Parents of students in the nation’s tertiary institutions are presently lamenting following the hike in school fees and other charges in many schools, saying the recent development has further worsened their already dire economic situation and brought unimaginable suffering on their part. It is clear that the recent increment, coupled with the harsh economic realities, the recent removal of fuel subsidy and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) devaluation of naira, has compounded the woes for ordinary Nigerians in their quest for certificates.
Earlier this year, at the onset of his administration, President Bola Tinubu signed into law a bill that provides interest-free loans for Nigerian students to fund their tertiary education. The student’s loan act, signed on Monday 12, June, 2023, allows students instalment repayment for the loan two years after completion of their National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. This was meant to serve as a relief to the hike in fees that was already taking place in many tertiary institutions across the country.
Even though the Students’ Loan Scheme provided for by the recently signed Students’ Loan Bill was seen as a trigger for this upward review of registration fees, educationists and other stakeholders have said the lack of clarity on how the scheme would benefit Nigerians has further complicated the process with wider implications. Recently, many universities, both federal and state-owned, had issued releases on upward adjustments of registration fees for courses being offered with some of the increment spiking as high as 300% which varies from the Federal University of Health Sciences, Azare; University of Maiduguri; Federal University, Dutse; Federal University, Lafia; University of Uyo; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, among others that have all hiked their tuition fees. So far this year, the Bayero University, Kano; University of Lagos, Akoka; University of Jos; and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife have also announced fee increments. However, in a series of interviews with the New Telegraph, parents highlighted the negative impact of the increase on their economic standing and overall wellbeing.
According to Elozie Special, a trader, whose children are at the University of Lagos, said the school’s management should consider their plights. In her words: “They should help us reconsider the increment in school fees, I know God will help me but they should have mercy on people like me.” When asked how much she knew about the student loan she said: “I’ve heard about the student loan which I think it’s a good one to start with. With the sudden increment, students can easily go for it. I know students who take student loans will have to pay back, no room for escaping, the only concern I have is the requirement to get as it is too much.” She further said: “I also believe introducing student loan wasn’t the best thing because government has started teaching young adults how to borrow money which isn’t right for young adults because if you look back in those days when I was younger, our parents never allow such , there was nothing like that, people work for their money but this one they’re introducing it at a very tender age we hope it turns out well , we can’t use what we used at that time to measure children enlightenment, but hope the privilege will not be abused and create more room for lazy youth who will not depend on the loan.”
Narrating the effect of the increment, she said: “The increment in school fees has affected a lot of things honestly, School fee alone is talking all the money and we still have to pay for hostel space, buy books and hand out, cloth, shoes, house rent, feeding and all that.” When asked if withdrawing her children from school is an option for her, she said: “Withdrawing of students from school depends on the parent but I think my option if I can’t bear it will have to call my children and tell them the situation of things and see how we can go about it maybe they will have to scout with their friends, borrow textbooks but withdrawing them is a no no for me so they don’t end up becoming an armed robber or an illiterate in the future.” Giving insight on how she intend coping with the increment, Special said: “There’s nothing new under the earth, it has happened it has happened, I just believe those in authority should know there’s God and will not remain in that position for ever but if everything come to a cross road I will have to withdraw maybe the one that just entered UNILAG to support the other two already there.
“One will have to step for one because I can’t kill myself honestly but with the student loan I believe it will make it easier , my children will have a little sense of responsibility that this is what they use the money for and when they are done they don’t need to start spending their money lavishly.” In the same vein, Ayinde Iyabo, a civil servant whose child is studying at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said: “With the current economy of the country coping with the increment has being a big challenge to my family that I don’t know how to overcome it due to nonincrements of salary which leave us to battle with the increment of the school fees.” On her take on the student loan, she said: “I’m aware of the student loan but can’t access it since I’m not a student but according to some of the students they complained the loan isn’t accessible to them and the requirements for accessing the loan isn’t a condition they can fulfil like looking for two guarantors. Introducing student loans was the right thing if it is accessible.
“The increase in school fees have affected the family wellbeing and our budget, especially when both parents are federal civil servants with zero salary increase but increase in other stuffs like transportation, foods, school fees has multiplied like 100 per cent has made us battle with the increment of everything,” she added. When asked if ever withdrawing her children was an option for her, Iyabo said: “No I won’t because half education is the same as no education, what is worth doing is worth well actually but we can’t really blame those that withdraw their children from school.” Speaking further she said: “There’s no other way one can cope than sourcing for loan to pay the children’s school fees and be paying seriously for one to be able to pay back the debt in due time. I have also had to forfeit a whole lot of things. First of all, all the social activities, entertainment activities like unnecessary celebration, donating for someone that just died or given birth, visitations and aso ebi have been cut short finally.
The type and kind of food we were eating has been cut down, no more excesses or remnants like before again.” Also, Bola Adetoro, a fashion designer, whose child is at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), said: “It’s a lot on her part since she’s the breadwinner of her family, we were not given prior notice before the increment, just woke up one day and boom school fees have increased 10 fold!” When asked if she knew about the student loan, she said: “Yes I have heard of the loan but it’s the same government we are talking about. I really don’t know much about it though but I know I read an article on how students can access the loan, how the government will be running after them if they don’t pay and all sorts of things but I really doubt it will be effective in Nigeria. Introducing student loans was the right thing to do if it’s something they can access in due time without interest because the money is quite a lot.”
Talking on the effect of the increment, Bola said: “The increment in school fees has affected everything honestly, I have to tell one of my child who just finished school this year to wait for some years to enable those in school graduate which wasn’t the plan before, I even have to start begging my uncle and aunt in abroad for assistance because the billing is about to choke me. My blood pressure has increased recently just by thinking of how to pay their school fees, accommodation, faculty and departmental fees and all that. The entire bill on just one person, eating has now become very difficult. It wasn’t like that before. I now also work over time just to meet up with the expenses. “No I don’t think of redrawing my kids because education is key, I couldn’t finish school and will not allow such things to happen to my children. Whatever it takes I will give it my all even if it resorts to begging for alms everywhere , selling off my clothes and jewellery or even borrowing from Lapo. I don’t mind just to make sure they finish what they have started. “I have forfeited my comfort and even look for a job for my last born who just finished secondary school just to meet up with the high expenses,” she concluded