Is the Cost of Private Secondary Education in Nigeria Justifiable?
According to 2018 figures from the Federal Ministry of Education, there are about 28,000 secondary schools in Nigeria. Out of this number 13,029 are public secondary schools (5.2 million Students) while private secondary schools account for …. pupils in over 14,000 schools.
Due to the poor funding of public schools by government which has resulted in equally poor standard and ultimately poor products from public schools, private schools have thrived in leaps and bounds. Thus, as stated above, we have hundreds of thousands of private schools competing with each other. These schools target different market segments and thus charge various fees for their services. This could be as low as N3,000 per term in some villages to as high as N5,000,000 (Five million Naira) per year for some schools in big cities.
Five million naira (N5,000,000) per session for secondary education? What do they teach? You are tempted to ask so many questions. Why the high fees? Is this high cost justifiable?
There are many reasons why the cost of education in private schools may be high. These are detailed below; amongst others:
Poor Educational Standard in Government Schools. The Nigerian Government has, no doubt, created an environment for private schools to thrive. This is due to the poor standard of education in public schools. A situation where students in most secondary schools can hardly speak good English has open the door for private schools. In addition, the deplorable condition in government schools make them unattractive to parents. Who will take his ward to a school, where students sit on bare floor in dilapidated structures to learn? What about the poor quality and quantity of teachers in public schools? In the quest to give their children good education, parents rush to private schools. This rush could force up the cost of education in private schools in line with the economics principles of demand and supply.
Population Growth: There is no doubt that the population of Nigeria is growing by the day. Nigeria’s population is said to be over 200 million; a good percentage of who are of school age. With this number, it is obvious that government alone cannot provide for the educational needs of the citizenry. The private schools, therefore, come in to complement Government efforts. In doing so, they must charge in proportion to the facilities provided.
Facilities Provided: All private schools strive to provide unique selling points for their schools. To give them a competitive advantage. These come in form of providing excellent facilities to enhance learning. Equipping schools with first-class Science Laboratories, ICT Centers, Library, Sick Bay, E-Learning; amongst others cost a lot of money. Some go as far as putting air-conditioning systems in their classes/hostels. The resources expended in providing and maintaining these facilities need to be recouped. Ultimately, they are transferred to parents through appropriate school fee charges.
Staff Salaries: Part of the bane of public schools is the quality and quantity of teachers. Good private schools with high school fees ensure that quality teachers are provided. To be able to recruit and retain these teachers, they must be motivated. Motivation is done mainly through good wages and other reward systems. Staff salaries and allowances account for about 50% of the total expenditure of schools. This influences the tuition fees of schools.
Lack of Grant from Government: Though government has accepted private school educational providers as partners in progress, she does so only in words. These school entrepreneurs are not given any grant to support their activities. The idea of providing all facilities to guarantee quality education makes private schools expensive.
Development of Own Infrastructural Facilities: Despite multiple taxations, the Nigerian Government hardly provides enabling environment for schools and other businesses to thrive. Due to poor electricity supply, lack of water from public sources and poor access roads in the country, schools have to provide own infrastructural facilities. Doing virtually everything government should have done. Then why won’t education in private schools be expensive if government shirks its responsibilities?
High and Multiple Taxation: Schools are charged various taxes, levies and rates by all tiers of government- Federal, State and Local Governments. In some states, there could be as many as 10 different taxes or levies to pay. They come in various names: Development Levy, Company Income Tax, Personal Income Tax, Business Premises, Tenement Rate, Sign Boards, Mobile Advert on school buses, Sanitation fees, Fumigation levy, Local Government Education Department Annual fees, etc. These are all annual charges. Schools will transfer virtually all costs to parents thereby contributing to high school fee charges.
Introduction of Creative Activities in Schools: To ensure that students are adequately prepared for the challenges of the future, many schools have incorporated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) activities into their school curriculum. STEAM motivates the creative thinking of the learners and introduces to them the virtue of being innovators early in life. In addition to STEAM, many schools have also introduced Music into their curriculum. It is expensive to equip a music studio. It is equally expensive to train teachers on STEAM and to buy materials on weekly basis to ensure that STEAM activities succeed in schools. Though private schools use these activities to differentiate their institutions from others, the costs expended are nonetheless transferred to parents.
Small Class Sizes: Many good private schools in the urge to provide quality education have small class sizes. The small classes mean that more teachers are employed. Why won’t this affect cost of private school education?
Inflation and the General Cost of Living: Schools are not living in isolation of what happens in the general environment. Inflation is high in the country. This affects the general cost of living. Of course, it has an effect on how much schools charge to cover their costs.
International Curriculum: Some schools in Nigeria run the British or American curriculum. Payments in these schools are done in foreign currency. With very high exchange rates, this translates to a lot of money in Naira.
Extra Curricula Activities: Some schools embark on excursions and other expensive extra-curricula activities. Some of these costs are included in children’s school fees.
Conducive Learning Environment: Many private schools want to create positive long lasting first impressions to visitors to their schools. They spend a lot of money beautifying the environment with good landscaping.
Others: There are many other activities and programs private schools embark on which add to the overall cost of running a school. These include Exchange programs with foreign institutions, French Immersion program for students taking French as a foreign language (This involves traveling to France or any French speaking country for a year or a Term to interact and study with students of the French-speaking country). These programs enhance the international skills of the learners. Of course, these are expensive programs that parents must pay for.
From the above, it can be concluded that what private schools charge as school fees is actually in proportion to the facilities provided or other programs inculcated into their respective curriculum. Is the cost too much? Are they expensive? Definitely no. This is because every school has its target market. What is expensive for one parent may be cheap for another. If every school have students irrespective of the cost, then the cost of education in private schools is justified. No school will price itself out of the market.
On the final note; if you still believe that the cost of education experiences, how much does ignorance cost?
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