It’s the first day of term and while primary school stakeholders – teachers, school administrators, students, Lekki housewives – are all excitedly trooping back to the thousands of schools in Lagos, many self-employed parents are either struggling with their maths – trying to add 2 and 2 to make 22, or hoping some elementary science will help them squeeze water from stones. Welcome to the dreaded school fees season!
The nature of the problem school fees
Interestingly, Lagos hustle has in recent years rendered the 2 biggest celebrations in the Christian calendar, Christmas and Easter, rather dreary affairs. And the reason is simple: Christmas and easter mean the end of the 1st and 2nd semesters respectively. There is, therefore the need to cough up hundreds of thousands of Naira to pay the next term’s school fees.
But how are these 2 terms any different from the 1st term, which usually kicks off in September? The break is much longer. You have between the end of June and 1st week in September to hustle for school fees. Unfortunately, the cunning school administrators seem to conspire all through the long vacation on how next to deal with the already frazzled ‘self-employed’ Lagos resident.
They counter your ‘long vac’ hustle by demanding all sorts of monies by late August. There are developmental fees, PTA levies, ICT/digital centre charges, new site development levies, sports fees, learning materials, and even child enrichment fees! And woe betides you if your youngster starts to gain in inches earlier than envisaged.
Insensitivity of school proprietors
Now you’ll need to cough up for school uniforms every term to avoid the Michael Jackson jumping trousers look for your gangly youth. And no, you cannot sew yours and pass it off as original.Of course, there is the minimum 10% annual increase in the school fees itself, the bulk of which should be paid in September.
Is it that children learn more between September and December than they do in the other months? And what is the basis for the annual increase in fees? Not even the Nigerian economy grows by that much in one year. Well, greed is the basis. Greed and a plan to finish off the self-employed Lagos hustler.
This ensures that only the bankers, the oil company workers, and the last few surviving Niger Delta boys will venture near these shylocks. Okay, let us be open-minded. We’ll allow for inflation. Though it’s not always so easy for an entrepreneur to pass on inflation costs to his own ‘customers’.
Is there a solution? There’s always a solution
So what is the way out? What master plan can Lagos small business owners come up with? Simple – if you can’t beat them, join them. Start your own school. If you cannot go it alone, call a few friends and relations together, and those with educated and committed partners should start as teachers in your new school.
For all the brouhaha made by teaching professionals, formal primary school education can be circumvented very effectively by homeschooling, or community schooling.
Yes, children need to know their maths and algebra, conjugate their verbs properly, and learn how best to use English tenses. But more importantly, they need to learn social skills and general knowledge and develop self-confidence in their formative (primary school) years. Parents, extended families, and religious houses can certainly help develop children in these areas and in the traditional fields of maths and English.
After all, many countries in Europe, especially the Scandinavian countries do not send their children to school until the age of 13 (see Switzerland in table below):
Country School Age Start
The Republic of Ireland 9
Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg 10
Norway, Portugal, Romania 12
Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland 13
Can we then be more catholic than the pope, who by the way shuttles between the Vatican and Rome where children start school at the age of 10? If these developed countries are homeschooling their children till past the age of 10, why are we allowing businessmen and women parading as school proprietors take us for a ride most times without the luxury of a school bus?
We have reduced the situation to 2 choices – home school, or start your own school. Let your pockets decide.
In the meantime, please remember there’s usually a 10% penalty for late payment.