As primary and secondary schools resumed for the 2017/2018 school year across the country, parents are still groaning under the yoke of high cost of school fees, text books, and other school materials such as sandals, bags, food and water packs for their children and wards.
But, while the parents and guardians are yet to recover from the high cost of sending their children and wards to school, given the present economy situation in the country, school owners and book sellers are smiling to banks.
The stakeholders, especially parents, who have continued to lament the development, are querying the high cost of education in the country.
According to Mr. Edward Niyiola, a legal practitioner, the rate at which things are going in the country, many children may be forced to drop out of school.
He expressed dismay over what he described as “exorbitant cost of education” in the nation, saying it would be extremely difficult for a father of four children, who is a civil servant, to train his children.
Niyilola argued: “How will you describe a situation in which a parent has to spend between N10,000 and N12,000 on buying books for a Nursery I child in a private school and this is exclusive of school uniforms, school sandals, school bags, food and water pack.
“Having two or three children in some standard private schools, not high flyer schools, is a hell, but as parents, we have no option than to give our children functional education in an ideal school environment.
“Must we all steal before we can educate our children, given the high school fees charged by the so-called Ivy League private primary and secondary schools across the country, which are charging as high as N1.5 million to N4.5 million fees?”
Worried by the development, he called on the government at all levels to put their house in order by investing heavily in primary and secondary school education, which he described as the foundation of education.
Echoing this position, Mrs. Oluwakemi Idowu, who has two children in Mayflower Private School, Ikenne, Ogun State, said apart from school fees, which is between N127,300 to N131,000 for Junior Secondary School (JSS II) and Senior Secondary School (SS I) students respectively, she will spend about N40,000 to buy books for her children.
She added that parents of new students will have to spend more before they could get the child into any private school.
On while enrolling their children into private schools and not public schools, Mrs. Idowu blamed such decision on the dearth of facilities and poor environment of public schools, where teachers’ salary are not being paid regularly.
She noted: “Today, in many states across the country, teachers are owed many months of salary ranging from three to 10 months; how do you expect effective teaching and learning to take place under such a situation?”
When New Telegraph visited some bookshops last week, the cost of most textbooks were higher than what obtained last year.
Some basic textbooks such as Essential Economics, Comprehensive English, Modern Biology, New Concept in Mathematics, were sold at exorbitant prices, which made it difficult for parents to buy for their children.
A bookseller in Maryland, Lagos, Mr. Uchenna, blamed the high cost of textbooks on the present economic recession, which he pointed out had affected the prices of textbooks in the market.
The bookseller, who is particularly not happy about the development, expressed worry over the level of patronage by parents, which he described as very low and not good for the book business.
He noted that the government should concentrate on improving the economy for the well-being of the country so that the cost of education could be affordable to parents, saying “we sell what we buy.”
According to Reverend Makinde: “I cannot afford to buy all the recommended textbooks since my younger child can use the textbooks his elder brother used due to high cost.”
He also said that he cannot afford to buy school sandals and textbooks at the same time for his children without considering a scale of preference.
While lamenting the attitude of the booksellers and traders, who he said were taking the advantage of the recession to increase the cost of books, the cleric said he would advise some of his children to read most of their textbooks online so as to cut cost.
At Ikeja and Ojota in Lagos, booksellers are selling textbooks at astronomical prices, a situation they attributed to the cost of production and distribution of books, which according to them, has made book business difficult in the country.
“The current economic recession, which has greatly affected the cost of books in the country, has made books lose its priority in many homes.” They said the situation has led to low patronage.
For instance, at the popular Yaba Market, the cost of Intensive English for Senior Secondary School (Junior and Secondary) is sold for N1,500; New Concept in Mathematics (N1,500); Modern Biology (N1,800); Essentials Economics (N1,300); Fundamentals in Economics (N1,500); New School Physics (N1,500); New School Chemistry by Ababio (N1,500); Longman Dictionary (N2,000); Advanced Learners in English (N2,000); school bag is being sold for N4,000; lunch bag (N2,500).
Others include school sandals N4,500 (Cortina); Thesaurus Dictionary (N1,500); Basic Technology for Junior Secondary School (N800); Civic Education For Junior Secondary School (N700); J.H. Green Technical Drawing For Senior School (N1,500); and Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, which is sold for N2,500 per copy.
Piqued by the development, Mrs. Foluke Okunu, a mother of five, has lamented that she could not afford to buy all the textbooks recommended for her child as a result of the high price.
She said; “I have three children in secondary schools and each would need over N10,000 to buy textbooks apart from other materials. Where do I get the money?”
Given this scenario, some parents and students are looking for alternative means to get textbooks, either to borrow from their senior students, or are patronising stores for used books otherwise known as “bend down” bookshops.
Meanwhile, the Chairman/Chief Executive of Lantern Books, Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin has in his interview with New Telegraph, once blamed the cost of books on several factors, which according to him, include the high tariff system for books importation.
Another factor, he hinted, is the high exchange rate that has made production of books gone up, saying almost all printing materials such as ink, plates and chemicals are imported.
Also lamenting the negative activities of piracy on the sector, the publisher called on the Federal Government to develop the nation’s paper mills, through the resuscitation of the country’s two paper mills at Oku-Iboku and Iwopin in Ogun State that could support the printing industry.
“The moribund paper companies have accounted for the heavy reliance on books importation, which is being killed by high tariff system,” he argued.
Investigations by New Telegraph, however, revealed that many private schools have bookshops where they sell recommended textbooks to their students.
A school principal told New Telegraph, that her school decided to buy the books directly from the publishers in order to reduce the prices as well as ensuring that students buy the correct editions and not the pirated copies, which are mostly mutilated.
For instance, at Ray Field Comprehensive College, a pair of school uniform costs N3,000 apart from house and sport’ wear.
For the list of textbooks a student will pay an average of N15,000, depending on the class and books needed, while at the Good Shepherd School, a pair of uniform costs #2500, while the list of a student textbooks costs N8,000.
Meanwhile, at Phebean Schools, Ojota, the school fees range between N45,000 for primary and N75,000 for secondary school arms; and a student will pay N4,000 for school uniforms; Mathematical Set (N350); English and Mathematics textbook for Junior class (N950); customised school bag (N4,000); Introductory Technology textbook (N950) and the Civic Education textbook is sold at (N650).
However, some parents are complaining that most private schools have increased their school fees, without considering the economic hardship in the country.
But some school proprietors, who dismissed such insinuation as unfounded, said the cost of running the schools had gone up in the last two years.
“The cost of food stuff has gone up, so also other materials. We provide the students in boarding school electricity throughout the day and night despite the high cost of diesel. Cost of production of school uniform has also increased. All these make education costly. We pay various taxes to the government. We are appealing to government in all the states to improve the economy so that if cost of living is reduced definitely the price of every other thing including education will go down,” they said.
A parent, who has his kid at Coraprague Memorial School, Meiran, said he paid N38,000 per term on his child in Nursery II; while at Great Testimony School, Fagba, also in Lagos, a Nursery II pupils pays N25,000; and at Al-Aqeedat Model College, Ajah, Primary Four pupils are paying N48,000; Basic I (N41,000) and Junior Secondary School (JSS II) N64,000.
In Liforte School, Ibadan, a parent recalled that he is paying about N2 million on his children who is admitted as a new student.
Also in Nana Apori International School, Ogun State, a parent, who enrolled his children in the school as fresh students, said she is paying N130,000 for her JSS III and N116,000 for SS II students.
But, parents of children in some Ivy League private schools in the country, have to pay as much N1.5 million to N5.5 million.