cost of living has skyrocketed.

What trends now is that food and health/medicine have become top expenditure lines, which have affected the capacity of parents and guardians to meet their other obligations going by the current economic situation of dwindling buying power.

On their part, owners of schools are also brazing up to the new challenges by cutting back on their spending and by inference reducing the burden of accumulating unpaid bill on parents.

It is now commonplace to find owners of private schools send text messages, emails, tuck invoices and demand notices in the school bags of children for delivery to their parents and guardians on outstanding tuition, books and other sundry expenses against a given child or student.

For instance, management of some schools have completely put on hold the printing of school branded exercise books and other sundry items that formed part of the burgeoning term bills that have become a heavy burden for many parents and guardians.

The resultant effect of this development is that public secondary schools across the country might begin to witness a surge in enrollment figures of pupils especially at the secondary school level.

This means that state governments might be burdened by the increased number and may be forced to provide more facilities in public schools, an analyst said.

Mr. Ayodele Oginni, Proprietor and Chief Executive Officer of Future Promise Group of Schools, Abeokuta, Ogun State, stated that the growing debtor list has been alarming.

“The issue has become more worrisome because many of the parents have been coming to plead for time to pay up without setting a time frame for payment. Also, another category of guardians have disclosed that since it has become difficult to pay up outstanding tuition and other expenses on their wards, they pleaded to withdraw the children for enrollment in public schools.

“But the challenge had been what time will the debts be paid and some have also written letter of commitment to pay by installment,” Oginni added.

He appealed to government to grant a tax holiday to schools in order to cushion the effect of the harsh economic situation that may not abate for some time to come.

“It is sad that some of the high profile private schools might lose some of their brilliant pupils to lowly placed schools in a desperate desire to cut back on bills on education. Already, we are losing too many of our primary five pupils to public schools”, he added.

Mrs. Titlayo Adeniran of Allwell Nursery and Primary School, Ifako, Bariga, Lagos, argued that the tough economic situation will not last.

“We are not in any way disturbed at this development because we have not received any request for withdrawal and we have stopped branding of books in the school name and logo to cut back on spending”, she added.

The available schools are mostly overcrowded, with an average pupil?classroom ratio of 42:1 at the primary and preprimary level, rising to 78:1 at the junior secondary level. In addition, the limited evidence available indicates that private schools may be better serving their students in terms of quality (or at least quantity) of instruction, the DFID?ESSPIN report stated.

As the economic hardship is yet to show any sign of abatement, finance that has become top on the challenges facing private school owners is largely caused by difficulty in getting parents and guardians to pay fees on time.

However, in a bold attempt to forestall the effect of the unfriendly economic condition facing most parents and guardians, school owners have completely put paid to the printing of branded exercise books and school bus in order to avoid payment charges on mobile adverts.