Recession hits education sector

Recession hits education sector

​A sudden earthquake is about to hit the whole of Nigeria this

month; not the sort of physical tremor which devastates buildings,

breaks up bridges and brings down power lines – while destroying

lives. Ours will be a social upheaval never experienced in this

country for as long as the oldest of us can remember.

It will occur

in the


sector; and its


will last

longer than

ten earth

tremors and

be more


In fact, the

decline in

manufacturing, banking and services, as well as non-oil exports will

appear like child’s play compared to this one single crisis – which is

only a few weeks away from making its appearance on the national


For some inexplicable reasons, neither the Federal Government, nor

the Ministries of Education (Federal and States) nor even the

parents of school age children paid attention to the tsunami

unfolding in education.

Yet the recession, just belatedly admitted, will have its most

devastating impact on the kids and their education. Most Nigerians,

who find time to be informed about such matters, are aware that

for more than ten years, over ten million school age Nigerian kids

are known to be out of school.

That figure represents about twenty per cent of our kids – and

they constitute the vast army of losers of tomorrow. As a matter of

fact, they have already lost today and might never recover lost

ground. When we bother to think about it at all, we shrug our

shoulders and probably expect government to do something about it.

What governments should do is usually left undefined and there is

no pressure on governments to actually do anything.
For millions of those who have lived in the comfort zone of knowing

that their kids were in school and would not suffer the deprivations

associated with lack of education or inferior education, made

available by governments, September this year might mark the end

of their peace of mind. The recession starting in 2016 and the

economic downturn that will last until, at least, the end of 2017 will

turn out to be a watershed for the entire country. Consider the

growing evidence in that regard.

School fees in private, and even some public schools, have gone up

with the rise in exchange rate. Every Level 100 student of

economics knows that fees are one of the synonyms for price.

Through his understanding of the basic principles of Supply and

Demand he would also recollect that when prices go up demand goes

down because price is an element of crowd control. In response to

devaluation and the rising costs of providing education, schools

were forced to increaser fees to unprecedented levels.

That by itself would have resulted in lower school enrollment – all

things being equal as the economists say. Unfortunately, all is far

from equal. Millions of parents with kids in school are battling with

unpaid salaries, half salaries, companies whose accounts have been

blocked by the EFCC, partial shut down of plants, retrenchments,

higher fuel, food and transport charges etc.

Even if school fees have remained unchanged many are already

poised to remove their kids from the pricey schools to less expensive

private schools and those in turn are preparing to enroll the kids in

public schools. Meanwhile, the public schools have not yet been

prepared for the crowds they will soon find at their gates.

Two owners of popular private schools in Lagos Island were the

first to draw attention to the problem. Hitherto, those schools

running pre-nursery to primary classes would be turning away new

applicants by end of August each year. They were in for a shock

this year.

As you read this none of them has a full class for this year. More

shocking to them was the unusual rate of withdrawal of kids in the

primary school by parents who can no longer afford to pay the fees

– even if unchanged. A brief survey of some schools in Ogun and

Oyo States, as well as Abuja revealed the same pattern of

withdrawals from private schools.

The trauma involved for the parents compelled by economic necessity

of down-grading their conspicuous consumption of expensive

private education for their kids is bad enough. For many of the

kids, the problem of adjustment to new schools, new classmates,

new rules and regulations will be even more destabilizing –

particularly for those moving from private to public schools.

Many parents are already feeling the heat of resistance. Kids who

have spent years with the superiority complex induced by private

education now dread the prospect of sharing the same classroom

with those who had attended the public schools all along. Three kids

in Lagos Island are threatening to run away rather than attend

public school despite the fact that their fathers had been

retrenched by their employers and their street trader mothers had

been arrested at least twice by Governor Ambode’s KAI troopers.

Just in case the readers think fees constitute the only mountain to

climb for parents and kids, let us remind ourselves that prices of

books, laboratory sets, math sets, uniforms, shoes, and transport

climbed when the currency was officially devalued during their long

vacation. Prices of all those indispensable accessories to education

have gone up by 70 to 150% since then.
And, the bus ride which drilled a N100 hole in the parents’ pockets in

July will drill a bigger one of N200 in September – with no prospect

of a salary increase in sight. Governments and even banks are

talking (or is it threatening?) about slashing salaries. As if that is

not bad news enough, food prices have escalated, lunch money will

need to go up by at least 100%; and the pump price of petrol might

soon go up again.

This is not the best of times to be the parents of school age

children in Nigeria. Those who survive it will remember this year for

as long as they live. If they don’t die young under the burden they

will grow old to tell the story of the year education took a decisive

turn in Nigeria on account of the first recession in thirty-three

(33) years. The fates of millions of Nigerian kids will be determined

by how governments, at all levels manage this problem.