Saturday, September 26, 2015 11:33 am
By Grace Essen.
It is the beginning of yet another school session and right in the middle of all the excitement and joy of having your child start school, go to a new level of education or just move from one class to another is the anxiety of how much money we will have to cough up. At least the majority of us.
Last September, just at the start of the new session, I overheard my neighbour whose first child had just gained admission into a private secondary school in Lagos giving her son some ‘words of advice’ without realizing she was so loud people living close by could hear her. “… Read your books o!” she yelled, “the money we are paying for your school fees can buy a plot of land o…” I couldn’t help but burst into laughter as I imagined the boy probably staring at his mom and wondering what she was screaming about. The woman on the other hand must have been saying that with all seriousness, and probably sticking out her neck and pulling her ear as she drummed her words right into the boy’s ears. I don’t blame her; if I were in her shoes maybe my scream would have been heard further down the street. Who wants his/her money to go to waste? Wouldn’t it be better to just buy the plot of land and watch it appreciate in value?
But really that got me thinking. We all must have, maybe not in my neighbour’s style, but in one way or the other made our children realise we spend so much to afford them the ‘luxury’ of going to good schools at times like this. But again, when we spend amounts that can buy plots of land as school fees for only a term, what is the guarantee that the quality of education our children get in return will be commensurate to the amount paid? How do we measure that? By our children’s report sheets? Little wonder positions are no longer stated in report sheet these days, and at the end of the session every child comes home with ‘excellent’ result and promoted to the next class. At least our money is talking! We are motivated to put together about the same amount after three months. And before you say ‘jack’ it is another school session when you have to pay for extra stuffs like books (old books cannot be used by a sibling any longer), end-of-year party, developmental levy (what is that anyway?), in addition to school fees and of course with a ‘little increment in line with the economic realities in the country.’ Do we have a choice?
Could it be that we are paying so much for the failure of our government to provide quality education for her citizens at more affordable cost? But is there any hope for the future? No one can say for sure. And if we go by past events in our society, we know that prices of goods and services hardly or should I say, never come down, well except for the price of fuel in the recent past. So what that means is that the amount we pay currently as school fees will only continues to rise, and if that is the case, where does that leave us – a society where only the extremely rich can afford quality education for their children? Can we then say ours is a society with equal opportunity for everyone?
As always, we adjust to whatever conditions we find ourselves. We have seen over time the emergence of different categories of schools based on the earning power of the target markets. There are those whose fees can buy a plot of land, the ones that can buy a quarter of a plot, and those that can afford only per square meter. You might say it all depends on the area where the land is located. That is a different matter altogether.
This has become something to brag about as moms talk about how much money they spend each term on their children’s school fees with so much pride, those who cannot afford such luxury are left feeling sorry for themselves and their children. We hear of parents approaching private school proprietors and suggesting that the school fees be raised in order to flush out some kinds of people from the school and making it more befitting for their status. As it is, when you say the name of the school your child attends, immediately people can tell where you belong. We also hear of school management shutting their doors to parents who in reality cannot meet up with their financial obligations, but have remained because they too want to belong. When they get kicked out from one, they move to another. And while all these go on, school owners continue to smile to the bank.
But seriously, are the huge amounts we pay as school fees worth it? Or is it just another way of stroking our oversized egos? What is your thought?