Education

Disquiet as Lagos hikes boarding fees in Model Colleges

It’ll take N125,000 to feed a child per term – Govt

INCREMENT

From all indications, it appears that the battle line is drawn between parents/ guardians and the Lagos State Government over the quality of food served to the pupils and hasty increment of boarding fee from N25,000 to N75,000 in Lagos Model Colleges and Upgraded Secondary Schools. MURITALA AYINLA reports

 

˜Parents: Govt is insensitive to our plight

˜ERC: New fees regime, attempt to price education out of children’s reach

 

Theirs is a class of Lagosians struggling to survive under the yoke of the current economic hardship. They belong to the category of citizens badly hit by the frequent rising inflation rate in the country.

 

They are among the set of people who are still battling with the coronavirusinduced economic doldrums. Many of these parents have lost their jobs, but they still manage to keep their children and wards in schools, while others who still keep their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic can barely cope with meeting the family’s needs following the skyrocketing prices of items, which has condensed the purchasing power of their income.

 

This set of Nigerians are among the average people, who only go to work every day of their life but their monthly take-home could hardly take care of their transportation let alone feeding their family for a week. Hence, for many of them, it is survival of the fittest as they are constantly caught in the struggle to make both ends meet.

 

To them, the government is inconsiderate with policies, which they noted, had often made life more difficult for them.

 

This is the plight of parents and guardians of the pupils in the 17 Lagos Model Schools, as their worries were recently compounded by the decision of the Lagos State government to increase the boarding fees in the schools from N25,000 to N75,000.

 

Now, these distraught parents are calling on the state government-led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to immediately rescind its decision on the hike in the students’ school fees by returning to the status quo, citinthe economic situation in the country as the reason.

 

Following the increment, the parents are seething, and spoiling for a showdown with the government to condemn the new fees regime and to call the attention of the government and meaningful Lagosians to their plights.

 

Meanwhile, prior to the announcement of the plans to hike the feeding fee, investigations by New Telegraph revealed that there had been moves by the state government to review expenses on some of the government’s establishments, including educational institutions across the State of Centre of Excellence.

 

It was, however, learnt that the mode of payment of some institutions was also appraised with a view to making upward review of the fees charged in the schools.

 

But, the parents’ discontentment began in June 2021, when the Lagos State government, during a meeting with the parents, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Abosede Adelaja, and principals of all the colleges and other education stakeholders at the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Maryland, announced plans for the upward review of the Boarding School Feeding Fee at all levels (JSS & SSS) in all the Model Colleges in the state. Towards this end, the government increased the students’ feeding fee being paid by state-owned boarding schools from N25,000 to N75,000.

 

Justifying the reason for what she  described as the “inevitable upward review of the fee,” the state Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, said that the state government found out that it would take N125,000 to feed a child per term, hence the need to increase the fees.

 

She said: “Because of this, the government had at its State Executive Council (SEC) meeting resolved that parents would begin to pay N75,000 per child per term beginning from next session.”

 

But, shocked by the pronouncement, the leadership of the Parents’ Forum across the state immediately registered their displeasure with the decision, describing it as “insensitivity of the government” to their plight in view of the present economic situation in the country.

 

Although it was learnt that some parents were already negotiating with the state government to consider N50,000 as the new fee regime due to the high cost of food items, the majority of the parents denied reaching such accord with the state government, saying that there was no way they could cope with such amount when many of them had either been laid off from their jobs due to the COVID-19 or are underpaid or under-employed.

 

Thus, a Coalition of Parents’ Forum of Lagos Model Schools had debunked any possibility of settling for N50,000 as boarding fees, saying that the said faction of the Forum did not represent their interest in whatever negotiations they went into with the state government.

 

The Chairman of the Forum, Dapo Dawodu, in a statement, said they suspected that there was foul play behind the rumours that parents have agreed to pay N50, 000 per child at model colleges, describing the development as unacceptable.

 

The statement read in part: “This development, and much more happening around us, is stage-managed affairs designed to create a makebelief victory.

 

The N50,000 fee instructed by the government was not published on the official letter heading on which such a crucial decision on a policy change would have been made. “To underscore its dubiousness, one can see that it was neither addressed to all Boarding School principals nor did they all receive the same, at the same time. It is all a trick in the ongoing struggle, to get you used to their figures,”

 

Dawodu added. Also speaking, a parent, Odukanmi, however, noted that most parents are not against the increment, but that they are willing to pay N30,000 instead of the N50,000 purportedly proposed by the government. He noted: “I am a labourer at Gberigbe in Ikorodu. I have three children in the state’s Model Colleges. So, the government is expecting me to pay N150,000 for my three children for each term.

Where will I get that sort of money? It is so insensitive and unfair. “Lagos State government should help us, we are not against the increment, but they should not increase it beyond N30,000.

 

As parents we can cope with N5,000 to be added to the N25,000. “The government said the N25,000 we are paying is not enough, but we don’t believe that. The increment would not be necessary; if the N25,000 we pay is judiciously managed.

“And that is why we want our Parents’ Forum executives to be part of the school management board to ensure proper utilisation of the funds.”

 

On his part, another concerned parent, who simply identified himself as Mr. Segun, said that most parents were already finding it difficult to pay the N25,000 let alone the new fee, which he described as outrageous. Segun, who wondered what would become the fate of such parents with three children in the model college, however, appealed to the state government to show compassion and reduce the increment.

 

He lamented that many homes in Lagos are struggling to cope and could not even afford to pay N35,000 or N40,000 not to talk of N50,000. Also, in their protest, a group, identified as the Education Rights Campaign, has vowed to stage a massive protest across the state if the government refused to reverse the increase. The group called on all other parents to join the campaign for reversal of the fee.

 

In a statement, the ERC Coordinator, Nurudeen Alowonle, said the new fees regime at Lagos State Model Colleges is “an attempt to price education out of the reach of children from working-class and poor backgrounds.” He said: “We are aware of the disunity within the leadership of the Parents’ Forum, especially the existence of a breakaway faction led by Otunba Barete from LSMC, Kaikon Badagry.

 

“This factional Parents’ Forum leadership held a meeting recently with the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, where the sum of N50,000 was agreed as the boarding fee. “We in the ERC rejected this proposal and urged all parents and students of LSMC to reject it.

 

This is because, to start with, those who had this said meeting with the Commissioner did not first obtain the authorisation and mandate of the generality of parents before attending the meeting, nor did they seek the opinion of the generality of parents before agreeing to any amount of money to be paid by the parents.” Alowonle, however, decried how the faction of the Parents’ Forum was quick to agree to a N50,000 boarding school feeding fee without putting pressure on the government to further bring down the increment.

He added: “In the struggle for human and socio-economic rights, writing of letters, meetings and lobbying are simply the first steps. Other options include press conferences, interviews on notable radio, television and newspapers as well as peaceful protests and demonstrations.

“The N50,000 boarding fee that the Otunba Barete faction agreed to is outrageous and beyond the means of a majority of the parents.

Many poor families are finding it hard to eat three square meals per day. “Even with the N25,000 feeding fee, many parents still have to obtain loans from LAPO to pay. Some parents have more than one child in these Lagos State Model Colleges. Hence with this increment, many parents will have no choice but to withdraw their children from the colleges if the proposal of N50,000 fee is implemented.

“We would therefore like to urge the Otunba Barete faction, if they truly mean well, to reverse themselves and publicly withdraw from any N50,000 agreement with the government. This is a struggle that can be won if we are united.”

Therefore, the ERC urged parents not to shy away from protesting so as to register their displeasure over the increment.

“A peaceful protest led by such an organised movement could not be easily hijacked, so far the leadership of the Parents’ Forum in each college is carried along in the planning and execution of the protest,” Alowonle further added, saying: “For us at ERC, we do not see how this struggle can be won without protests and demonstrations.”

According to the organisation, the only essential thing was that any protest to be staged must be peaceful and well-coordinated. He stressed: “Also, it would be an illusion to think that just one protest action will convince the government to change its position on the matter.

We need to have a robust strategy of organising a series of protests and demonstrations as well as press conferences, online campaigns, appearances on television and radio interviews as well as print media.

The ERC remains convinced that victory is possible if we are prepared to struggle for it. “The truth is that the Lagos State government has more than enough resources to fund free and functional public education.

“The only reason they are not funding public education adequately, including the model colleges, is not that there are no adequate resources to do this, but corruption and capitalism.”

 

Although, the Commissioner for Education was yet to response to her call or the text message sent to her for the government’s further reactions on the matter, the Head of Public Affairs Unit for the ministry, Ganiu Olanrewaju Lawal, said the government was aware of the complaints but is yet to make any official statement on the matter. “I will give you a call when we are about to react to it,” Lawal said.

 

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