Private school owners in Nigeria have expressed strong concern over the ripple effects of the recent fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government on their costs of operations, saying the development may push them to jerk up their school fees.
The National President of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Yomi Otubela, raised this concern alongside other participants at a virtual dialogue organised on Thursday by the association on the topic: “Government Policies and Resultant Effects on Private School Administration: A Case Study on the Removal of Fuel Subsidy”.
According to participants, the cost of running private schools in the country even before the removal of fuel subsidies was very huge and becoming unbearable for many.
They said, “Now that fuel subsidy has been removed and the costs of goods and services including transportation and running generators and other educational needs have been on the rise, private schools may not have option than to increase tuition fees to remain in business.”
They said it is not that the action of government removing the subsidy is a bad idea but it would be advisable to also come up with palliative measures for a social-service sector as education and private schools in particular, as critical stakeholders in the education ecosystem, to cushion the effect of the action on their operations.
According to them, government would need to factor in their concerns in the ongoing negotiations with the labour unions and other critical stakeholders to lessen their own burden too as it is thinking about others.
They said private schools provide quality education for reasonable number of children in the country and parents are already burdened with financial pressure on many needs and would not want to add to their burden with tuition hike, again.
“So, it is required that government give special consideration and support to us in this critical time to grow and develop particularly because of our crucial role to human capital and national development.”
They said the only way to help private schools to minimise the impact of the subsidy removal now is for government to provide certain palliative measures for them.
They listed some of the palliatives to include provision of school buses on lease agreement, training of teachers on termly basis, giving of educational grants to teachers and administrators, establishment of educational banks to grant soft loans to teachers, school owners and parents and also giving of tax holiday for teachers and schools.
They said even though all these measures would not totally solve their challenges, they would go a long way for them to remain in business and thrive without them increasing their tuition.
They said the only thing is that, on their part, they would now be more prudent and adopt better financial management practices, explore alternative energy sources, and also engage in partnership with one another to pool resources and expertise.
On his part, the guest speaker at the forum, Mr Bismarck Rewane, a financial and economic expert, said of a truth, the costs of running private schools now that subsidy had been removed would certainly shoot up just as it is applicable for every other business.
He also said it would not be out of place for school owners to increase their tuition fees either now or later as one of the ways to mitigate the effect of the subsidy removal on their operations more so that government is not going back on the policy but that doing so would also have its own consequences on schools’ revenues and the country’s educational system.
He said some parents may not be able to pay as and when due again particularly if the increment is high and that may even lead to withdrawal of their children from school and may not bother to bring them back again to school.
He therefore urged them to seek certain educational palliatives from government such as giving scholarships to some students from indigent homes in their schools particularly at the basic level and ensure their money is paid upfront to enable them to meet certain needs and also ask for training of their teachers and so forth.
He added that on their part, they could explore more digital learning to complement classroom learning.
He said education is a catalyst for societal development and deserves adequate investment from all stakeholders including government.
He, however, commended NAPPS for putting up the forum, saying it would help them to equip with right knowledge to thrive amidst challenges.