Curing the headache of school fees


Peter Ogudoro gives tips on coping with funding school fees on a tight budget.

In the United States of America, college students fund their education to the level of about 65% through their own income, savings, scholarships, grants, and loans. Money from parents’ income, savings, and loans account for only about 30%. In Britain, parents do not have to save to guarantee good quality education for their children. Students can study at Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and any other university in the country without their parents contributing a penny. Students can pick up all their higher education bills through scholarships, grants, loans and income from part time work. Loans given to students are repayable after graduation and from the student’s own income. Repayment starts only after the person’s income has reached twenty thousand pounds (£21, 000) which when converted to Nigeria’s currency is above ten million naira (N10Million). The loan is also written off if after a number of years, the borrower is unable to repay it.

In the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland, education up to doctoral level is virtually free. Doctoral students are paid salaries in addition to undertaking their doctoral research free. Education there is considered a human right and a social good. It is recognised as a tool for the promotion of fairness, equity and justice in society. Health is treated similarly. Recently, the First Lady of Finland was delivered of her baby in a public hospital where ordinary citizens also go to for health services. In those countries, praying to God for money to pay school fees and access health services is strange. Their citizens live long, are very productive, technology savvy and generally loyal to their countries.

I have done education research in the Scandinavia and studied in the same classrooms with citizens of those countries. The evidence that emerges from my experience is that the good life they have is not traceable to superior intelligence quotient compared to Africans. With respect to speed and quality of output, I was rated above most of my peers from the West including people from the Scandinavia in spite of the enormous financial challenges I experienced while conducting my doctoral research in England.

In those countries, praying to God for money to pay school fees and access health services is strange. Their citizens live long, are very productive, technology savvy and generally loyal to their countries.

In Nigeria, going through primary school successfully is now a privilege. Secondary education is nightmarish for both students and their parents. For some families, school fees consumes up to 90% of parents income. For some others, the entire family income is not up to 50% of the money they need to pay school fees. This is in a country where most people now believe that private school education at primary and secondary school levels is critical for a child’s healthy development. Although this belief is sustained by lack of access to professional career management services, parents are right with respect to their determination to give their children what they consider to be good quality education.

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The evidence professional education researchers have indicated that most of those parents are chasing a mirage. They will not get what they want. The paradox of the Nigerian education system is that the most competent teachers in terms of professional skills and credentials are employees of public schools. Why some private schools may be delivering superior results in spite of this has been revealed by research but is beyond the scope of this article. Most Federal Government colleges, model colleges run by state governments, and schools run by military and police establishments consistently deliver better results in terms of both academic attainment and character of their pupils and students. A few orthodox religious organizations have delivered similar results over the years.

The alumni of such institutions easily earn high scores when they write public examinations and secure admission into top public universities in Nigeria and for popular courses such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Law and Engineering. Their alumni have also over the years run the major public and private institutions in Nigeria. (Whether or not they have been good leaders may be debatable). Those schools are in every State of the Nigerian federation and their fees are significantly lower than the fees private schools charge. Why is it that parents who are struggling with payment of fees for their children’s private school education are insisting on keeping them in those private schools? Ignorance!

The paradox of the Nigerian education system is that the most competent teachers in terms of professional skills and credentials are employees of public schools.

Misperception of quality in private schools and the way forward

Misperception resulting from absence of professional guidance services in Nigerian schools and within family circles and communities has led parents into unwarranted social comparison and the conclusion that the type of education they want for their children can be found only in private schools. Some business men and women have seen the opportunity to make money from this perception parents have of private school education and have jumped into school ownership and management.

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Some have set up shiny buildings and bring in all sorts of untrained teachers who come to give instructions on Music, Dance, Karate, bead making etcetera and charge unrealistic fees for skills children will not find useful in the management of their careers. Most private schools in Nigeria do not have standard play and recreation fields children can use to exercise their bodies and pursue balanced development. Most of their students do not aspire to get into Ivy League schools such as Oxford University, Cambridge University, MIT, and Harvard not to talk of actually securing admission to study in such institutions. School inspectors in Nigeria turn a blind eye to all of this. The factor behind this disposition is obvious to the average Nigerian. Are things about to change for the better in the education industry in Nigeria? The conduct of the people who run the system and a combination of other factors do not suggest that the right answer is yes.

The probability weighs more in favour of things getting worse. Nigeria’s high population growth rate which guarantees the addition of about 5 million babies to the country annually will combine with the demarketing of the country which public servants in Nigeria engage in ignorantly to deny the country the expertise and other requisite resources for sustainable improvement of things in the education industry. Mere wishes and policy statements of highly placed politicians in the country will not change things. Is the country’s situation with respect to access to quality education hopeless? The answer cannot be yes. A good number of Nigerians who live and work abroad are willing to come home to help in resolving the problems bedevilling the industry but the obstacles standing against the actualization of their intentions need to be removed by the country’s political leaders.

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Peter Ogudoro, PhD is a UK-based Education Researcher and Career Management Expert. He can be reached through 

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