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
sector; and its
In fact, the
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
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.